Going back to work has made me a better mum.
Before I became a mother, I never understood what all the hype was about. I was never the clucky one. I loved my sleep-ins, my dogs, my travel and my husband. When my son Teddy was born, my entire perspective was violently shifted. Suddenly I knew this intense love and fear that I never thought was possible. He became the centre of our little universe, and I was thrust into the world of motherhood.
Long nights, early mornings, poo explosions, tantrums, tears, vaccinations, sleep regression, routines, vacuuming, mopping, washing, folding, sterilizing, prepping and repeat.
I wish someone had warned me about the crushing reality of becoming a new mum. Some of us handle it like champions, others require help. For me, I neither handled it nor had help. No grandparents near by, no family near by, no babysitters, no reprieve. My husband returned to work a few days after the birth, and after the visitors stopped coming, I found myself very alone. Chatting to many new mums, I have discovered that this is a silent reality for so many of us.
Being home alone with my son, 13 hours a day, spending what seemed like endless hours trying to keep him entertained and happy, it was so exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, this kid is and continues to be my entire reason for existence. But sometimes this stay-at-home gig can be the hardest part of motherhood.
At 6 months post-partum, I decided to return to work. Just 2 days a week. I researched and inspected countless daycare facilities until we found the perfect one. The first day I dropped my son to daycare, I felt this sense of relife. I know, I probably should have been bawling my eyes out and googling “am I bad mother?”. But after months of no outside help, I was finally given the chance to shower in peace and sit down for a cup of coffee. It was incredible!
Trying to get baby and I ready for work and daycare is an anxiety filled, high intensity exercise. But once I’ve dropped him off and gotten back into my quiet, air-conditioned car, I switch off my mum-brain, switch on triple J and just take a moment. Because just taking a moment is not something us mums do very often.
We’ve had bad drop off days, where Teddy refuses to let go, and the tears are real on both sides. But for the most part, he loves daycare, and for the most part I’m looking at the clock, counting down to 4pm. I get so excited for pick up time. I can’t wait for that first cuddle after work. It’s this small separation that gives me an opportunity to miss him and appreciate him, which is almost impossible when you are with them 24/7.
Being back at work has also reminded me that I’ve got these other talents outside of wrestling a toddler into a wondersuit. Speaking on the phone, dealing with customers, collating quotes, reconciling, delegating…it came back to me almost instantly, and I’d forgotten I was actually good at it! It was a confidence booster.
Because I’ve gone back to work, I now look forward to our home days together. The playdates, the park adventures, the shopping trips, the swimming lessons and the days we just stay home and get things done…it’s all so much more manageable and so much more enjoyable. I feel like in order for us mums to function, we need that seemingly unachievable life balance. Family, work, relationships and exercise. It takes a while for a new mum to get these things right, but we all eventually do in our own time. For me, it started with going back to work, and everything else just began to fall into place.
If you are a mum considering a return to work, or if you don’t have a choice, my advice is don’t be scared. Change can look overwhelming from the outside, but as with all things in life, we adapt and we thrive.