The thought of returning to work after maternity leave can be daunting, right?
You’ve just spent the past year or so raising a little human, spending every waking moment with them, ensuring that they are safe and well. It could possibly have been the hardest yet most rewarding job yet.
But now’s the time to go back to work. And you’re most likely feeling an array of emotions.
How am I going to manage working and looking after a child? There won’t be any time to keep on top of the housework. Will a childcare provider be able to look after them as well as I can? Will I be working just to pay for childcare?
All of these thoughts are natural, and I’ve experienced them all over the past couple of years.
This blog explores my experience with being a working mum, a stay at home mum, and now a part time working mum.
There’s so much stigma around working mums vs. stay at home mums. And my thoughts on it are that in today’s society you can’t seem to win whichever option you choose (or have to choose). Both are rewarding. Both have their challenges. Both can be incredibly overlooked.
If you’re a working mum there are often assumptions that you favour your career over your children. Being a stay at home mum brings assumptions that you aren’t career driven and can sit at home all day watching the children play whilst drinking your coffee. *cough cough spoiler alert – neither of those are true.
And although I’ve never personally been made to feel like this by anybody, there have been times where my own inner demons have cast thoughts such as these upon me when someone has merely asked if I work or not.
In all honesty though, both are hard and both are extremely rewarding too.
After my maternity leave with Immy I went back to work 4 days a week. I was incredibly lucky to work for a family friendly company who very much supported working parents with flexible hours and benefits. Despite that, mum guilt could creep in when I was in the office, knowing that Immy was being looked after by someone else, and not being able to take her or pick her up from nursery.
I’ve always considered myself fitting into the working mum camp more naturally than the stay at home mum camp. I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily a natural when it comes to parenting. I feel more like me at work. But that being said, this past year has taught me a lot about myself and my strengths. And now more than ever when I look back at what I (and other mums) have achieved and the resilience needed for mothering in a pandemic, I think that maybe I’m more stay at home than I originally thought.
Despite saying that, I do still find it odd that in today’s world there is such an emphasis on what sort of mum you are. Stay at home, working full time, working part time, owning your own business…. at the end of the day you’re a mum doing the best for her family. Why do we need a label? Do people automatically ask dads if they are working or stay at home? I think you’ll find the answer is no.
Anyway, I digress.
When I had the twins, although technically on maternity leave I considered myself a stay at home mum. I loved being with the children, but it was also incredibly challenging as you never ever got a break. That sounds awful, but looking after your children 24/7 can put a lot of strain on you mentally and physically.
I’ve always considered myself to be career driven, which I am. And maybe naively I always said I could never be a stay at home mum.
I have now taken the decision to go freelance one day a week and have also taken on a part time contract for 2 days a week. Meaning I am a part time stay at home mum, part time employed, and part time self employed. Gosh, that’s a bit of a mouthful isn’t it! At the moment this works really well for us as a family though, and that’s what matters. Never compare yourself to anybody else, as we are all so different and what is right for one person may not be for another.
When it comes to working with a family it’s all about finding that unicorn – the balance. Does it exist? I’m yet to find out. But I certainly hope that I can get close to it.
To anybody who is returning to work shortly, I want to wish you the best of luck. It can be hard, but you’ll get there and there are so many benefits to being a working mum.
To those who have decided to stay at home, or have to stay at home. You’re amazing too. It’s a full time job looking after your children, and I think sometimes people forget that. Enjoy spending all this time with them whilst they’re still little.
And to anybody starting their own business. You’ve got this. It can be daunting starting up on your own but remember that you’re incredible and your grit and determination will no doubt pay off for you and your family.
I have so much respect for all of the working and stay at home mums and dads out there. At the end of the day, we’re all human and we’re all doing our best to be the best parents we can be.