Author: Gemma Lander
The easiest way I can convey my feelings about the official end of my maternity leave is to split this post into two parts, the before returning to work and the post return to work. Admittedly I have been working for myself throughout the summer, spending time away from Devon un-phased, but the end of my official maternity leave feels different. I can’t start work later if Devon has had a bad night, she can’t come with me and I have to be presentable, turning up in baby sick isn’t advisable. I decided to return to my part time job and not rely solely on my income from The White Emporium for many reasons, the security of a regular income, the motivation and stimulation being amongst other people brings and the fact that I am not currently ready to make the financial life sacrifices taking The White Emporium full time would involve.
Part 1 – The build up to returning to work-
Monday the 26th November was a date I became obsessed over, the official end of my maternity leave and my re-introduction to the world of a monthly salary. I have a tendency to get hung up on dates, they either offer something to look forward to or mark something I am dreading, I end up mentally counting down, months, weeks, days and then before you know it, that date is here and you have missed the last week of your life because you have been worried about what’s ahead. There are so many contradictory emotions involved with the return to work, for every pro there is a con. Pro – the return of normality and routine, Con – What! You mean I have to be somewhere on time? Pro – Getting to talk about something that doesn’t involve babies, Con – All I have known for the past nine months is babies, nothing else exists. Pro – Devon getting her independence and learning to socialise, Con – What if she prefers her time spent away from me, what if I miss her first steps? Pro – Getting to put clothes on that don’t have to be practical for crawling round the floor, Con –What do you mean I can’t wear my pyjamas to work? Having a baby doesn’t necessarily mean you let yourself go but it does make you value your own comfort more, no more unpractical fashion here.
I recently read the article written for the BBC about how lonely maternity leave can feel, whilst I am sure this is the case for some women my maternity leave was a period of my life I never wanted to end. I was very conscious of the fact I would never get this time again, never again would I have such an amount of one on one time with my Little baby girl. Yes we had bad days when Devon would cry all day for reasons I could never work out, but overall we had so much fun. I believe the key to my maternity leave success was the friendships I formed with the mums we met at our NCT classes, all that united us was our small babies but this group of women were so supportive at any time of day or night, weekly meet ups provided reasons to leave the house and our daily chats would ensure I wasn’t going crazy. Devon and I had the best summer living life without a care in the world. Working on my business The White Emporium almost became part of my maternity leave, Devon would come along and there would always be cake following a setup, next year she will be mobile so she will have to stay behind, another change that I don’t feel ready for. To me maternity leave was a bubble, a protective cocoon away from the rest of the world, no alarms, no routine, no pressures of modern life. Returning to work feels like that bubble has burst, which is ridiculous to say as life carries on exactly the same. Maternity leave made me feel safe, that I could be a bit slack with my time keeping, have lazy mornings and to a point not worry about our finances because in my head I had just had a baby and was allowed to enjoy these 9 months of post baby bliss where my only worry was Devon’s happiness.
Part 2 – Post return to work…
Everything’s changed but everything’s stayed the same. My whole life has completely evolved in the 9 months I was away, I left worrying about only myself, I have returned with a mini me. However the work is still the same, my colleagues the same and the principles of the business remain the same. Despite my life having a complete 360 the business still goes on. The return to work wasn’t as traumatic as I had first envisioned, my brain does still function, I am actually relishing wearing clothes that aren’t jeans and I can manage to not talk about Devon for a whole conversation, it’s also keeping me away from the cake and not to sound to cliché, there was a lot of baby cake dates whilst on maternity leave. However there is no hiding from the real world of traffic, being on time, politics and I have even had to catch up with Brexit, no longer can I live in maternity naivety. I do miss Devon terribly when she is away, she always looks to be having the time of her life. Sometimes I am greeted with big smiles but often its tears if she hears me before she sees me. In those few seconds after hearing my voice she is suddenly aware I have been away and possibly even missed me, (or this is just what my Health Visitor has said.) Returning to work has been good for my confidence as well, I am reminded I can hold my own in a room full of strangers and that taking pride in my appearance reminds me of how life used to be, even if I can now do my make-up in only a few minutes.
Maternity leave is a novelty, it’s not sustainable for a long period of time, it’s a part of life to cherish, a time that for me went by way to fast but I will always treasure.
Images from Ami Louisa Photography