How do you manage to get your life in gear to re-enter the world of work once you’ve had a baby?
A mums countdown to returning to work for some great insights!
The end of the summer is nigh, and I feel like a schoolgirl again. I’m 33 and the dread of Autumn is upon me. I am due back at work in a month’s time. Son number two -Harry -was born in February, so I have spent most of the year on maternity leave.
I work evenings and weekends on the news desk of a regional newspaper. The hours are unsociable, but combine well with motherhood. Right now, though, sleep is a concern. Harry will be seven months when I go back -the same age my older one, Ben, was. But Harry is still waking at night. I usually get home at 1am, so the thought of dealing with a crying baby a couple of hours later is horrifying. My boss has agreed to let me start a few weeks later if need be. I have until the end of the month to decide.
The other thing is breastfeeding. Unlike his older brother, this little one is rather good at it. He is a quick and efficient feeder, puts on weight nicely and is a very calm and contented little man. Seems a shame to rock the boat…but I simply cannot contemplate going back to work and breastfeeding. I need to leave him with the childminder, and won’t have the time to express all that milk. I’ve already dropped two feeds, but am doing things gradually.
I woke up feeling as if I’d been in a fight. I dropped another feed yesterday, so one boob feels bruised and the pain is worsening. I’m tempted to feed through it, but apparently that just increases the supply.
The pain has subsided after a very hot bath. I’ve decided to let things settle down a bit before ditching another feed.
Harry is oblivious to my pain. He’s sitting up (with support) and has started clapping his hands -three months earlier than Ben did. He’s been on solids for three weeks and is yet to discover a vegetable he doesn’t like. Today he tried fruit for the first time -he had a look of pure heaven on his face!
We’re down to two breastfeeds a day -first and last thing. I feel sad about giving up as I will miss that closeness. Harry, though, is not fussed. In the morning, he tends to pull off and check out what else is going on. I steer him back several times and eventually give up. In the evening, he falls asleep at the breast. Half an hour later he wakes up screaming for a top-up bottle.
I did my last night breastfeed last night, which feels a bit strange. No sign of Harry sleeping through yet. I’m still planning on returning on September 10.
Slowly, slowly I’m reintroducing myself into the ‘real world’ and getting my rusty brain in gear. In between running around after these two, sterilising bottles and making up purees, I’ve been trying to read the papers to catch up on current affairs
Ben is still on holiday from nursery which means I’m entertaining two of them full-time. The wet weather doesn’t help. Meanwhile, Harry is settling in at the childminders. She’s wonderful and there’s a lovely atmosphere at her house. Nevertheless, it’s hard to entrust my baby to somebody else.
Besides childcare, I still need to transform myself from tired mum to smart professional. It’s a challenge, but I’ve started looking forward to it. Whenever I feel nervous, I remind myself of a conversation I had with a friend before going back last time. “Why are you dreading it?” she asked. “You get lunch hours and coffee breaks!”
A week to go and I’m panicking. I’ve had my hair tied back for most of this year. I’ve been wearing the same work shoes since… um… ??, and they’re letting in rain. I haven’t dared venture into my office wardrobe…
I finally mustered up the courage to try on my old work clothes. Not the normal, pre-pregnancy outfits, but the big stuff. A pair of black trousers that were falling off before, now barely fit. Not great news. I rediscovered two pairs of trousers from early pregnancy. Mercifully, these are OK, so I’m going to leave the boys with the childminder and go out and buy things to mix and match with.
My shopping trip was mildly successful. I came back with a bag, a couple of shirts and a necklace. No shoes, unfortunately.
Still, I’m feeling top of the world as Harry has started sleeping through until 6am. Perhaps my mother’s nagging concerns -“he’s hungry, give him something to eat” -were right. He’s on three ‘meals’ a day now and has slept through for four consecutive nights. Could this become a habit?
The butterflies are fluttering furiously. I had an early morning hairdresser’s appointment. She chopped about five inches off, leaving me with a proper hairstyle. Bizarrely, I have become quite obsessed with this appearance issue. Work itself doesn’t worry me as much as the fear of looking frumpy and mumsy.
THE BIG DAY! My first shift back was disorientating. There are loads of fresh faces, and the reaction from those I know was decidedly odd. A few asked what I’d had (one even asked to see a picture), but most of my colleagues -who are mostly male -glanced up and mouthed a silent hello. One senior journalist said he hadn’t seen me for a while and asked where I’d been. I reminded him that I’d had a rather large bump last time we met. Who says you need to be observant to be a journalist?