A dear actress friend of mine asked if I would write an article about returning to work and how it has affected me both creatively and with my relationships with others. I instantly felt obliged and somewhat excited about sharing my story. I felt that it would be cathartic and also an opportunity for me to assemble my thoughts. Since having a baby I have not stopped. It has been an overwhelming cascade of events and somehow here I am, (on the tube to work as I write this) and it’s the penultimate day before my daughter’s first birthday.
I break up for half term today having returned to teaching after maternity leave. I feel very fortunate that I was able to take ten and a half months off to be with my little one. However, as a creative I feel that Drama teaching is my passion and I felt that I could no longer exclusively be a stay at home Mum. I think that when you have a passion whatever it is, if for some reason you are no longer able to pursue it you don’t feel like ‘you’ anymore! As much as I treasured those months with my daughter I now feel happier in the fact that I feel like ‘me’ again. Having returned to work for four days a week I also feel fortunate that I do get a day in the week in addition to the weekends and school holidays where I get to re connect with my little one. I also feel that since having a child I have grown spiritually, emotionally and I feel much stronger as a person. I guess my perspective has changed, things that would worry or bother me now feel insignificant. I also have a resounding faith that things will be alright, which seemed impossible with a 5.30am wake up, a long commute to work (a three hour round trip each day) and long teaching hours, the mere thought of this left me feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of returning to work. However, things have somehow just miraculously fallen into place, which is somewhat serendipitous!
I have my amazing husband to thank for this transition. He is my pillar of strength, a go- getter, he has the most admirable amount of determination and when he sets his mind on something there is no stopping him. I couldn’t have had such a smooth return to work without his unfailing support. Before I returned to work he only saw our daughter for one hour in the morning as he also has a very long commute and long working hours. However, since making adjustments at work he is now able to get our daughter ready and drop her at nursery and collect her. This change has in fact made their bond much stronger and it’s wonderful to see them grow closer. So in fact, returning to work has been a positive step in strengthening their relationship.
Before returning to work I remember calling up the breastfeeding helpline for advice, you see I breastfed my daughter until three days ago. At the time I was terrified as my daughter had a very strong association with being nursed to sleep as I always breastfed before naps and bedtime. I couldn’t imagine being apart from her and I couldn’t understand how she could sleep without me nursing her. This feed to sleep association was in fact becoming a hindrance as my daughter woke every 2-3 hours for a feed until ten months and to say that I was feeling exhausted is an understatement! I remember bursting into tears on the phone, I was exhausted and filled with worry…how will she sleep? How can I get her onto the bottle now? She would never happily take a bottle or a dummy! These helplines are so important to all Mums. The lady was so reassuring and calm and even though I was choking with tears she calmly reassured me that somehow things do just fall into place and what you now feel is impossible will be possible.
With this in mind, I made some adjustments, I plucked up the courage to night wean my daughter, move the last breastfeed before bath time and then I had the settling in visits at nursery which were also very emotional and challenging. Thankfully our daughter absolutely loves nursery and we were very fortunate that she was offered a place at an Ofsted rated ‘Outstanding’ nursery. She is really developing and is now blowing kisses, giving high fives and sharing her toys and food all of which have started since she began nursery. The fact that she is settled and happy has made me feel so relieved and I know that she is being looked after with great care so I can relax and focus on my job whilst I’m at work.
I guess I also wanted to write this article to try to reassure other soon to be working Mums that it is challenging, but it can also be so very fulfilling to feel like ‘you’ again. To enjoy adult conversation non- baby related! Enjoy a lunch break and have a hot cup of tea uninterrupted! All of these simple pleasures I took for granted before I had a baby!
Life is in no way a walk in the park and I am now more organized than I have ever been! There are always a million and one household chores to master as well as being on top of my head of department role.
I guess, having a baby has made me feel so much more grateful for all that I have; my amazing husband, my family, my creative job and the time that I spend with my daughter has now become even more precious.
Lisa is a proud mummy, wife, drama teacher, head of department and is on a daily mission to find the time to have one WHOLE cup of tea uninterrupted!