The looming deadline of returning to work after being on maternity leave can leave lots of women feeling heartbroken and desperate at the thought of having to leave their baby every day. If this is how you’re feeling read this article from a mum who has been through it. If you’ve already returned to work and you’re getting through it, please tell us about your experiences and provide some reassurance for new mums.
When I was on maternity leave with my first son and a few months away from returning to work I started to get frantic, scared, angry and upset about the prospect of leaving my baby. This beautiful little creature with his chubby cheeks and dimpled smile, who had been a part of me in my womb and my little shadow ever since he was born. I just couldn’t bear the thought that he’d be in someone else’s care, someone else’s shadow and I just kept wishing someone would knock on the door and tell me I’d won the lottery so that I didn’t have to return to work and leave him. It wasn’t fair… He was my baby… Some other women didn’t have to leave theirs, why did I have to leave mine?
At that time a friend of mine told me that when her sister had been faced with the prospect of returning to work with her first child she actually considered flinging herself down the stairs so that she’d break her legs or arms and therefore her recovery would mean a delay to her return to work. Of course, the moment she had the thought, she wiped her mind of such absurdity as it made no sense. The thing is, whilst it never crossed my mind to do myself any harm, I understood her utter desperation at not wanting to return to work and leave her baby. I understood because I was beginning to feel quite desperate too. Especially as the countdown to leaving my baby seemed to be picking up pace uncontrollably like a train hurtling through the night that I’d never be able to stop.
My son is almost five years old, so why am I writing this now? I’m writing it because I met up with a friend last night who is about two months away from returning to work and feeling exactly how I did four years ago. Desperate. Upset. Scared. Heartbroken. I want to tell her and all other mums in the same position – all mums who do not have a choice about returning to work because they need to earn a living – that when the time comes, it’s not that bad and you will get through it.
I did return to work, and I did cry at the thought of my son being in nursery in the weeks leading up to maternity leave ending. I also cried the first day I dropped him off, and I ran home from the train station every night after my commute for a period of two weeks, just so that I wouldn’t miss out on the precious 15 minutes I’d have with him before he went to bed. But, you know what? The situation got better. Within a few weeks we were both into quite a good groove. My little one seemed to be happy and getting on well at nursery (in fact when I look back now, there was only one day in three years when he didn’t skip up the nursery path). I didn’t feel so heartbroken, and it was good for me to earn money again and do some grown up things.
I now have another son who started nursery three weeks ago and I’ve been so cool and calm about the situation this time round. I didn’t get upset. He didn’t get upset. I didn’t feel desperate or scared or angry. I didn’t wish that by some miracle someone would knock on the door and make it all better. I just got on with it. I know that nursery will be good for him as much as it was for my first son. He will thrive and I’m thriving because I get time to run my business and earn money.
So, for all you mums out there beginning to feel desperate, it would definitely be great if someone could wave a magic wand and say “It’s your choice if you want to return to work” – and really sometimes the feelings of desperation come from not being in control of the choices you have to make. But reality says that’s not going to happen. So take heart… it is difficult at first, but you will get through it, you will manage, you might actually start to enjoy having time away from your child because you can be ‘you’ as well as being a mum, and you and your child will be happy.
Written by Emma Brown
What were your experiences like if you had to return to work and put your child in nursery? Did it work out for you and your child? What encouragement could you offer other mums who are really sad about maternity leave ending?