As most of you know, I returned to work last week. I was filled with anxiety, mostly about spending 40 hours a week less with little miss, but also because I hadn’t worked in a year. I’d gone from being a career-focused word nerd, to a poo-picking Mumma (yes, that’s right, I once actually used my nail to pick poo off my daughter’s bot – sometimes there is no other way). I had an idea in my head of what to expect, after all I was going back to my old role and I knew the job well. Here’s what I didn’t expect.
To feel like I never left
Like I implied, I expected some sort of adjustment. I expected to walk in and feel a little overwhelmed. In some respects I am, as I am currently doing a three-day week in what’s really a five-day job, but for the most part I feel like I can just slip in and do the job. I really believe that returning to something I know has helped enormously. I’m not struggling with understanding the business or its processes, I have all that in hand. I can just get in, do my job well, and go home. It’s great. At some point, this familiarity might become a bit monotonous, but for now it has made the transition back to the workplace that much easier.
Related: The first day back at work
People to look at my belly
This is odd. I guess it makes a little sense in that the last time my colleagues saw me I was waddling around at 39 weeks pregnant. That said, I have always been self-conscious of my easy-to-bloat belly – people taking the moment to stare at it does not help this. Yes, people, the baby is out, there is no need to take a quick glance to see whether or not my body has bounced back to its former (I wanna say glory, but who am I kidding) prosaicness.
Side note, an innocent comment on the bags under my eyes was also very unexpected!
Before I went on leave, I was intent on being professional to the end. I walked around bandying about words like “synergy” and “content amplification” with aplomb. I was discrete, and I had built a little “corporate shield” around myself, both to protect others from my out-of-work personality, and to protect myself from divulging too much. That’s gone. And I love it! I’m pretty sure the workplace politics will creep up once more and dull that candour, but for now I’m really enjoying having open, honest conversations and seeing what comes of it. So far, it hasn’t bitten me in the bottom, but we are just one week in.
Related: My five proudest parenting moments
Before I go into too much detail, I have to say that I think the level of support – in some cases – comes down to how much you ask for. I’ve never been good at asking for help, even less so at work. I figured that returning to work as a new mother is probably the one time I should ask for help without worrying about how it reflects on me. I decided to take the approach of starting as I mean to go on. I therefore had no qualms in asking my boss if I could transition in with three-day weeks for a little while, despite having agreed to four-day weeks. It was to my surprise that she said yes, happy to help me ease into work, and subsequently help missy ease into childcare. Add to that the fact that no questions are asked when I pull my stuff together at 4.58pm and race out the door at 5.00pm. To be fair, there shouldn’t be, I work hard, and I’m in early every day, but I know that not everybody is afforded such consideration. So, maybe it doesn’t surprise me as much as it comforts me.
Butterflies in my stomach
I knew I would miss my daughter. After all, I’d spent every day with her, with very few complaints. Oh, sure, we would have days where I wanted to curl up into a ball and rock back and forth, but those days were few. For the most part we had a blast. So, I expected to miss her. What I didn’t expect was for coming home to feel much like making your way to your dream date. I cannot get home fast enough, racing for the tram, willing it to arrive, feeling the excitement bubble up in my throat as I journey home. I feel as though I’m going to burst. Of course, most of the time I walk into the door, and missy barely acknowledges my presence. She does, however, spend more time climbing on me and sitting on my knee, which I take as her way of saying “welcome home Mum, I missed you”.
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