Returning to work after maternity leave can provoke many emotions – this is my story
So here I am. On a train to London, for the first time in a year. I have tears in my eyes and fear & guilt in my heart but on I go from Sussex to central London for my first day back at work after our second child, ‘The Boy’ as we affectionately (if not slightly obviously) call him.
I am now an ‘experienced parent’ this is my second go at this, you’re supposed to be better at something second time round aren’t you? But I am failing miserably, trying to hide my tears from fellow commuters in several fake nose blowing sessions (in the epic bag packing session that took place last night, extra tissues were deposited in mummy’s bag), I secretly congratulate myself on my forward thinking.
I contemplate getting off at East Croydon, going back the other way and rescuing my babies from their nursery hell and the mild-mannered nursery practitioners that they quite clearly adore. In my head, I’d just sit and hug them for the rest of the day, squeeze them, breath them in, promise I will never leave them again. Until the big one protests with a polite but angry ‘no thank you Mummy’ and the little one wipes snot on my shoulder and wrestles from my clutches, scuttling away to find something infinitely more interesting (and dangerous) to do. At least this thought makes me smile.
And so we continue, it’s a lovely sunny morning so I grab tea to go and walk slowly (so very slowly) to my office. The tea costs nearly £2 and it’s disgusting so I throw it away half way through. Jesus, I’m a woman on the edge, I don’t need a tea related crisis right now! I walk on, feeling sick and nervous praying to myself that I won’t breakdown in front of my colleagues. Every single step vibrates through my body, boom boom boom. Just a few metres to go and the world I have known for the past year will cease to exist. The world I have worked so hard to create & nurture and finally after weeks and weeks of practice got really good at has to completely change.
I get through the day but it’s hard, I talk about it, which is good. The other mums offer unreserved sympathy which I appreciate and the younger folk laugh at me, which I also appreciate.
I’m not busy, people are not sure what to do with me yet, so in amongst sorting endless IT issues my mind wanders. I think about what I would be doing on a ‘normal’ Monday (in my other world). I’d be at my mum’s (Grandma’s), with my sister and my nephew, we just hang out, doing normal family stuff. Our children eat too much cake and sweets and fight over ridiculous things and my sister and I enjoy mum’s cooking. It’s nothing special but sort of is at the same time. It’s part of our routine and I miss it already.
How I feel is not hard to explain really, it’s a mixture of guilt & sadness. Like grief I suppose, missing something so much it physically hurts. I’m not ok today but its ok to not be ok for a little bit as long as you find a way to pick yourself up. I know tomorrow will be better and in a few weeks our brave new world will be in full flow and I’ll look back with fondness and smile and each time I do it will hurt a little less.
I make it through the rest of the week, I get to pee alone and drink whole cups of tea, hot tea, right to the end of the cup. Things are unexpectedly slow so actually I end up having a lot of time to myself, something I am unaccustomed to. I gratefully accept this small gift and I use it to breathe and think and adapt.
By the end of the week, I am feeling far less fragile and much more emotionally stable. I rationalise that whilst this wonderful period of our lives has drawn to a close, this is not only an ending but it is also a beginning, the beginning of the next part of our journey.
And for that I am excited! Deep breath, here we go……