To return or not to return – that is the question facing most modern mothers following maternity leave. This decision and the process of making it can be a fraught time and it’s often one that isn’t acknowledged or addressed appropriately. There are an infinite number of scenarios which face parents in today’s world. Alongside a number of other parenting bloggers I have written my answers to the below questions to hopefully give an insight into how we Mumma’s have chosen to make it work for the moment. Our aim, inspired by the lovely Jo at Cold Tea and Toast, is to unite rather than divide when it comes to parenting and discussing the issues we all face together. Whether you are putting it to the back of your mind or you are currently facing this decision yourself we hope these honest articles will help you to feel that you are not alone in choosing what to do for the best for both you and your beautiful baby.
When did you make your decision about whether or not to return after maternity leave?
My decision about whether or not to return to work after maternity leave remained very fluid right up until the point I decided not to go back. I hadn’t made any hard and fast decisions because I wanted to remain open minded and see how things could possibly work as a working mum given the opportunity. While this flexibility enabled me to explore all options, it also became a source of worry because I felt like I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. I also knew that I didn’t want to leave my baby. The decision making process was very emotional and stressful for me – I was relieved when the final decision was made.
Who else influenced your decision?
My daughter was definitely the main focus of my decision – I wanted her to be happy and I was very conscious that you don’t get the time back. So many people said to me that children are only little once and this stuck in my mind. My husband and my family were and still are very supportive which I am very grateful for. I couldn’t do it without them.
To what extent did finance have an impact on your choice?
Like most families, finance was a major factor for us when deciding what to do. Childcare costs are very expensive and I was very conscious of the fact that I would be paying someone else to look after my baby when I wanted to do it myself. I was careful with the maternity money I received so that I would be able to make a logical decision towards the end of my maternity leave should I need to repay a certain amount. Similarly, we assessed our budgets and made changes to see if we could afford to lose my income.
Did logistics and travel play a part in the decision making process?
Yes. I was acutely aware of how far away I would physically be from my daughter and this was a cause of anxiety for me. I wanted to know that I could get to her quickly should the unthinkable happen. Logically, travel costs both time and money so this was also a factor in our decision making.
What kind of judgment from others have you feared or experienced?
Sadly, I have found that you are judged whatever you decide to do. What is important is that you make the best possible decision based on what your family’s needs are at that time. You need to be able to live with your decision. Generally, you know in your heart what you need to do and, in most scenarios, you can find a best fit option.
How has your sense of identity, independence and confidence been affected?
I have always wanted to be a Mum so, in a way, I feel like I have finally found the main part of my identity. I do understand that a sense of self is important when you become a Mum. My confidence did take a dive when I handed in my notice because although I am happy to be with my daughter, I also knew I had worked hard to get to that point in my career. Now some time has passed, I know I made the right decision. Starting my blog has definitely boosted my confidence and allowed me to keep my sense of identity. At the same time, I started my blog because of my daughter and so, the two of us remain most definitely intertwined.
Did you have any career goals prior to pregnancy and, if so, how do you view them now?
I have always been ambitious. Prior to pregnancy I did have career goals that I have not yet met. However, having a baby doesn’t mean that I won’t achieve them in the future. I just look upon them differently – at the moment I am focusing on my life goals and when the time comes to re-focus on my career perhaps then I’ll reassess where I would like my career to go. For me, family is my priority right now.
What form does your ‘Mum Guilt’ take?
All Mum’s suffer from ‘Mum Guilt’. Whether you are a stay at home mum, a working mum or both I am sure that you can sympathise with the following scenarios that I have found affect me: Waiting all day to take a shower only to spend the whole time thinking you can hear your baby crying. Your baby finally falling asleep and instead of powering through your to do list you sit and stare at photographs of your baby. Craving some time to yourself to be alone and when you are eventually alone you miss your baby. Becoming a Mum is a full time job in itself; you are never off duty. However, it is also the most enlightening, rewarding and loving experience I have ever had.
Do you have any doubts or insecurity over your decision?
I agonised over my decision for months. However, once I had made my final decision, I felt relieved because I was no longer worried about what would or wouldn’t happen. I could see what our immediate future held and all of a sudden, it didn’t seem so scary.
Finish this sentence: ‘I am happy with my decision because…’
I am happy with my decision because I was able to make a choice which meant spending each and every day with my daughter at the heart of all I do.
This article is part of a wider discussion with some fellow parent bloggers – please take the time to check out the following inspirational bloggers:
To get involved and share your own story please use the hashtag #Mummasmakeitwork – I’d love to read your experiences too!
If you enjoyed this blog post then you might like to read this one too: How to survive your first week as a new parent