Going back to work after being a stay-at-home mum
Whether it’s been for a few weeks, a few months or a few years, returning to work after being a stay at home parent, is a daunting venture that is accompanied by mixed emotions. The stress about leaving your child in the care of others, the worry of changing their routine and their surroundings and the logistical mind-field of how you will actually juggle work and home life, can be all consuming. Finding the right balance between doing what is best for your children and doing what is best for your career is unbelievably difficult, especially when, like many mothers, you want the best of both worlds.
Like many Mums, before having children my career was my sole focus. As a secondary teacher I needed to plan ahead, I needed to be organized and I was required to be in control. So, when it came time to take my first set of maternity leave, because of my career experiences, I believed that I was equipped with the skills needed to take care of 1 baby. I found out very quickly that I was wrong.
When my daughter arrived I struggled to adapt to being at home with her. I missed and mourned my job for a number of reasons – the biggest being that I no longer had that control. As a teacher I was confident and then all of a sudden as a new mother, my planning and my organizing was almost pointless. Because we all know as parents, that even though we have the best intentions, an over-tired toddler or a hungry new born will beat us every time. Children add a spark to your life that you can’t prepare for. A chaotic spark that you simply need to embrace – It took me a while to realize that this is indeed the beauty of parenthood.
So, after adapting to a new routine and a new way of viewing the simplest of tasks, I fell into life at home with my baby, and although I missed work, I loved being with her. I was lucky enough to be able to spend a year at home with my daughter before the back pocket was almost empty, and for the financial sake of my family, had to return to work. At the time, I was so nervous about how she would cope and I naturally worried about every possible thing that could go wrong. However, at the same time, part of me, was also eager to get back into the workforce. I know there are many parents that feel the exact same way.
On many occasions, as a stay at home Mum, I felt like all my hard work and the hours upon hours of commitment to my job were pointless, as my career now was something that could no longer be my sole focus. I had a new focus – the most important job in the world – being a parent. I had to let go of my career and watch everyone else around me, improve and build upon their qualifications. At the time, I simply felt left behind. Some days I really struggled to let go of the career I had created for myself, and other days, looking at my daughter simply helped me to realize what was truly important in life – and work was not a part of that. It is a rollercoaster of mixed emotions.
I was lucky enough, however to be able to be given an opportunity to pick up my career where I had left off when I did return to work and I was so thankful for that. And although I was able to take on a senior role in my school as a part timer, it wasn’t the same. I was a working Mum now and finding a balance between work life and home life was extremely difficult. My heart was always pulled into different directions and being the perfectionist and career driven person I am, I wanted to achieve my best. But I also, most importantly wanted to be the best mother I could be. Some weeks were tougher than others, but like anything in life that is thrown at you, I dealt with it, I managed it and I made it work – because for the sake of my family I had to.
Now, 3 years on since the birth of my first child, I am now embarking on returning to work again after baby 2 and have had to make some very difficult decisions. This time the stress of balancing work life with home life is on a much higher level. I have 2 beautiful babies that depend on me, and I now depend on them. And even though I have tackled the journey of returning to work once before, it certainly hasn’t become any easier. I simply want more for my career, but I know, for now at least, that the choices I make need to be for the sake of my family.
Parenthood immediately requires you to give up what you once knew on so many different levels, even down to the simplest of tasks (like getting out of the house!!) For me, being selfless is the biggest requirement. You can no longer make choices for you without considering the impact on your children and your family. And although at times this means that you’re left feeling deflated or left behind, at the end of the day, my family is what lights up my life. Yes my career is important to me – so important, but when it comes to choosing, my family wins every time.
As mothers we put a lot of pressure on ourselves for many different reasons simply because we just want to do our best. We want the best for our children, for our family, for our partner, for our home, and yes for our career. Trying to find the right balance for all of these aspects is tough and exhausting, and I’m not sure if we can truly ever find the right one. However, as I have learnt, at the end of the day, when we are truly struggling, it’s important to stop and realize what we are doing it for – because the answer to that question will help everything else to fall into place.
No matter what, as parents, we often do what is best for those around us. My advice? Don’t be too hard on yourself. Every day you are making it work and every day you need to be proud of that.