Something a little unusual compared to my typical writing style. I recently joined a group of mums who wanted to help other mums feel better about their decisions regarding the dreaded subject of going back to work. It’s become a normal thing to ask new mums. You’ve barely been stitched back together & you’re being asked when you’re returning to work. I think sometimes people don’t understand the stress behind it all. When I was little, my sister and I spent a lot of our time being cared for by our grandparents, that was the norm, but these days grandparents are still working fulltime. Both sets of my children’s grandparents work fulltime, so we’re left with no other choice but to have to consider childcare & the costs, the work-life balance, what hours we want to do and what days. It’s hard. You spend less time cooing over your stale milk smelling baby & more time dreading the day you have to actually be a grown up and make a decision. To make things harder, I’m a Libra and we have a history of being extremely indecisive. Our aim was to answer the same questions but from different perspectives, in the hope at least one anxious mum could relate to it.
How soon after having your baby did you decide how you would continue after maternity leave?
Not long after Rex was born we priced up just how much we’d be paying for childcare fees for both children. Apparently, the going rate was more than our monthly mortgage repayment, so that became a big fat ‘no thank you’. I spent a lot of time anxiously wondering what to do for the best. There was absolutely no way we could justify spending all bar about £30 of my wages on childcare, what was the point? But on the flip side, we weren’t quite comfortable enough for me to totally give up work. Then TESCO came along. The job opportunity couldn’t be turned down. 16 hours a week, twilight shifts (7pm-12pm 3x a week) good pay, more holidays than you know what to do with… Surely there must be a catch? Nope. I’ve found my perfect working mum balance. I get to do every single school drop off and pick up, attend every school trip/assembly/sports day, whilst still caring for my littlest baby all day!.
Who else had influence over your decision?
It was solely down to me. Zane was of course ridiculously supportive and knowing I’d only be leaving the kids with him definitely put my mind at ease. But after having Rex my mental health was not its best. I was in a hole and I needed to climb my way out. The thought of social interaction with people, meeting new people & having work friends absolutely terrified me at first – mainly because I don’t particularly like people, but within my first training week, I realised it was exactly what I needed!
To what extent did financial factors impact your decision?
Massively. Imagine working 30 hours a week, but between your youngest needing childcare every day & your eldest needing wraparound care, how much of your wages would you have left? After trying a million different scenarios, no matter how we went about it, childcare costs were a huge issue. We could afford it, but we’d be no better off. Was there any point? Taking this new job meant halving my hours, but the slight pay cut overrode the copious amounts we’d be paying out.
Did logistics/travel impact your decision?
Luckily for me, no. This job was closer to home than my previous job – walking distance in fact! The late finishes and relying on work friends to get home gave me the kick up the backside to do my driving and pass my test (go me!) and now, the travel is much easier. Even when Zanes running late home from work, knowing it takes me 3 minutes in the car to get there leaves me chilled..ish.
Logistically it was initially a nightmare. Zane was at his previous job in Birmingham & wouldn’t be getting home ’til 6.30, and I’d be leaving at 6.45. We were literally passing ships for the first few months, eating at different times, having to leave notes with information on, literally like a shift changeover! But now he gets home for 5.30, we actually have time to eat as a family (not as idyllic as I’m making it sound!) and a conversation before I get ready to go.
Did you receive any judgment based on your decision?
Thankfully no. I felt a great deal of loyalty to my previous work, I’d been there fresh out of college and had grown with them over the last 5 years, but in my heart, I knew I needed a change and I knew I needed to put my family first. My manager was amazing, she completely got it and couldn’t have been more supportive – something I know a lot of people wouldn’t be able to confidently say. I guess it made it easier I was on maternity so other than handing my uniform back in, I didn’t really have to face the reality of it all. Had that not have been the case, I’d have found it very difficult and probably spent my remaining days profusely apologising for leaving!
How has your sense of identity/independence/confidence been affected?
Quite simply, I’m me again. In my deepest depths of PND, I was a shell of my former self, but slowly but surely I’m evolving into a better version of myself. Importantly I have work friends (they’re terrible influencers, especially where jager or any shots are involved) but we have a great team, and that’s been so important. I work in a store with at least 100 other staff, and I’m quite happy to socialise with anyone I’m on shift with. Mainly because I’ve spent the entire day watching Masha and the Bear or Shimmer & Shine and to be honest, I’m craving human interaction! I’ve got the great advantage of having a job I physically can’t bring work home from. My work stays at work and that means minimal stress when I leave. I know I’m done for another day. Taking this job was probably the best thing I could have done for my mental health.
Do you have any prior or current career goals?
Yes! I’d love to join the police one day, but not until both children are older and in school. Let’s face it, I’m only 24, I’ve got plenty of time to jump on the career wagon, right now I’m settled where I am, and who knows, I might even find progression avenues here to pursue instead! Disclaimer – If you’re my manager and reading this, your role is safe… for now 😉
Oh the guilt. The questioning of yourself. The repeatedly asking everyone else if you’re doing the right thing. It never stops. When I first started I was still breastfeeding, and the paranoia of leaking through my work clothes drove me insane. The relief I’d get home & after pumping the shit out of the milkbags was incredible. Working evenings can be tiring, it’s hard to wind down when you’re done, and if the kids decide to do that delightful early wakeup call, your day can seem like its lasted about a year! But I seem to have settled into a bit of a routine, I know to keep myself busy, I’m just about on top of keeping the house presentable, and surprisingly we always have clean clothes to wear so I must be doing ok? It kills me I miss bedtime, but it’s not every night, and sometimes you have to sacrifice some things. Zane has the bedtime routine down to a T, to the point where when I’m home for it, they’re both nightmares for me! I have friends who work full time, part time, stay at home and every single one of them feels guilty. I think as mothers we’re naturally our toughest critic and nothing we do ever seems quite good enough. But nobodies the ‘perfect mum’, just the perfect mum to our babies.
Biggest doubt/insecurity over your decision.
Failing. Not being good enough. Nobody liking me. Not understanding the job. Finding the hours hard. The kids missing me. Zane missing me. Missing out. Need I go on? You’ll always find something that’ll try to hold you back. Don’t let it. Take the step out of your comfort zone and try. You’ll never know unless you do. You can only fail if you never tried in the first place. A massive worry was mine and Zane’s relationship. We’re pretty good at adapting. We’ve gone through deployments, & excessive working hours. But I worried what my hours would do to us? I hated (and still do) the thought of him going to bed without me – mainly now because he sleeps diagonally and gets hella mad when I move him when I get home. We make time for each other, we help each other out, and it’s taken 6 months but we’ve got ourselves into a little routine that works for us.
I am happy with my decision because I’m doing what’s best for my family, whilst still being able to afford Primark binges… I mean contribute financially. Same thing right?