A Flood Of Guilt and Needing More Than Mum | The Return To Work

I never imagined going back to work to be difficult. Is that bad? Yes, it probably is. This week, I was given my back to work date. My maternity leave will finish on the 8th May. I’d applied for an April start date, so returning this soon should not have been a surprise, but I’m now reeling. It’s only hit home now. I’m reeling because I don’t want to leave my child with someone else. I’m reeling because I don’t want someone else to watch his ‘firsts’. I want to be there for it all, and the guilt is overwhelming right now. I knew fine well all along that at some point I’d have to start sharing the firsts, I’d have to leave him and he would be perfectly ok, but suddenly the thought of it has become one that does not sit well with me.

I was never maternal – I did not want children, didn’t mind them, but motherhood never my intended path. My own mum would tut at me when I said I’d never have children of my own, but I just couldn’t envision myself as a mother. Harrison has changed my life in a positive way, but it doesn’t change (and shouldn’t have to change) the fact that I always did have career plans.  I listen to women who’s children have made them who they were meant to be, and that was never something I thought would happen for me. In short, it has not. My son has made my life astronomically better and I now do have an additional purpose, but motherhood was never going to be my only purpose. When I was pregnant, I worked until the week before I had Harrison. In the first few months, there was tension in my relationship because of my throwaway comments about a working day. Jordan could not complain about a hard day at work without me scowling and saying I’d gladly swap with him. I liked working, and I missed it. I missed feeling like I was making progress in life, bringing in money – in the first few months of maternity leave, everything felt like it was at a standstill. As much as it is good to be at home with Harrison now, in the first few months it wasn’t. I won’t sugar coat it, and I won’t say I loved the newborn days. The newborn days were clouded with baby blues and self doubt, and it’s taken until six months for me to really enjoy the time I have with him. I struggled adapting, but now, just as I’ve adapted and can truly enjoy the time we have together, it’s about to end.

Harrison is now starting to try and crawl. He’s on all fours, crouched like a little praying mantis with nowhere to go. He can shuffle is knees towards his elbows, but as yet has no idea what to do with has hands, so face plants more often than not. Armed with cushions, I let him try, always watching for that one fleeting time when he realizes he has control over his own legs. So far, a few bumped noses and a frustrated baby are all we’ve gotten out of the attempts. Google tells me that babies will crawl between 7 and 10 months, and if google is right, then chances are, someone will else will see my baby crawl first. I don’t know if I’m being petty, it is true that I don’t need all of the firsts, but from here on out I’ll miss a lot, and that is hard. I was there for the first smile, the first giggle, the first meal-time, the first time he rolled over and I’m not sure I’m ready to not be there anymore. This doesn’t only come down to crawling. It’s everything. I feel like I’m going to miss everything by going back to work full-time, and it has only hit me with three weeks left before I return.

I’m sad at the thought of going back, but conflicted because it’s my decision. I feel guilty because I want to go back to work. We all have to work, it was inevitable that my maternity would end and I would return, but I do have 6 months left of leave that I could take. I feel guilty for going back early, and I feel guilty because I want to. With a new house we could live week to week and barely make ends meet, but we could manage, we could make it work and I could stay at home with Harrison. And yet, I’m cutting it short to return to work. To leave my child in the hands of another and have a small part of my life back. It’s not really about the money though, it’s about being able to feel like myself again. It’s selfish, but I also need adult company, I miss having a job.  I feel selfish,  like I’m doing something I shouldn’t be doing for cutting it short. I always intended on going back after 8 weeks – I was career focused and didn’t want to take a long break, yet 6 months down the line I’m still off, but it’s time I made the leap back.

This will be good for us both, and I know that. I’ve struggled a lot with getting to grips with motherhood. It’s under control now (well, as under control as I was ever going to get life with a baby), but I’ve made no secret that I found it difficult to adapt. I cut myself off from the world, I was anxious, self conscious, unmotivated, and it took it’s toll. Baby groups were not, and still are not, something I’ve conquered. It’s bloody terrifying to put it lightly and I don’t see it happening right now. But this month has been ten-fold better, I can go outside, to the park, to the shops, for lunch. I can go to IKEA now without a racing heart. I still cancel plans, I still get nervous, but it’s all gotten a lot better, and only now as I’m getting a handle on things can I really feel apprehensive about losing the opportunity to do these simple things. It’s taken me 6 months to make it to the stage where I’m comfortable and confident enough to go to the park, but we’re here now, and I can only imagine where we’d be in another 6 months if I still had that time. But I don’t. The option may be there, but I’m going back for not only me, but for Harrison too.

This feels like a justification to myself more than anything else now. But Harrison can only benefit from having other children to interact with; and not in six months time when I put my big girl pants on and finally take him to Mothers & Toddlers. He needs fun activities to do at the weekend. He needs swimming lessons. He needs a house with cupboards filled with food. And therefore he needs two parents bringing in some money. We need the financial security,  and I need it for me, too. I need it for my sanity. I suppose that’s where feelings of selfishness come into it. I’m returning to work in part because I miss adult company, I miss having a purpose that isn’t ‘mum’ and I miss feeling like I’m doing something with my life. For some people, being mum is everything, and being a stay at home mum is a dream job. I respect those people a lot, those who can wholeheartedly dedicate there life to their kids – you know the people, the ones who are just meant to be a mother. I’ve met them, I know them and I love them. But I’m not one of them.

I was so jealous of these people at the start of my maternity. Jealous of them for feeling complete with their new baby, for being entirely happy just being mum. For me, being mum is an amazing thing, but I don’t want it to be all I am. I want to be more than just mum – and for me, I think I can get that going back to work. I feel guilty. I feel sad. But I’m going back to work and everything will be fine.


If anything, knowing that I have less than a month left of the long days has made me appreciate them even more. I appreciate every smile, every giggle and every mini milestone. I no longer long for the nap-time, during his two daytime naps I’m simply waiting for him to wake up. I don’t want to miss a minute anymore, because the minutes are now limited. If you had asked me last month how I felt about the return to work, I wouldn’t have even been able to comprehend it. A baby who woke every hour consistently meant that daytimes were difficult to say the least. I could never have imagined leaving him crying in the hands of someone else. Now though, he is rarely seen without a grin. He’s happy with anyone who will clap their hands in his direction, and has no problem leaving my arms to play with someone else. It’s bittersweet, because he has become such a character and I can’t help but not want to miss the opportunity to spend as much time with that him as possible, but then again, it’s just time to work. I’m ready to make the most of the month, and then to be able to relish the weekends and the evenings we’ll have together. I’m looking forward to making the most of the time, rather than taking everything for granted. I’m not ready yet, but I will be by the 8th May, and even if I’m not, I won’t really have a choice.

If not, at least I’ll have a bit more money at the end of the month to go buy myself a big-ass chocolate bar and spend my night eating my feelings on the couch with my baby.

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