• Deborah Charles-Nelson

'The "Back to Work" Blues'

Back to Reality

Starting back at work after a somewhat lengthy maternity leave (10 months, to be exact) can leave you feeling quite anxious and out of touch. I know that, for me, I was apprehensive about not only leaving my son at home, but I was worried that I wouldn't be as close to him (both in proximity and in heart) and that that bond I worked so hard to build would somehow just fade away. Not to talk of the general blues of waking up at the crack of dawn and being on your feet all day checking prescriptions.

Being At Work Okay. So, on the first day back, I found myself riddled with guilt for being away all day and just feeling generally exhausted, to be very frank. I work two 12 hour shifts in the pharmacy, which means I leave before Ethan wakes up and only get about 2 hours with him before the cycle continues. So most of the day was spent with my mind in two places at once; thinking about Ethan's routine and how he's doing without his mummy, all whilst counselling patients in the pharmacy. Needless to say, I hear it “gets easier with time”, although I'm unsure whether that's a good or bad thing.

However, whilst we are on the topic of 'mum-guilt', I think it's important as mums/parents/guardians to remember why you are working. - What's your motivation? - Why did you choose to go back to work in the first place?

Reminding myself that I'm doing this to save up for his future, and to be an example of what a hard working mum looks like, is my 'why'. My son is my motivation.

Remember that your child still loves you regardless, whether you go out to work or are a stay-at-home mum. A few hours away doesn't negate the hundreds of hours you've spent nurturing, loving and investing into them; the breast-feeding (or attempts to in my case), the silly games you play just to see them smile etc. You may even find that work becomes a form of respite or hiatus of some sort as you finally engage in some much needed adult conversation and a break from 'mummy and daddy shark' nursery rhymes (my fellow mamas understand). Work can become a place where you switch on and stimulate your mind like you used to. Despite the guilt and tired feet, I found that it gave me this sense of accomplishment, which maybe I needed.

Balancing It All I've been pondering over this phrase 'balancing it all' for a while now, and it often turns into a question of "just how do you balance it all?", and, "is there such a thing as the perfect balance?" Honestly, I'm not sure there is. As mums, you can do all you can; weekly meal prep, schedule baby's food times and nap routines, maybe even organise 'date night' for you and your spouse, but striking the 'perfect balance' is almost impossible. Some days, your baby may take up or need more of your time (for instance if they have a cold), maybe your spouse needs more of your time after a hard day a work, or possibly work requires more focus because you are trying to progress in your job or develop another skill e.g. when I was training to become travel vaccination qualified. Essentially, yes, life is all about balance, but the balance will shift depending on life's demands at that particular time and that is perfectly normal. And, perhaps, that is the 'perfect' balance after all.

So, here are my tips so far:

Organise, Organise, Organise! Try and plan your meals or get some healthy take-out; there's nothing worse than coming home tired and hungry, and then having to cook whilst still having to revert to 'mum mode'. Set up a shared calendar between you and your spouse, so everyone is on the same page. Even schedule in some alone time if you can!

Take it Slow Try to get to work early to get a coffee or prepare before the day fully starts, it is a calm way to start the day and sets you up for success.

Check In Call your spouse or nanny etc. to check in on your little one during your lunch break. Get them to send cute videos or pictures; it makes missing them easier when you know they are having fun.

Create a Network of Working Mums Have someone you can speak to that understands what you are going through. You both can share your ups and downs, which gives mums a sense of comradeship, and you can share tips too. You also don't feel so bad when you know you aren't alone in the 'mum guilt'.

Go With the Flow I'm only a week in and I've already realised that you have to be flexible – not everyday will turn out how you meticulously plan it to be, and that's okay. You may find that the hours you work, or even the days you work on don't suit you and your family, and it may need to change, so my mantra right now is: "just go with the flow..."