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Why it’s OK to Love Your Job But Hate Going Back to Work After Having a Baby

Even if you are working in your DREAM job, going back to work after having a baby can be (and almost always is) a super difficult adjustment period. Michelle McSweeney of Return Ready – The Movement, explains why it is perfectly natural and ABSOLUTELY ok to feel a slight touch of ‘the fear’ when getting back into the workplace after having a baby.

“So, when are you heading back to work?” I wonder if women on maternity leave are asked this question as often as taxi drivers are asked if they’re busy tonight?

Probably. And sure, for the most part, people are generally just making conversation, but when you’ve just had a baby, the end of maternity leave is probably the furthest thing from your mind. Something that you don’t need to think about or deal with for what feels like an eternity. 

Then, sure enough, time goes by in the blink of an eye. This little bubble that you’ve become so accustomed to living in is about to burst. The reality of having to juggle motherhood and work is nigh, leaving mum guilt coursing through your veins.  

A ball of emotions

So. Many. Thoughts.

Inner turmoil to beat the band.

And it’s not about hating your job. Of course, being in a job that you dread going into every day is going to be a thousand times harder to go back to than one that you love.

But it’s ok to love your job and still hate going back to work. 

So, why do so many of us feel guilty about admitting that we’re not really ready to go back to work after having a baby? Because it sounds like we’re unhappy in our job, or that we’re not ambitious, or, worst of all, that we’re being greedy for wishing we could take even more time “off”! 

It is a BIG DEAL

It’s really not as simple as sitting back in your office chair and picking up right where you left off.

It’s leaving your baby with someone else, when you’ve maybe only spent a couple of hours away from them up until that point.

Wondering how you’re going to deal with night wakings, while still being in top form for that 9am meeting with your boss.

Questioning whether or not you’ll remember how to do your job, when your brain has been consumed with nappies and spit up for months on end?

Wondering how much the baby is eating and napping while you’re at work….what if they knock their head on the ground when they’re crawling? What if they forget that you’re their mother?!

Your whole world has been turned upside down in such a short amount of time – you’ve taken on a brand new role, and guess what…the hours are far more than just 40 per week! So, slotting back into a role that the ‘old you’ might have been able to do in your sleep, is understandably going to take a little time to adjust to. 

The worst part of anything is thinking about it…

Everyone says the anticipation is worse than the reality when it comes to going back to work after maternity leave.

It’s going to be a huge adjustment. There’s no doubt about it – one that you’ve never had to deal with before. Then again, so is having a baby. From the moment you find out you’re pregnant, you’re constantly using resources to prepare for what lies ahead – labour, feeding, sleeping, weaning – the list goes on. 

So why shouldn’t it be the same for returning to work after maternity leave?

Instead of feeling like we need to just get on with it, all while carrying the weight of a countdown clock on our shoulders… Why don’t we just admit that we’re feeling anxious about returning to the workplace? And use all of the resources that are available to us to feel better equipped and more confident about entering this new chapter? 

You can’t pour from an empty cup

Be honest. Ask for help. Pull from all of the resources available to you:

  • The working mothers in your life who have been in your shoes and understand the mixed emotions that you’re feeling
  • Online support groups
  • Back to work support networks

Whatever it may be.

Treat yourself with the same care that you’ve given your baby since the day they arrived on the scene. Just as much it’s ok to love your baby but still want a career, it’s also ok to love your career and still not want your baby bubble to burst. 

Michelle McSweeney is the creator of Return Ready – The Movement @returnreadymovement, which is dedicated to helping mothers to feel empowered and confident about returning to work following their maternity leave through tips and advice from fellow mums. 

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