The story of one mummy’s return to work
At the nine-month mark of maternity leave, the return to work weighed heavily on my mind – the countdown was on and was the subject of conversation amongst my NCT pals. When are you going back? How many days? Who’s looking after India? (That’s my daughter, by the way, not the country). Are you doing the same job as before? Do you think it’ll be okay?
Quite honestly, I didn’t think it WAS going to be okay.
That ‘back to school’ feeling
The night before the big day took me right back to those last days of the school holidays, the anxiety of starting back in a new class, packing your pencil case, hoping your new Kickers (THE school shoe of the 90’s) were cool enough, and praying you’d get sat next to somebody you actually liked and that they’d like you back. That combined with preparing India with everything she would need for her first day away from mamma was a lot to deal with!
I did everything I could to make day one less stressful. Rather than booking India into nursery and know I’d be worrying about her all day, she spent it with my mum and dad. I’d planned my first day back to be on a Friday, so I knew I had the weekend to shower India with love (and recover myself). Plus, I’d tasked Papa Tom with getting India up, dressed and chauffeured to my Mum and dads, removing the need to get up at 4.30am (because babies average 3 hrs from cot to car.)
BB-D-day. It was happening.
The drive to work was liberating, like a return to my old self. I listened to the radio, not nursery rhymes, and was happy when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror – how good it felt to be wearing make-up and to be wearing clothes that weren’t covered in baby food. Today, I was Louise, Senior Account Manager, the Bright Blue Day version of me.
I must confess that walking through those agency doors after a year out was scary – mainly because I’m not a fan of all eyes on me, but also because of all the new and noticeably younger faces. I’d stalked them a bit on social media and man did I feel old. They liked animated gifs, Skepta, and talking in hash tags – I liked email, Justin Bieber and baby talk. I just wasn’t cool anymore. I was officially one of the adults, but I liked it.
I actually had a totally brilliant first day and three months on I can honestly say that most of my days in the office ARE brilliant.
The right decision
I know coming back was the right decision for me. I’m so glad I did it. Me and my fellow mummy
pals are grateful for companies (like BBD) who ease the return to work by offering flexible working or a part time contract, particularly as companies aren’t obliged to do this. Legislation states they keep your original role and contractual hours open to you for one-year max. After talking with BBD about how returning on a part time basis could work for them and I, I started back on a 3 day week, with a move to 4 days after 3 months. It’s a really nice mix, it’s worked out well. Besides, where else would I have learnt to make an animated gif in Slack?
So, for anyone considering their return from baby life to agency life, here’s 5 reasons to do it…
1. You get a bit of your old self back. The self that can chat marketing, plan projects with clients, and actually hold a conversation, completely uninterrupted. Yes, it can be hard at times and feels like a juggling act balancing the two worlds, but I really did find that my new-found Mum stripes helped me – I’m a pro multi-tasker and brilliant at planning to the nth degree.
2. Your little one gets some independence too. Whether it be a day with the grandparents or at nursery, they learn so many new things when exposed to different environments. And it must make going to school less scary (for them and for you). Moreover, I do think it’s a good life lesson for children to see their mummies going to work and bringing home the bacon!
3. Free hands! You get go to the toilet on your own. You get to drink tea without it going cold, and if you have a team as wonderfully kind as mine, then they include you in tea rounds and make you rocket fuel coffee when they sense you’ve had a hard night. What’s more, you get a lunch break – yes you actually get to eat, like actually eat without a small person’s hand grabbing at you or demanding you do something else. I’ve also learnt that I can get so many errands done at lunch – things that would take forever with a baby in tow, ergo you get your life back in order!
4. You massively appreciate your days off with bubba. If you are as lucky as me to work for an agency that supports part time working for new mums, then I get a fairly even split of mummy days vs working days. I make my days with India really count. We have some amazing adventures together and her beaming smile when I come home from work in the evening makes it feel like Christmas every day.
5. And, the most important one for me – cue the cheese balls…I got my crew back, I’m back doing what I love with the people that make me love it.
Let go of the worry and do it
So, if you are reading this because you are nearing the end of your maternity leave and worrying about your return to work, I would say let go of the worry and just do it. You will find a way to make it work. Agency life is stressful at the best of the times, and Bright Blue Day is certainly an agency that’s not for the faint hearted. It’s full on every day. As an Account Manager in a Client Services team that prides itself on delivering a winning client experience at every touch, and whose raison d’etre is to ensure every piece of work, regardless of size, is something we are proud of, every day is crazy busy. My theory is that with a baby, you are completely used to that fast pace, so if it didn’t happen that way, you would be bored. It’s the buzz of work keeps you going and you seldom notice that you’re running on three hours’ sleep.
From client services to baby services
And then, when 5.30pm hits, you shut down and race to your car because you have to get home for your other job – being a mum (and house keeper / chef and chief peace maker). You return home to keep your littlest but most important client happy. Order is restored. And goodness knows that when you feel a little frazzled, there is always wine.