Prior to going on maternity leave, I felt like a total rock star at work.
I could do my job with my eyes closed and was voraciously devouring professional development and leadership courses to work my way up the ladder.
A few years down the track and a couple of kids later, I am feeling more roadie than rock star.
When I returned to work late last year, I couldn’t wait to get back into the swing of things. I was ready for a challenge, ready to sink my teeth into interesting projects, and ready to slide right back in where I left off.
What I wasn’t ready for was to hit a few bumps along the road.
I have been analysing and over analysing over the past months why things are so different. This is what I have put it down to:
The roller coaster of emotions
On any given day, I could be dragging myself into work like a zombie after a sleepless night, or sprinting into work breathless after a daycare drop off that ended in my screaming child being peeled off me. Despite my sky-rocketing blood pressure and the tears pricking my eyes, I plant a smile on my face to pretend life is just peachy because, trust me, work doesn’t want to hear about my screaming kids.
Often before 7am, my multi-tasking, negotiation, and deep breathing skills have already had a workout. Kids just don’t have a sense of urgency, and nor should they. They don’t understand that I need to start and finish work at certain times. They have a lovely habit of sleeping in when I need to get them to daycare and waking at the crack of dawn when I don’t.
Then there’s the worry of leaving the kids in the care of a stranger, leaving them at daycare for longer than my day at work, and purely and simply missing them. Missing. Them. So. Bad.
Returning to work after extended leave
I promised myself I would keep up-to-date with work while on leave, but really who was I kidding? When I walked out the door on that last day, my world became my beautiful children. Work was a distant memory. Now I am playing catch up. While I once had my finger on the pulse, I now feel like I’m scrambling to stay in touch.
Working part-time is an adjustment
Each week I battle my unhealthy need to fit five days’ worth of work into just three. It’s exhausting.
No matter how considerate my colleagues are arranging meetings on the days I work, there are inevitably meetings held when I’m not in the office. It is easy, no matter how hard people try to keep me in the loop, to feel behind the eight ball at times. Often when I think I’ve got it all covered, someone will ask me a question and the answer will disappear into thin air, poof, leaving me to stumble at the last hurdle blowing my confidence.
There is also the issue of flexibility. Pre-kids I would work late to meet a deadline, these days working back late is a military operation requiring much planning.
Pressure on myself
I am a shocker for placing unnecessary pressure on myself. I feel guilty for not putting in the hours I once did, for rushing the kids, not being as tolerant of tantrums as I should be at times, and being hard on myself for not miraculously knowing everything.
In saying all that, it is now more than five months since I’ve returned to work and it is becoming easier.
One of the biggest hurdles for me has been reminding myself of my priorities, knowing that things won’t be like this forever, and accepting that this is the path I have chosen for myself for now.
And while things are different, it’s not all bad. I have more work / life balance now than ever before, my production levels at work are through the roof, and I have the support of some inspirational people who encourage me to be strong and courageous and to find my inner rock star again.
How did you find your return to work? Did you take a while to settle back in?