Mum Guilt: Returning to Work
This week I've had my first discussions with my employers about returning to work. They have been amazingly kind and accommodating; something I appreciate must be a rare thing. We discussed when I would return, my working hours and even a potential promotion. It was a positive conversation.
But later when I was relaying the conversation to my husband, I found myself unable to get the words out. I was choking up and holding back tears, trying not to be the hormonal nightmare he's been left with since I had our baby.
My return to work conversation had been productive and gentle, they were kind and flexible. So why was I upset? I realised it was nothing wrong with my work. It was the thought of leaving baby. The reality of kissing those chubby cheeks goodbye for the day had dawned on me.
I have an extra topping of Mum guilt over this, because I know that am writing this from an incredibly privileged position. I have an employer who has been been very accommodating in terms of my return. The bulk of my childcare will be provided by my brilliant mum. I don't have to worry about pressuring managers or how I will afford nursery. I am sure many of the mums who are reading this this will be thinking what a jammy cow... or perhaps something less polite. But despite this immensely supportive setup, I am still plagued with mum guilt about leaving my baby. What about if something went wrong? What if he needed me?
I also feel so guilty to put such demands on my own mum to look after my baby, even though she insists she is happy to. She has her own life and commitments and I will effectively be chucking this wonderful but at times very difficult baby her way. I don't want to be causing stress.
I feel guilty that I am whittling to my husband all the time over hours and schedules. He may change his working pattern and I feel like that is all my fault for not having this under control myself. Stupid of me, I know.
And finally, as I previously said, I feel guilty that I have such a setup and other people don't. I can't escape the guilt. I have to work hard to try not to let it become all-consuming.
Again, this is one of those topics where everyone has an opinion. Some have told me that I should put baby in nursery so that they get to mix with other babies. Others have recoiled in horror and told me that I mustn't put baby in a nursery. Some have said I have to keep my career and take all the opportunities I can. Others have said to enjoy this time at home, baby will grow up fast, the career can wait.
What I do know in my logical brain is that there is absolutely no right or wrong when it comes to returning to work. Each mum has a different situation and different personal needs. If a mum is desperate for mental engagement beyond entertaining a baby, they will benefit from work and potentially enjoy their time as a mum even more. Who is anyone to judge her?
Likewise, if a career woman decides that she can't face leaving her baby and wants to spend all of those precious young moments together, that is also great for her. Who is anyone to judge her?
For me, I have a little more time to think about my options and get used to the idea of returning to work. Financially it is necessary, but I also think deep down it will be good for me to have a life outside of motherhood. And while the guilt I feel will be immense, I will try to remind myself that I am being a role model by working hard and will be a better mum for keeping some time for myself. I have a lot to learn yet, and for now have time to think about everything. But I should be less hard on myself. It's all new to me - I am a learner mum after all.