My maternity leave seemed to go on forever, in my little world of 5am wakeups, sleepless nights, bottles, nappies, coffee, naps, extra coffee, Netflix, more coffee, mothers groups, waiting for Daddy to come home and more coffee.
I was plodding along in my mummy bubble, fuelled up on coffee and cuddles. With about three months to go on my maternity leave, the weeks started to roll by fast. My weeks were suddenly filled with to-do lists I had procrastinated about for months and, of course, more coffee. We were facing the doom and gloom that was returning to work. And with it, 'mummy guilt'.
I have a confession. I was excited to return to work. There, I said it, out loud, to someone other than myself in the mirror.
When my friends said that they were dreading returning to work and leaving their gorgeous bundles, I sat in silence, afraid to say anything because I just knew that I would be told off, or made to feel guilty for not feeling guilty, or worse, my unconditional love for my child would be questioned. Ironically, I started to question why I didn't feel that crippling guilt. Was there something wrong with me?
Since becoming a mother, I have worked hard on my anxiety, and one of those things has been looking for the positives in what can ultimately be a negative situation. Taking the mummy guilt out of returning to work, for me was essential -- not burying my head in the sand, but looking at things for what they were.
I was excited to break up my week. I was excited to put on my corporate uniform and heels. I was excited to get out of casual wear, which I don't do very well. (When I try to pull off the cool Instagram OOTD pics, I usually look like a hobo or just all sorts of not right.) I was excited to use my brain for anything other than incy, wincy, spider, and honestly, I was excited to get a little bit of me back.
And it wasn't all selfish. I was also super excited for my little one to go to daycare (she loved her orientation day) and meet new friends, learn new things that I couldn't teach her -- I don't have a creative bone in my body. I knew that this would be good for both of us.
When I returned to work and spoke to one of my colleagues who had also just come back from maternity leave, she felt the same. It was great to know I wasn't alone in my guilt for not feeling guilty. I wasn't horrible and I was doing the right thing for my family. The sisterhood was alive.
There are so many things that I love about our new arrangement. I love that my kid learns a raft of new things at daycare and socialises with other babies her age (I don't love the socialisation of germs, but I like to think of it as boosting the immunity of the whole family). I love that my kid spends a day with her grandparents building the most beautiful bonds of love. I love the reaction from her when I walk through the door and that the time we spend as a family during the evening before bed time and on weekends are so precious and full of love. Why should I feel guilty for the magnitude of positives in our lives?
I've been at work for four months now, and I am slowly learning to not be apologetic for that. When people ask me about missing my kid and the guilt, I am honest; of course I miss her, but she is enjoying her time in daycare and is the most fiercely independent, amazing, loving child who misses out on nothing from us as parents. It's hard, don't get me wrong, it's like coordinating a major event every day between the long commute, drop offs, pick-ups, bottles and avoiding spew and snot. But my baby is thriving, we love our new balance as a family and most importantly, I am thriving as a working mum.