Alexandra Hunter on returning to work after maternity leave
I had always loved my job as a magazine publisher. I’d worked in that industry for 12 years and I’d never taken my full annual holiday allowance; I was always too busy, too involved and too driven. I thrived on the fast pace and variety of the role and I enjoyed doing something every day that I knew I was good at. I was passionate about our products, liked my clients and worked with close friends. I had no idea if I would be a good mother and I was anxious about being away from work for so long. I didn’t start maternity leave until a week before my c-section was booked and even in that last week I missed work and couldn’t relax. I found the handover of my duties and taking a step back really hard in the final weeks and I knew that I would have a huge amount of adjusting to do over the coming months.
When Sebby arrived I was of course too tired to think about work or anything other than keeping a tiny person alive and it certainly took me a while to find my groove. I cried alot in those first few months, hormones, lack of sleep and having a new identity and job was both amazing and terrifying. It took me a long time to relax into not being at work and being at home and to not feel guilty about that. I could never just sit and watch box sets, I felt I had to be constantly busy in order to justify not being at work. I walked miles every day as soon as I could and signed up for every mother and baby class under the sun. I wish I had relaxed a little more, but I was used to a busy schedule and being without one was completely alien to me.
I had 10 months of maternity leave and ironically it was only after about 7 that I began to relax, forget about work and feel that I had things under control. I began to love every minute of it. I had no idea that my last few precious weeks of maternity leave would be mostly spent without Sebby whilst he was ‘settling in’ to his new nursery. I really was lost at that point, suddenly faced with going back to work and being without my tiny baby having just got used to being maternity leave was ghastly.
“Parenting is hard, working is hard, combining the two can sometimes feel impossible”
Leaving Sebby on that first morning to go to work was awful, I felt he was too little, they couldn’t love him like I did, they wouldn’t know how to soothe him or what he needed and I spent my first few days back in the office wishing I was at home with my beautiful boy. As it turned out, nursery was wonderful for him in so many ways and being back at work, albeit part time, was good for me too. It felt very surreal stepping back into a company that had of course, survived without me. I was out of the loop and transitioning back over the first few weeks and months was difficult, initially I felt like a spare part of something I had poured years of energy in to creating, and then of course, I settled back in. The time I had with Sebby when I wasn’t working became so important and so full of joy and needless to say we both adjusted to our new regimes.