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What really happens when you return to work after maternity leave

It’s a Friday night and I sit here with a block of chocolate and a glass of wine.

I’m in my fat pants (you know the pair I mean).

I’ve been back at work for one week and I’m exhausted!!!

But don’t tell anyone, they will roll their eyes and scoff at me! Because I’m supposed to keep it all together, right? I’m supposed to be able to handle anything, I’m a mother after all. But I’ll be honest, my first week back was hard and not just because of work but because my little one entered childcare. Here’s what my week look liked…

wine + chocolate

wine + chocolate

Monday

On Monday, I left my baby in the care of a complete stranger for the very first time and went to work and tried not to cry. I knew that if I thought about him that would be the end of me. So I decided to bury my head in my work. That idea worked well on the short walk from childcare to the office however as soon as I walked out of the lifts on my floor, every.single.person asked if I was okay. I’m not joking… it was everyone! So I spent several minutes in the toilet cubical gathering ‘composure’ before applying bright red lippy and pretending I was ‘fine’.

The one person who knew exactly what to say had just returned to work from maternity herself. “Wanna talk about it?” she asked? “No” I replied and we changed subjects.

At 10am I called the centre. He was sleeping, sound asleep.

The day was long…. very long. I counted the hours from morning tea, the minutes from lunch time, and the seconds from afternoon tea. Everyone wanted to talk about my bub, which was sweet, but hard. Wasn’t given any work to do. I suppose that was a good thing.

At the end of the day I raced to the child care centre and wrapped my arms around my little man. He gave me a big cuddle – he appeared to enjoy his day. But I didn’t… I missed him.

Tuesday

Day off! Spent the day with my beautiful bubby – we played, cuddled and just enjoyed the day we had together. Did the groceries – that sucked!

Wednesday

Wednesday was worse than Monday. Bubby cried before we left the house.

It broke my heart.

He was fine when we got to the centre though so I slipped out unnoticed.

But it still broke my heart.

I called at 11am today. Bub was fine, he had a good morning tea and a little nap. My day was long. I was given work to do. Didn’t help though, I missed him more this day.

At the end of the day I again raced back to childcare. But today he didn’t come to me. He saw me at the door – his mummy with a big smile and out stretched arms – but he turned his back to his toys.  He was busy you see, much too busy to play with mummy.  Another broken heart. I arrived home with bub feeling less of a mum than I did when I left this morning.

Thursday

Second day off for the week. Spent the day doing chores, blogging and yes you guessed it, lots of cuddles. Bub was particularly clingy today, separation anxiety I suspect. Wanted to be all over me all the time. This just meant chores took a lot longer today. That’s okay though, he was more important.

Friday

Friday was the worst. Worst than Monday… worse than Wednesday. He cried a lot before we left the house. At the centre, he cried again. He knew what was happening. He knew that he wouldn’t get mummy cuddles for the rest of the day. I left the centre after trying to slip out unnoticed. It didn’t work. I put my hand over my heart and cried all the way to work. Spent a couple of minutes in the toilet trying to find any composure – any at all.

Telephoned the centre at 9:30am (I’m sure they’re sick of me). He was fine, eating second breakfast. Bless him!

Another long day at work. Was given more work to do. But I couldn’t concentrate so spent most of the day staring at a foreign computer screen.  At 4pm I raced to pick him up. But he was upset when I got there. He didn’t come to me, and didn’t want to be comforted by me either. He just wanted to be in the arms of his carer. My role was negated. He no longer needed his mummy. After a couple of minutes, some tickles and kisses on his cheek he nuzzled into me for a cuddle. He wrapped his little chubby-bubby arms around me and rested his head on my shoulder.  Ahhh, finally, there he is. There’s my little one.

We walked home together and spent the next few hours playing and reading. This is usually the time when I organise dinner and things for the weekend, but not tonight. Tonight bubby had left overs and I went without. I didn’t care though, spending time with my little one was more important. He was teary for most of the night and only stopped crying when I cuddled him. That was okay with me though.

So bub is now in bed and here I sit, drinking my wine, eating my chocolate (dinner) and reflecting upon my week. My first week back at work; my first week without my baby. How did I do to get through it? In case you need some help in your first week back at work, here are five completely maladaptive tips that I used that will help you get through too!

1. Cry in the toilets at work, re-apply your makeup including your overcompensating bright red lippy and walk into the office as if nothing ever happened

2. Smile and say you’re fine to anybody that asks ‘how you’re feeling?’, ‘how are you coping?’ and ‘what’s it like to leave your loved one in the care of strangers?’

3. Eat copious amounts of chocolate at work and at home

4. Drink wine when you get home (and at work if you can get away with it… joking!)

5. Put your fat pants on at the end of the week – a must!

I have no doubt these helpful(!) tips will get you through your first week back. If I can do it – you can do it too.

Good luck 🙂

How did you cope with returning to work… please share your story, I’d love to hear it!!

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About Lauren Jackman (160 Articles)
Lauren Jackman is the author of Canberra Mummy. A self-confessed perfectionist, Lauren writes about the truth about pregnancy and parenting for perfectionist mummies. Lauren is a mum, wife, author, runner and a not a bad cook