Hello 2018, goodbye maternity leave

The approaching New Year’s Day 2018 will be more than just an occasion for nursing a hangover while chasing my toddler round on her new bike she got for Christmas.

Nope, the first day of 2018 also marks the end of a pretty significant chapter in my life.

It’s my final day of maternity leave. From Tuesday I’ll be back at work chasing the news as a reporter for the Daily Mirror. It’s a change with both positives and negatives for me.

On the one hand I have to be extremely grateful for all of the time off I’ve had with my baby and my toddler. I had my children less than two years apart. And yet I received a full year off with both kids, with an extremely generous maternity pay package, plus accrued holiday in 2017 which enabled me to take all of December off.

My colleagues are genuinely brilliant people and so I’m lucky to have peers who are nice to work alongside and socialise with, when I get the chance.

I’ll be working from home mainly, which helps with making sure I’m on time for collecting my girls from nursery. The job is a varied one, with different challenges every single day.

I meet some lovely people and some not-so lovely people, but every day is different and with the industry being so competitive it is a privilege to work where I do.

Yet there are also a few twinges of guilt and worry in the back of my mind. Things that to admit them feels like I’m failing to support my sisterhood in the drive for equality in the workplace.

Believe me I’m the last one who believes a woman should quit her job when she becomes a mum. I think we all have to do what feels right for us. It’s just for me I’ve found my feelings are rather more complex than being desperate to switch soft play and parks for door knocks and news lists.

Working mum or stay-at-home mum – the choice is yours and thank goodness for that. PS. Did being a stay at home mum ever look like this??

I worry about not seeing my children five days out of seven every week.

Yes, I’ll be there at bedtime but it’s not the same as spending entire days exploring somewhere new, or at our local country park, or even just chilling out at home with their toys.

I worry that I will miss major milestones, such as my youngest taking her first steps. I worry that they’ll be sad without me, but equally I worry that they won’t miss me at all.

I think about all those studies saying that nursery is bad for little kids and although I think it’s utter nonsense, I feel a pang of guilt at the thought I might not be doing my best for them.

But I want a career. I want to keep bringing in a salary, to achieve something all of my own. Journalism is a career with dizzying highs, and quite a few crashing lows. But it’s the wins that make it worth it. The moments when you know you’ve got something great in your notebook and tomorrow it will be on the front page of the newspaper.

For a working mum, or dad, it’s a tough industry to be in. The hours are unpredictable, including overnight travel within the UK and beyond.

It’s a job where you could wake up at home expecting a full week of normal mundane work days only to find yourself on a plane to Egypt with no clue when you might be coming home.

I’ve been lucky to be supported in my return to work with certain reassurances about the support that will be given to me to make sure I’m home to get my children from nursery every day.

While it’s all very well and good to insist nothing has to change when you have kids and set out with a plan to “have it all”, unfortunately I just don’t think we can.

If “having it all” means carrying on with my current job as if nothing has changed, then that would just leave me miserable.

For me having it all doesn’t mean not seeing my kids at all in the evenings and barely catching a glimpse of them in the morning. I want to spend a bit of time with them every day, even if only for an hour.

A career that demands a 16 hour day every single day plus overnight travel at the drop of a hat doesn’t fit in with what I want for my home life. Because becoming a parent is different to being that fresh-faced newbie in your 20s at the office.

You have commitments at home that stretch beyond watching Saturday Kitchen every weekend.

I’ve spent a lot of time mulling over what the best choice for our family is with regards to me returning to work. I’ve considered what work/life balance would be best for me.

And so I’ll be working Sunday to Thursday. The kids will be with their dad on Sunday, and then at nursery three days a week, plus one day a week with their grandparents.

This way we can save a significant amount of money on childcare, though it will still be extremely expensive. We’re talking more than a monthly mortgage payment!

But is it worth going into this situation full of worry, guilt and fear about the future?

No, it’s not. So I’m going to take a deep breath and step onto the tightrope I’ve strung up for myself and hope I’ve got this work/life balance thing figured out.

My greatest fear is letting my kids down. But I do not believe being a full-time working mum is letting them down. It’s giving them a different experience to some other kids their age maybe, but that’s not to say it’s a bad kind of different.

I’m also giving them a strong female role model to look up to, showing them the importance of having a career you’re passionate about and teaching them about independence. And that is nothing to feel guilty about.

Read more: Returning to work after maternity leave: Finding the right balance

Your first week back at work after having a baby

So how’s it going to play out? Stay tuned as I’ll be checking in to update on my thoughts as a working mama of two. The blog is still going to be active and updated regularly, because my lovely readers The Mummy Bubble has become a bit like my third baby.

Are you a full or part-time working mum? How did you reach a decision on what to do about returning to work and how has it worked out for you?

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