We’ve all had that post holiday feeling, haven’t we? You know, the one that’s similar to Sunday night blues but stronger? Try imagining that holiday is a nine month (or more) break from the office and in that time you’ve had absolutely NONE of the relaxation of a tropical break…. and there you have it. THAT is what returning to work after maternity leave feels like. Not that it really feels anything like that. Returning to work after maternity leave is a far more confusing concept. It’s exciting and terrifying and liberating and horrific all at once and that’s just the thought of getting up before 8am again. In a bid to balance that confusion, I decided, like many other mothers (and fathers – hey there Dads!) to go back part-time.
I reasoned that part-time was the best compromise for us as a family. It balanced my want to return to the office – the salary, the peace, the no-child-hanging-off-my-boobs – with my want to never ever leave my child again. I decided that by going back a couple of days a week, I’d be getting the best of both worlds, bringing in a decent wage to support our family and teaching my child that working for things you want is the best possible way to do things. For the most part, part-time work does all of that but in some ways, it’s a nightmare.
The thing about part-time work is that you’re not really part-time. I mean, your hours are and your wage certainly is but, if you’re anything like me, your role isn’t. I’m fortunate to be in a high-level role which is great in every respect apart from the fact that it doesn’t end when I leave the office. My decision making and management doesn’t just stop being required because I’ve inconsiderately decided to spend half the week at home. What does that mean? It means I’m permanently on my phone, often in between juggling a baby, a dog and a zillion different chores.
It also comes with a whole new world of pressure. A pressure to prove that you’re capable of doing the same, if not a better, job than you did beforehand. I find myself working through lunches to show my commitment and taking on extra work that can’t possibly be achieved in my hours just to show that part-time me doesn’t make me a less worthy employee. Comments like ‘have a good couple of days off’ are well meant but carry an expectation that I’m at home holidaying rather than racing round like a maniac trying to fit in all of the chores, baby groups and various other activities into the week in order to ensure that our son gets the best of both worlds still, that we give him all the benefits of a stay at home mum in half the time.
Part-time is a compromise and I firmly believe that it will continue to feel that way. I have compromised on my career and I’ve compromised on the time I spend with my child. When I’m at work, I feel invincible and ready to take on anything. Then as it creeps toward the end of the day, I realise the reality of the situation; I’m not. I can’t do everything, I can’t fit five days into half of that time, I can’t do it. I start to crave being at home with my baby. When I’m at home, I feel the opposite; why would I ever want to leave him?! What would possess me to want to do so? I revel in spending time with him, chucking myself into a routine of activities whilst all the while being aware that work is lurking in the background, sneaking in via emails and chasing my thoughts in the middle of the night. Suddenly it’s the night before work and I realise how much I’m looking forward to getting a bit of adult time.
I love my job.
I love my baby.
A never-ending compromise.
Like this post? Pin it!