I returned to work officially about a month ago. I recall clearly the personal pain I felt and the tears I shed over the impending day. It seemed that as the day loomed ever nearer that all the worries I had been experiencing about staying at home like boredom, constant wingeing, not coping and loneliness dissipated and in fact being at home with Master X became absolutely delightful and felt wholly natural that final week before returning to work. As I left Master X at day care for his orientation I was crippled from the thought that I was abandoning my baby, and that going back to work and leaving him in child care was actually the most unnatural thing that I could do for us. I felt guilt. Mumma guilt.
So how do we do away with that guilt to be the best that we can be, in whatever the circumstances and for whatever reason? This brings me to why I am drinking at three o’clock on this Sunday afternoon. Apart from the fact that it is Mother’s Day, I am partaking in a glass of wine because I am scared of starting at my new job this week and want to relax somewhat and take my mind off the upcoming day of revelation. I am enjoying and savouring the glass as it represents to me all that I can do, including going to work for three days and looking after my son for four days a week. It reminds me that I can and will do this, and that it is okay to be scared. I need to allow myself some time out, even if it is not in a ‘socially acceptable’ manner.
I am going to have a glass of wine, breathe and remember the process that I went through when starting back at work last month, because this situation is not that much different and there are good ways to think about some of these factors.
- New Role
When I returned to work after nine months of maternity leave, I was going back to a new position in a whole new area outside my expertise. I was faced with a new set of discourses and practices and expectations. I had to relearn systems and unpack new ways of working too. Similarly, motherhood was also a new role with different rules, understandings and tools of the trade. I drew on my personal resources to learn what these roles meant both personally and professionally. I discovered the art of asking for help without using the word ‘help’, and when the defer to management. The new role after maternity leave required me to really step outside my comfort zone.
The role in this new job is similar in that it is not in my area of expertise, however I do have the skills necessary for the job otherwise they would not have hired me. I have been trying to read up on the area though so as not to seem like a complete outsider, and also as I am aware that there is an expectation for me to hit the ground running. All excitement.
2. New Relationships
The thing that people don’t tell you in the ‘returning to work after maternity leave’ articles is that everyone will have changed. Even if you were like me and managed to stay in touch with colleagues during your period of leave, the way that they work would have undoubtably altered. In my case there was a whole new set of staff challenges as I moved into a new area. I ached for my old area and it took a couple of weeks before I considered that I might have to let go of the old ways and relationships. This was very difficult.
I am nervous about building new relationships as I worked in my last workplace for about 6 years so I knew people across a variety of sections. I will be walking into a whole new workplace with no connections. I hate the feeling of being judged and trying to fit in. It just does not serve my personality type.
I just need to breathe and remember these are people too and they just want to get to know me so I should go in with the same mindset.
3. New Office
I have just walked into my boss’ office on the morning of the first day that I am returning to work. I sit down and the task is carefully explained to me. I am escorted to my new office… a shared office with some twelve other people, but no-one is there. In fact over the next four weeks, the only day that there are people there consistently is my last day! I had to get used to holding in my farts, eating outside and people being able to see my computer screen.
As I mentioned, I am moving to a whole new workplace. I have to learn how to get there on time as I need to drop Master X off, drive and then ride my push bike to avoid paying for parking. I also need to get used to not twelve, but some forty people in the same room. But collaboration is key to a healthy workplace and it will be good to be around other people for social security.