“There is eternal influence and power in motherhood.”
― Julie B. Beck
There is an incredibly strong feeling of guilt and failure installed into you when you first become a parent, I think you naturally worry about everything that you are doing and if it’s in the best interest of your child. Are your efforts good enough and are you giving your child the best life you can offer them in your current situation? I always say that there is no right or wrong way of parenting otherwise babies would come with instructions, it’s not one size fits all. I think we constantly look outwards towards family, friends and social media to compare what we are doing and to see if it feels right. The only problem with social media (as much as I love it), you never quite know what’s real. You also don’t know peoples social classes, current situations or past events. These are all huge factors in how we parent every day but they are also big influencers when we start looking at other areas of parenthood, particularly when we look at maternity leave ending and our options thereafter. For me, I personally struggled with the idea of going back to work really early on. I like being financially independent, I like going to work and feeling that I am achieving something every day, but I knew when my Son was born I didn’t want to be away from him. And the job I was doing, although it paid the bills nicely it definitely wasn’t a passion or fulfilling anything genuine for me. It was something I accidentally fell into and it has just become what I do, not what I want. But it seems everyone I knew, had or was going back to work after their 12 months was up. I know everyone will have their reasons for returning whether it’s finances, career or independence and I salute everyone who does go back. But for me, the thought of being so far away from my boy was just filling me with dread, and yes we do need the finances but after travel, all day childcare and bills I would not have been left with much. Plus there was almost no flexibility in what I was being offered in terms of support about coming back to the work environment as a Mother. Circumstances change and there isn’t enough support out there sadly, to help us achieve a good work-life balance. Even if we wanted to save for a mortgage we couldn’t after paying for childcare and travel. So financially it wasn’t a good enough reason to put my Son with someone else and miss bedtime every night, which would have been the reality for me.
A big part of this decision making process about not returning to work is the guilt, and it eats away at you. You worry that you will become a financial burden on your partner and then you worry about how that is going to affect your relationship. It’s easy to think things like, if you don’t send your child to a nursery at an early age they are going to be missing out on building social skills. And you also worry that people are going to look at you and judge you for being lazy because you don’t want to sit in a mind-numbing job, counting down the hours until it’s home time. These were my genuine concerns about not returning to work (it’s funny how we don’t automatically see being a full-time parent a job in itself because it really is). Women fought so hard to have corporate careers after they were told they should stay at home and play Mother. If I didn’t want to go back what was I saying to that generation of females who fought for my rights in the workplace? Am I being completely ungrateful for their efforts or am I simply doing what I think is best for my family? As I was thinking about all of the pros and cons regarding my maternity leave drawing to an end, I stumbled across a group of Mum bloggers like myself all facing this really tricky time in our lives. So we got together and started to discuss, I guess all the reasons and cliches about not returning to work. We are all collectively blogging on this piece to spread awareness for anyone who is really struggling currently with their personal reasons on returning or not, to their pre-mat leave career. It’s not uncommon for women to want to be at home with their offspring, it doesn’t make you some victorian housewife with no rights. Or someone who doesn’t have a zest for a high profile career, it’s just a situation that suits you and works best for your family unit. Everyone has different needs and commitments and we’re all just trying to figure out what is best for us. Ultimately I want to be a full-time Mum and that outweighed any conversation regarding finances. I didn’t have my parents around that much when I was young as they worked and it’s one the of things that I wish had been different. As I’ve grown older it’s the memories for me that are important, not the expensive holidays or toys. That’s what I want my Son to have, happy memories of having his Mummy around.
Below are some questions that we felt fitted this topic quite nicely for us to share openly with you.
- Did anyone influence your decision not return to work? My Son was my main deciding factor but other contributors were definitely my employer. There was a real lack of maternal support, being an American company means their mat laws and culture really differ to what we have in the UK. It’s not that they didn’t want to support me but it wasn’t necessarily in their best interest to. So I think it was much easier for us to part ways in the end rather than be disappointed with other potential outcomes. Lastly, my Husband has been an amazing source of support and has really encouraged me not return to work and pursue something new and exciting which I will be showcasing soon. I think having the support of a partner who reassures you (no matter what your financial situation is) that you’re not a burden is really important.
- Was there a sense of identity/independence with not returning to work? Absolutely, not returning to work has pushed me to dig deep and ask myself the question, what do I want to do in life? As it’s never too late to start something new. I am really focussing on what I want to achieve not just in Motherhood but for me personally and I don’t think I would have really done that if I had returned back to my old job. It’s giving me the sense of freedom to be creative whilst spending time caring for my Son.
- Childcare Costs? This was a huge factor for me, yes if I had gone back we could have barely afforded it, but I just think the price is outrageous. I’m sure for some people it’s peace of mind and nurseries do a fantastic job but the costing is not favoured to new parents at all. I know there are some government schemes to help now, but they don’t have the same impact as the free hour’s programme.
- Judgment by Others? Again, yes as I previously wrote above. Of course, when you are not doing what the masses are doing I think you naturally will be judged and you feel that. I think as individuals we just have to stand our ground and truly believe in the good reasons why we are doing this. Just like the women who fought to have corporate careers. It’s what you feel is best for you and your children.
- Career Goals? I have always wanted to work for myself. I have a bit of an issue working really hard to line other peoples pockets. Especially when you have really poor management in place, which seems to be such a common occurrence these days. So I do have career goals, many of them and I can tell you they are definitely not office based.
- Logistics/Travel? Massive yes, I live 2 hours away from the office and the cost of let’s call it “Southern Fail” is incredibly expensive. Costs and travelling like a sardine aside, if anything was to happen at Nursery with my Son I wouldn’t be able to get to him straight away. It’s a logistical nightmare as you can’t really plan for events like that when you live so far out.
- Support Network? I don’t have any family in the area, neither does my Husband we are just winging it solo style, but I have built a great support network locally. Other Mums who work part-time, some who haven’t gone back to work. Also, some killer self-employed Mamas too, they are all around and we get to share in each other’s journies and watch our babies grow up together.
- Loneliness? I am quite lucky that I know if I needed someone, I’d get a knock on the door, The only time the loneliness hits me is when my anxiety gets bad and I get agoraphobic. But that isn’t enough to get me commuting to central London again, 5 days a week. But I can see why if people are feeling isolated going back to work is a really good way of feeling connected to the outside world again and getting back a sense of individuality.
- Financial? I think I have covered this sufficiently already, but to reiterate for me it wasn’t worth the finances to go back to work. But I know for some people they don’t have a choice, they may have to return mat leave money or have financial commitments that need to be made. It’s all situational and I am lucky that my husband is genuinely happy to support his family for the time being.
- Biggest Doubt/Insecurity? Am I doing the right thing for my Son, or am I making the biggest mistake of my life? That has been my biggest worry but as my husband would say to me, as much as he loves me he wouldn’t like me when I came home from work. I would be stressed, angry, full of hate and I was just so miserable every day. He doesn’t want that energy being around my Son, to be honest, neither do I.
I am happy with my decision to become a full-time Mum because as much as it’s a huge doubt, it can’t be a bad thing to be happy (or happier) around your child? Sod saving for a mortgage right now, as long as we can give the best life we can to our Son in our current situation and he’s happy, that pushes out any doubt aside 100%. Sure it’s going to be a couple of beans on toast years but like everything, nothing lasts forever. So now is the best time for a change, now is the time to start a new chapter of my life. And I will embrace it rather than live in coulda, shoulda, wouldas ville.
However in saying all of that I do have some VERY exciting news to announce soon, so watch this space!