This is a subject that most people shut from their mind. The one they dread. What seems so far off can suddenly sneak up on you though. Not that I am trying to scare any of you of course!
Although I now work mostly from home this wasn’t the case when I had Molly and Alice. At the time I was working at a busy global ad agency and the thought of juggling that and a baby scared me. Quite a lot. Yes, I wanted to see my friends and have some adult conversation, use my brain even, but I also knew what the job entailed and the thought of how I would manage this scared me a little bit. Long gone were my days of heading off on week long photoshoots or even a days TV edit. Even just making client meetings was going to be a mammoth mission.
One of the first things you need to decide on is how many days you would like to work. Obviously this is very much dictated by your company and what they will allow and also what you need to do financially. You can read more about your maternity entitlements here. I took nearly 14 months off with Molly in the end due to holidays and so on, with Alice it was just nine months as I’d moved companies and they needed me to start. As an Account Director the minimum they would let me do was four days. I also negotiated leaving a smidge earlier to make it back for Molly by having a shorter lunch (we never took lunch breaks anyway!!). Financially this suited me and four days seemed manageable. After Alice I was very lucky to find a job that let me work two days a week which was brilliant and it was only 5 minutes from my mums house. Double brilliant!
One of the biggest decisions is childcare. More coming up on that later this week but you really do need to think about what arrangements you will have not just for during the day but for pick ups and drop offs and how that fits with your work. I was incredibly lucky that my lovely mum agreed to have Molly two days and she went to nursery the other two. After I had Alice Mum had the two of them both days and I can never thank her enough as I know how tough that was.
A Juggling Act
I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy to get to work and look after a small child/children. If it is, hats off to you. Trying to get out the house was a mission. Trying to get home was even harder. I’d get up early and get myself ready before pretty much getting Molly out of bed and straight in to the car. On nursery days I could just about manage to get Molly dressed and give her her milk in the car. Luckily she had breakfast there. I then had a manic dash up to work, normally getting stuck in traffic, before a full on day and battling to get out the door to get back for nursery pick up. I was shattered. Edd works away a lot of the week and stupidly long hours so the responsibility for childcare fell on me. After Alice it was even tougher and both girls were dropped at mums basically straight from bed. Poor kids!
My job meant lots of client meetings normally some distance away so would pretty much take up my whole day. I also had to manage various shoots and edits for the projects I was working on so often would be expected to do long days. I felt bad that I couldn’t stay late and had to dash off for nursery pick up. It was also difficult to arrange meetings as I couldn’t really be in London for 9am as I had in the past. As a result some weeks my mum offered to have Molly overnight on a Monday night which was a lifesaver. I’d meet mum on Monday morning, swap Molly over in the cars and head off to work. She had a lovely time staying with Nanny and then I would pick her up or meet my mum on a Tuesday evening. This might not be for everyone but it gave me the opportunity to stay late or leave early for meetings. If I could I would pop round to mums on a Monday night or have Molly back at home but in truth she would normally be ready for bed or already asleep so more often than not I would head home and do the washing and ironing. All the glamour.
I wil caveat all of this with a certain factor that needs to be taken in to consideration. When I returned to work after Molly I was already 3 months pregnant. You can read about that fun conversation here. It did mean that I knew all of my decisions and struggles were short lived. It also threw up a whole heap of new issues. Affording a second baby and going back on Maternity leave being the biggest.
Whatever you decide try to keep relaxed and do what is best for you and your little one. You can only do what you can. I was very lucky that my mum gave me an option for putting in a bit extra at work but in truth even on the other days I just worked full throttle to get through everything. And most of all, don’t let it get you down. I know most of us have to go back to work for financial reasons but, believe me, you will actually enjoy it. It was great being back in the thick of it, doing the job I loved (most of the time!). Having had time out I found the things that used to niggle me about my role didn’t affect me so much any more. Having a baby puts things in perspective. You get to enjoy what you do but know that when you get home you get those gorgeous snuggles with your littles. And that makes it all worthwhile.
Are any of you preparing to return to work? Or if you already have how did you find it? Please do share any advice or pearls of wisdom.