A mother’s new chapter
Trepidation. Excitement. Sadness. Guilt. Pride.
Just some of the emotions I am feeling as I return to work following 9 months of maternity leave and drop my baby Finlay off at nursery for the first time.
In the grander scheme of life, 9 months is a relatively short space of time. That said, a lot can happen in a week, let alone 9 months. 9 months is also not an insignificant timeframe when considering its how long it takes to grow a whole human!
As a Director of Trinity McQueen, it was important to me to stay engaged with work matters during my maternity leave and not ‘cut myself off’ completely. With that in mind, I completed 5 ‘keeping in touch’ (KIT) days towards the end of my mat leave, had monthly phone ‘check-ins’ with the board to stay abreast of the key business developments and popped into the office with Finlay on at least 3-4 occasions to maintain a sense of connection to the team (and provide obligatory office baby cuddles).
However, I was also conscious that maternity leave is a special and short-lived period that doesn’t last forever. It was my time to physically recover from pregnancy and birth, grow into my new role as a mum, and bond with my new baby. Precious time in which to nurture him, nourish him and support his growth and development during this most critical period of his life.
I think I struck the right balance. Finlay was my number 1 priority, but I also didn’t completely lose my identity as a businesswoman. I still felt connected to what was going on at work and, as such, I don’t feel so daunted about returning.
There’s naturally still a part of me that feels nervous though … will my research skills feel rusty? Will my ‘baby brain’ get in the way of doing business? Will I be able to manage juggling work with home life? Perennial questions that affect all working mums, no doubt. However, I also feel excitement … excitement at getting involved in the comings and goings of business life again, problem-solving how to tackle the latest knotty client brief … and just generally engaging in stimulating, thought-provoking work that challenges my brain creatively and intellectually. Oh … and drinking coffee hands-free!
Many women who leave the workplace to go on maternity leave lose confidence in themselves and their abilities in this timeframe. I’ve seen it happen before to friends and colleagues and it’s a real shame. Luckily, however, I don’t feel any loss of confidence myself. What I’ve lost in terms of awareness of the latest research methods or technologies is more than made up for by the greater life experience, maturity and new skills that I have gained as a mum and which I can now bring back to the business.
As a mum I’ve found myself having to problem-solve and ‘think on my feet’ more than ever in my life – a crying baby can’t tell you what’s wrong, for example, you must figure it out. I have also felt out of my comfort zone almost every day of my maternity leave as babies are constantly changing. One day Finlay will nap for 2 hours, the next 20 minutes and never at the same time of day. One day he can’t sit up, the next he’s crawling and rolling from one side of the room to the next … and every object in the house, however formerly ‘innocent’ is now a health & safety hazard. I’ve learned to feel comfortable with uncertainty and thankfully it has got easier month by month.
Becoming a mum has also really helped to put work into perspective. I absolutely love what I do at Trinity McQueen and feel privileged to work with a great team and great clients. However, I do believe in the motto ‘work to live’ rather than ‘live to work’. I was already motivated to do well in my career and achieve things for myself but now I have the added motivation of doing well for Finlay. I want him to grow up feeling proud to have a mum who is career focused and driven.
I also know that it’s relatively easy to brush up on rusty research skills at any time – after all, the technologies may change but the research fundamentals by and large don’t.
Reflecting on the past 9 months, I’ve gained an enormous array of new skills and competencies and learnt a whole bunch of stuff I didn’t know before. I’m returning to the business as a far more well-rounded person (only without the baby bump this time!) and I’m thoroughly looking forward to getting stuck back into work and blending my two new roles of mum and Director.
Laura Morris, Director.