My Mat Leave is Over! Help!
My Mat Leave is Over (and I might have a meltdown)
In a few months I will be returning to work following my third maternity leave and I’m feeling a tight sense of dread and anxiety. I’ve had to navigate child care and all the feelings that come with leaving my children a few times now. This time feels like it should be a lot easier. But it isn’t.
I have managed transitioning back to meetings from circle time. I even got used to remembering to check my clothes before I left the house (after many times not having wipes to clean off the dried milk and yogurt).
Now with a 5, 3 and 9 month old, I am busier than ever. I don’t need to mention the usuals, but I will…..daily drop-off and pick ups, after school care, school fundraising needs, pizza day, wear this to school day, parent council gatherings..not done, but I won’t go on. And then a paid job on top of this one. To say that I feel overwhelmed some days is an understatement. I’m sure you can relate.
With the return to work deadline looming, I realized that my focus was on my children not suffering through this transition and, in typical Mum fashion, I had forgotten to give myself permission to feel my own emotions. My feelings also begged the question, why aren’t I better at this since this is my third go around? Well, if you compare it to going to the dentist and you have an innate fear of the experience, it’s tough to shift your feelings no matter how often you’ve been in the dentist chair.
I’d like to share with you a shortlist of strategies and some wisdom that this experience has given me. If you have any of your own you would like to tell us about, we would be delighted to hear from you!
Ask for help.
Your loved ones will not telepathically know what you need. Ask for help and, if necessary, make a list to outline your expectations/schedule of your kid’s routine, grocery shopping and meal prep, household tasks, school obligations, etc.
Prioritize taking care of yourself.
We’re all familiar with the analogy of being on an airplane and the oxygen masks falling down, right? Remember, yours goes on first because if it doesn’t, you can’t help anyone. Hopefully we have become enlightened enough by now to understand that martyrdom serves no one and, in fact, breeds resentment and encourages co-dependence.
Acknowledge there will be good days and bad days.
A new routine may take a few weeks to get in the groove with. It’s okay to have rough days and to feel miserable from time to time. If you feel like it’s an endless loop of misery then it might be time to reach out to a professional. Don’t torture yourself with guilt or shame because you’re feeling down. Reach out. You are loved.
Some practical tips:
- Consider using a meal or grocery delivery service, at least for the first little while. My girlfriend uses a grocery delivery service and says, even though some items cost a little more, she ultimately spends less because she isn’t buying superfluous items.
- Practice your morning routine the week before you return to work.
- Send your children to the sitter or daycare a few times before they absolutely have to go. Leave them with something that reminds them of you or of home: a photo, a piece of clothing, a special toy (one they don’t have to share).
- On the days you’re running behind, remind yourself that no one ever died from being ten minutes late for a meeting, but rushing through traffic, well, that can be fatal.
Now breathe Mama, it’s going to be okay.
Written by: Niamh Connolly, Mama of Three, Social Worker