A Big Ol’ Bag of Mother Guilt
As I write this I am preparing to return to work after having 11 months off on maternity leave. I am feeling some mixed emotions, the uppermost one being ‘Mother guilt’. Yes, I’ve done this twice before, gone back to work while the littlies are still babies and had to juggle the whole trying to be professional thing at work with the trying to be all-caring while at home thing with the kids.
It is hard. It is not easy switching work mode on in the morning after a torrid time getting the kids ready for school and yourself ready for work – I only work for 5 hours a day with no lunch break, so every minute there is consumed with work stuff. It is then exhausting leaving it all there at 2.30pm to race back home to collect the kids and deal with their needs after school and daycare.
While this arrangement is generous in many ways (I can be with the kids before and after school, they avoid before and after hours school care, I can still be of some use at work in the 20 hours I am there each week), it is really tough to be all to everyone.
More importantly, it doesn’t allow me much time for me to be me. While some might say this is a selfish attitude I have learnt a lot about myself and my mental health since having children and the biggest lesson I have learned is to make time for yourself. If you don’t, you end up depressed and on anti-depressants and struggling to keep yourself and your family together – I know, I have been there!
The ‘Mother guilt’ thing doesn’t help your state of mind. At the moment, I am feeling guilty for leaving my 10 month old in care – I know some babies are left in care earlier but this is the youngest that any of our children have been placed in care and so I worry if I have done the right thing. It has been even harder for me this time as it is the first time I have experienced the real pain of separation anxiety.
When I went back to work with my older kids my husband stayed at home so when they eventually went into care when he re-entered the workforce it didn’t make a real difference to me as I was used to being away from them each day. This time, I spent the whole first day my baby was in care depressed and upset and aching to go and see her. It is slowly getting better but certainly not a feeling I enjoy experiencing.
The other part of my ‘Mother guilt’ is that I am actually looking forward to going back to work, despite being away from the kids and having to put them into care. For 5 hours a day, I’m not going to be solely someone’s Mum. I’m just me and I can sit and have a cuppa while it’s hot and participate in conversations that don’t involve nappies, childhood diseases or the disturbing characters from “In the Night Garden”.
I have been at my current organisation for 16 years so I have a fair bit invested in it. Now, don’t get me wrong, my family comes first but I am proud of what I have achieved and would like to achieve more, once the kids are older and I am less restricted in my work hours.
For now, I am going to see how I go, try to say sane and try to be the best working mother I can be – I’ll keep you posted on how I fare!
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