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Retrospect Series #1: Still harping on about maternity leave

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Around the time I went back to work after baba #1 I started writing blog posts – for what, I’m not quite sure as I didn’t publish any at the time, or since.  I knew my company was slowly closing down, and I was preparing to move on to the next stage in my career, so I used this writing as a sort-of journal; to process my thoughts on my career path, and on being a working mother, and a parent in general. 


I’ve decided to publish some of these posts now as they once again become relevant to me and my readers – with updated commentary where it makes sense.  To kick this off, below is a post I wrote the first week back after maternity leave in 2015.  So much of this still holds true for me. This week I packed a 2nd little bag and packed baba #2 off to crèche :(.  It was a different kind of milestone this time around.  As a newly self-employed mama, I’ve been working in some shape or form since he was weeks old, and progressively since last Autumn, so he’s well used to being without me, and I him.  But, as the toddler is in crèche a few days a week, I’ve also had the luxury of plenty of one on one time with V, and that is coming to an end. So, it’s a biggie nonetheless; and sending him off to be minded by people who don’t LOVE him, and can’t give him undivided attention is a heart-wrencher for sure. But so far, so good – he’s loving having new people and toys around him, and seems to be settling in well, thankfully.


So, here it is, a little step back into my time capsule:


Back to work is not so bad (July 2015)


Before I went on maternity leave I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  In the previous years I worked in an incredibly busy environment and enjoyed being good at my job.  I knew many women who had gone on maternity leave previously and from listening to their advice, I understood that I was going to be very busy doing the same thing over and over again (feed, change, clean, nap…) and fully expected that I would be mentally bored while physically busy.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how much having a baby would change me and how mentally exhausting it can be, so yes, I was busy…and actually not at all bored!

After my husband went back to work, our son and I settled into a nice routine and filled our days very easily, getting to know one another and going about our day.  I knew every single thing that went on in his little life and as time went by, we had lots of fun times together.

The last few months flew by as we really settled in to our groove, and I tried my best not to think about returning to work.  I was always busy planning one thing or another, whether it was his welcoming ceremony (in lieu of a christening) or planning one of our two road trips in Ireland and abroad.

I have some long terms friends in work, and so met them at least once a fortnight for lunch so I had a pretty good idea about what was going on and never really felt too removed.  I know this isn’t for everyone, but it worked well for me.

I knew that my son would absolutely love crèche as he loved meeting all the other babies in mum and baby yoga and meeting other people out and about and on holidays.  I also felt happy that he would get to play with other children and play with toys and books that we didn’t have at home and learn things that I probably wouldn’t even think to teach him.

In the weeks before returning to work we were on a few weeks’ holidays in Spain and Portugal so I didn’t get much time to dwell on things.  My son spent a little bit of time in the crèche before our hols and then a half day at the beginning of the week I returned to work (my first day back was a Thursday).  The first day he had lunch in crèche was the first day that someone other than me had fed him, and I distinctly remember feeling a little bit sad about the fact that he smelt strange and of food that I hadn’t given him (crazy I know).  I also remember in one of his settling in days, watching as another very flustered mother arrived with her upset son.  He little boy banged his head on arrival and both mama and baba were quite upset departing each other’s company – the room was heavy with emotional tension.  I worried was I kidding myself with all this inner calm!

The week before I went back I had a little wobble as I reflected on this being the end of an era for us…things would never be the same again!  But what could I do, it wasn’t really optional and we were lucky to have had nearly 11 months together.  And so, back to work I went…

…and it was grand.

  • I got to walk to work on my own and lose myself in my own thoughts
  • I got to stop in to my favourite coffee place and grab a coffee to go
  • I got to sit at my desk and briefly browse the web/catch up on the news while drinking aforementioned coffee and having my breakfast
  • I returned once again to refer to myself in the first person as opposed to ‘we’ all the time
  • I rediscovered the joy of lunchtime shopping on my own (and of course the benefit of a little more disposable income every month)
  • Ah lunchtimes…. deciding on a whim where to get lunch – even if it was a pokey little place with no changing facilities! Meeting friends for lunch and actually having a proper conversation
  • I got to sit in relative peace and actually complete whatever task it was I started…bliss!
  • And I discovered the joy of a little beaming face looking up at my at crèche pick-up time

Did I mention less mess?  By 11 months of age, I’ll admit that I did not really relish the considerable amount of time spent preparing meals and then tidying up after my messy little eater.  Now, my little blw’er has his brekkie and lunch in crèche – instantly reducing said preparation and mess by 66%!

And you know what, I really enjoy seeing my little one learning so much in crèche and making little friends – I'm not sure I would have provided that environment myself (I’m just not that organised). 

So all in all, so far so good…

And of course, I'm here to get some work done as well…




How did you find going back to work? I’d love to hear your stories…how have other self-employed Mamas found the transition, or those working different work patterns...



Claire Flannery is the Founder and Owner of Strength Within coaching and consultancy, where she focuses on helping people create the headspace and mental clarity to discover, cultivate and maximise their strength within. She is a qualified Business Psychologist, Executive, Business & Personal Coach and Gentlebirth Instructor with over a decade of experience working in HR leadership in Financial Services. She is also a Mum to two small boys and has personal experience of successfully managing her career while preparing to transition out of, and back into, the workforce; and is passionate about helping people to successfully navigate the huge identity and life transition involved in starting and growing a family. As a large part of her work, she is privileged to work with women and their partners as they make their journey through pregnancy, birth and early parenting. Along with Coaching services, she runs Gentlebirth and Return-to-Work workshops in Dublin, Ireland.

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