Preparing to return to work
by Masha Ginzburg
The day before yesterday I was sitting at my desk and he was kicking me inside my neat, round belly. Yesterday I was holding him in my arms for the first time and since that day my life changed completely. Today, I’m holding his hands helping him to take his first steps. I hardly remember how it was “before”… But tomorrow I go back to work. Back to my old life again. Probably. This sounds weird.
Well, despite of the different myths around German politics and society, I would say it is one of the best countries to start a family. It is one of the few countries that gives both partners plenty of time to take off from work and spend with the family. Your employer has to keep your position open (or a similar one), and you get financial support from the state based on your salary (although this is capped). Unlike many of my friends around the world, I’ve had the luxury to stay with my little boy for one year on paid maternity leave, and I thought this was endless, no matter how tough and happy the time was. But it’s not, it is actually almost over.
Staying at home was always my biggest nightmare, so I’m definitely glad to go back to work. It is exciting and scary in the same time though. I’m totally anxious when I don’t see my son for a few hours, so it would be really hard to leave him in the daycare for so long! How will he adapt? Will he even like it there? How will it affect our relationship?
In order to prepare for this I started to gather some basic information. One could argue I started to prepare myself long time ago, visiting all the daycares in my area, talking to the workers there, moms who have older kids or particular experiences, reading forums and reviews online. Lately I found the book of Deborah MacNamara Rest, Play, Grow very useful in terms of learning more about our children’s psychology and some ways to make the separation easier for both of us. I don’t know how it will work in practice, but at least I feel relatively ready. Ready for success and for failure.
Getting back into work after a one year break is not easy, especially if you work in a dynamic, high-tech industry, where one technology suddenly replaces another and software updates come every other month. Needless to say, some people I worked with have left the company, there are new faces, new projects, new directions to follow. Luckily, I had a reason to visit my office several times during maternity leave, so seeing my colleagues and hearing about old projects/clients helped me keep the connection with work and feel more on a track. I didn’t succeed with seriously following the technology world, because I was fully occupied with a completely new field of science called the “hard life of babies”, but I hope to catch up a bit in the following weeks.
I’m back and it’s all good
by Georgia Chapman
I went back to work full time two weeks ago and my husband has returned to his stay-at-home-dad duties. We are both back at work after 8 months off and it’s come as a bit of a shock to both of us.
I only had 11 weeks with my daughter, so taking this extra time was pretty special. My company is based in the US, where maternity benefits are pretty much nonexistent, so my time off seemed like a long time to some colleagues over there. On the other hand, my German colleagues couldn’t believe I was only taking 7 months post birth.
The summer was fantastic, the kids were such fun and I was an exhausted wreck at the end of each day. Parenting is hard, and I’d not really experienced the SAHM thing. I loved all of it, even the toughest days, because I felt like I belonged with my kids. Ok, I had my moments, but not once did I wish to be back at work. We didn’t even do much, just hung out together, went shopping, came home.
And now it’s September, back to school and back to work. I even bought new pens for the new ‘work’ year and had the same sense of foreboding that I used to get with school. Going back this time was so much harder than the first time. Leaving these two little people every day is hard, even though they are in the best hands with their dad.
Where he has encountered criticism and judgment for being the primary carer (oh, is he working from home? No, being a dad IS his job – no SAHM gets these questions, yet it’s strange that the SAHD does) – I have encountered the opposite, people shocked that I could possibly work full time with two little kids.
Only two days ago, after watching a video someone posted in Über Moms about judging other mothers, our lovely neighbour told me I was ‘brave’ to return to work, and how I must miss my babies.
Yes, of course, I miss them, don’t we all when they aren’t with us? But every situation is different, and we make ours work, and it works brilliantly. No matter what we do, we will be judged. You can’t please everyone, so you might as well do what’s best for your family and ignore the rest.
This doesn’t change the fact that in the past I have sat in my office, alone and lonely, with no babies squeals and no ‘Mummy, mummy, mummy watch me, mummy, can I have some water, mummy I need the toilet…’ you get the picture. I yearn for alone time, but then miss them when I’m not home.
The guilt can be insane, I remember when my daughter was a few months old and separation anxiety set it. She would cry and grab hold of me as I was leaving home, it was heartbreaking. But by the time I’d walked down three flights of stairs and nervously called to see if she was ok, she was happily squealing in the background, happy as can be.
No 2 has been incredible, he’s a happy, relaxed and chilled out little boy who doesn’t cry when I leave – but then he is older and understands that I am coming back. He is at home where he feels safe with his dad and his sister, whom he just adores.
My anxiety has gone a lot now that I’m back at work. The thought of it is always worse than the reality. I was in countdown mode for the last month and the closer I got the more anxious I got. But I feel like I am finally caught up and getting back into the swing of things. My colleagues have all told me how happy they are that I am back, and the three smiling faces I see when I walk in every night makes it all worthwhile (ok, sometimes it’s not all three faces smiling, let’s be honest here!).
No 2 is understandably more clingy when I’m around, but that means I get more baby cuddles. He is reverse cycling at the moment, but again it means more night time cuddles. It’s not all bad 🙂
So even if it’s not the perfect solution for some, it is for us. We have enough money to provide for our family, the kids are in a safe and familiar environment and looked after by their dad, and are growing up as happy and well-rounded individuals. Whenever I worry about them, this is all I have to remember. We are incredibly lucky.
So if you are returning or thinking about returning to work after kids for whatever reason, it’s ok. Really, it is. Kids get used to their new situations quickly, and as long as they are happy, then to quote Pete the Cat: It’s all good.