Why Going Back To Work After Maternity Leave Broke Me

I’d been in my job a long time when I had Princess.  I had my son already when I joined the company, 11 years earlier, so hadn’t taken maternity leave before.  I’d worked my way through the ranks, and was quite happy in my middle management role before I fell pregnant after my wedding.  Life was looking pretty good, great job, fab husband and new baby on the way.

I took extended maternity leave when baby arrived, which meant I was going to be off work for over 14 months.  I spent my days making sure we were busy, touring the local baby groups and fuelling up on coffee and cake. With no family close by to lend a hand, Princess and I were together every minute of every day.  We were so close, she was an extension of myself, that right arm thing, you know what I’m talking about.

I went back to work full time, and I completely underestimated how that, amongst other things, would change our relationship.  It took months for her to settle at nursery.  I would cry all they way to work after leaving her.  She would cry when I picked her up too, which added to my pain.  I missed her so much, and I was struggling with the distance that was growing between us.

sad woman at workAdjusting to being back at work was also a challenge.  I’d left just as a restructure was being implemented.  It had been a really difficult timed for everyone affected.

Those were my last memories of work, but of course things had moved on since I left.  The politics were different when I got back, the dynamics had changed and the drama had reached a whole new level.  Fitting back in wasn’t easy, in fact it’s safe to say I didn’t.  For lots of reasons I became isolated and felt very much alone.

When it came out I was pregnant again  , that was the final nail in the coffin.  I was grieving for my relationship with my daughter, I was out of step with the people I worked with and I felt shocking every day for the first 16 weeks of my pregnancy.  I was able to do less and less for my daughter as my pregnancy progressed so the distance between us grew wider too.

It felt like someone had pressed pause when I went on Maternity Leave.  It was like closing a door, and expecting everything to be in the same place when I opened it again.  If there hadn’t been quite so much change while I’d been away, I think I’d have coped a lot better.  Instead of putting on an old pair of slippers it was like squeezing my size 7’s into some toe crunching stilettos.  It didn’t take long for them to cripple me.

As another Maternity Leave comes to an end, I’d love to hear from other women about there experiences of going back to work, especially where there had been lots of change.  How did you cope?  Were you prepared?  Do you think more could be done to settle women back into work?

Image courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/ David Castillo Dominici

Zena

Zena is a 40ish year old Mum with 3 kids who is keen to pursue her passion for travel despite being a busy parent. She’s also partial to coffee and chocolate.

12 Comments

  1. April 7, 2015 / 9:03 am

    Oh sweetie, I am sorry that you had such a horrid time and that another maternity leave is ending for you. I can only imagine how you are feeling? Are you going back full time again and to the same role/company? I hate working. I’ve been back at work since little man was nine months and he’s now two and a half and I still hate that I have to work. I wish I’d have worked harder, saved more, done something different that would mean I didn’t have to work a full time job – that I could spend more time watching my boy grow up, that I could feel like it’s me bringing him up rather than a variety of people. It never for me gets easier, in fact it gets worse every day he grows older. I’ve even changed companies and it hasn’t got any better! I deal with it but it’s gut wrenching rushing out the door and leaving him every day. So, you are absolutely not alone in your feelings, I am sure there are lots of us out there that have to work when we don’t want to work. Big hugs xxx

  2. Emma
    April 7, 2015 / 9:32 am

    I was the same I felt guilty and couldnt enjoy work the same as I missed my kids!

  3. April 7, 2015 / 10:12 am

    This sounds so terrible for you both. It’s a subject I’m very passionate about as I too had a horrible return to work and it still is, a year since my return. I strongly feel work place need to support returning mother’s more,not just in a jumping through hoop way. I’m an occupational therapist so you’d think myemployers would be best placed to support mothers struggling in this way, but I’ve yet to work out if it’s the nature of budgets and targets that stop that or lack of interest in staff wellbeing. I’d love to support businesses and companies in this way, but where the funding would come from, who knows?! I’m not sure the companies or government care enough to put money into it! Xx

  4. April 7, 2015 / 2:38 pm

    I must admit that the longer you take off the harder it seems to be to go back. I had 13 months off with my first & found it easier going back after 9 months with the second. That said my job was never the same after I first went on mat leave & I left a few months after my second mat leave ended x
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  5. April 7, 2015 / 3:42 pm

    Oh bless you. I’m sorry for what you’ve had to go through. It is hard. I moved to a whole new area 2 weeks before I had Isla, with no family around, and had to quickly settle into a routine of going round lots of baby groups etc. When my mat leave ended with my job in London (after 9ish months), I had to to pop Isla in nursery and job hunt in my new area, in a new industry as well. I was lucky enough to find a good job, pretty quickly, nearby and although it’s been a struggle getting to grips with a new role in a completely new industry, Isla and I have settled into our new routine ok. We live for the weekends and evenings together but all in all are enjoying our new lives and routine. I love her to death and miss her but I always knew I couldn’t be a SAHM. Hope things are good with you lovey!x
    The Knott Bump & Us recently posted…10 Things I Have Learnt in the 1st Year of ParentingMy Profile

  6. April 7, 2015 / 8:10 pm

    my return to work after my first son was horrid. I’d had a year off, during which time there’d been a restructure. My old boss hadn’t contacted me because she wasn’t my boss anymore, my new boss didn’t because she didn’t know me and was struggling to get to grips with running a new team in a new role for her.
    So when I returned, she’d not put any thought into it and for months I nagged for more work, becoming increasingly upset that I was leaving my son in expensive childcare, driving for an hour commute, to just sit and idle eight hours away because she didn’t want to give a part timer work. Awful. Part of me decided it was ok because I was still being paid, but most of me hated it because I was being wasted.
    I’m off on my second maternity now. I wish I never have to go back.
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  7. April 8, 2015 / 6:46 am

    My heart feels for you reading this. I’m sorry I can’t be of any help. I went back to uni when Osian was 11 months old, and I’ve really struggled, it’s even shown up in my work now and with exams a month away I’m getting quite worried as to whether I’ll pass or not xxx
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  8. April 10, 2015 / 12:25 pm

    Sounds really tough! After my maternity leave I went back to work, but to a new job with a new employer. That feels easier in a way as you are new to everyone, and the dynamics always change with a new person. I would probably felt the same as you did if I had gone back to my old job, where lots of change had happened.

  9. May 3, 2015 / 3:14 pm

    my heart hurt reading this. I just went back to work after a long battle with post partum depression and leaving my kids was not easy. Longing for a regular routine again definitely battled with my need to be with my children. The distance is growing between my baby and I, she prefers her grandma as she is the one who looks after her in the day. I know this passes as my older daughter went through the same attachment to my mom, but I will say it was easy.

    I would be honoured if the took a look at my lastest post and possibly more
    http://abigaildaybyday.blogspot.ca/2015/05/the-bane-of-my-existence.html?m=1

  10. May 11, 2015 / 10:15 pm

    Hi Zena. Trying to return to full time work after the birth of my chid was a breaking point for me too. It burnt me mentally and physically and has taken a lot of years to recover. I’m glad i quit when I did…who knows what would have happened had I NOT! Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  11. May 11, 2015 / 10:25 pm

    I had an unusual situation and actually started working two weeks after my babies were born. I am a musician and if I didn’t keep my work going, I’d have nothing to go back to and i couldnt afford to lose the career I had built. So I have never had real maternity leave per se but I don’t work full time now. Some weeks I see my kids loads and others hardly at all. It sucks
    I’m not sure what the answer is. Lottery win?! Let’s get a ticket!!
    I’d love to just be with my kids all day long. That would be the dream for me.x

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