Car­rie Bick­more

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents -

has mixed feel­ings about re­turn­ing to work after ma­ter­nity leave.

Ma­ter­nity leave is such a strange pe­riod in a woman’s life. I re­cently started back at work after bub num­ber three and I gen­uinely felt funny in the tummy (as I would say to my four-year-old Evie).

I was like a big slice of ti­ramisu. Layer upon layer of cof­fee-flavoured ex­cite­ment, mixed with a whole tub of mas­car­pone guilt, a few bis­cuits ques­tion­ing their ex­is­tence and a sprin­kle of choco­late shav­ings to dis­guise the soggy, out-of-con­trol mess. It was a lot for one sleep-de­prived head to han­dle.

Be­fore go­ing on mat leave, I kept telling my part­ner Chris how much I was look­ing for­ward to the lit­tle “hol­i­day” from work, where I could wear my comfy PJs all day and binge Net­flix. A change of pace, time to fo­cus on one thing and not have to di­vide my at­ten­tion and en­ergy. I love my job but it’s nice to get off the tread­mill some­times. Or at least swap to the spin bike for a while.

Ev­ery time I shared my Pollyanna ma­ter­nity won­der­land dream with him, he just looked amused. He knew what I had for­got­ten: that a new baby and two kids climb­ing the walls on school hol­i­days means a lot less Net­flix (cer­tainly no Net­flix and chill) and a lot more nap­pies, pick­ing up dis­carded ap­ple cores and try­ing to find a way for them not to kill each other! He knew I would quickly start long­ing for the rel­a­tive peace of the of­fice.

Go­ing back to work can be such a vul­ner­a­ble and di­choto­mous time for a woman. When I’m at the of­fice my heart aches to be back home, but when I’m at home I look for­ward to drink­ing a cof­fee while chat­ting to work­mates about some­thing other than the an­i­ma­tion Bluey (which is bril­liant, by the way).

Ma­ter­nity leave comes in many forms and is dif­fer­ent for ev­ery work­ing mum. A few months off, a full year at home, some paid, all paid, none paid. De­pend­ing on where you live, how much your com­pany val­ues women in the workforce and the in­dus­try you work in af­fects how much time you can take with your lit­tle bun­dle.

So much time and en­ergy is spent dis­cussing the eco­nom­ics of ma­ter­nity leave, as it should be, but not a lot is spent un­pack­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence from an emo­tional stand­point.

For many women it can feel like they are los­ing their iden­tity. Who am I with­out my job ti­tle? When it comes to your re­place­ment, you hope some­one de­cent fills your shoes so that you don’t walk back into more work than you left, but that they are not so good that your work­place thinks: “Can we keep her in­stead?!”

“For many women it can feel like they are los­ing their iden­tity”

Friend­ships of­ten shift while you’re away; your “work wife” starts see­ing some­one new, co-work­ers leave and new ones start, projects be­gin with­out you. Your brain starts mess­ing with you – What if I have been pushed to the side? I wish

I could take more time; maybe I should stop work­ing al­to­gether. Maybe I should start my own busi­ness, work from home!

Whilst we fear the things about our work that have changed while we’ve been away, we for­get that the thing that has prob­a­bly changed the most is us. What used to drive us has of­ten changed.

Some­times a ti­ramisu is just too much and all you crave is the pre­dictabil­ity of a good old-fash­ioned bor­ing tea­cake.

Car­rie co-hosts The Pro­ject, 6.30pm week­nights on Net­work 10, and Car­rie & Tommy, 3pm week­days on the Hit Net­work.

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