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.