Think soggy muslins plastered to your shoulder covered in sick and snot, monochrome-coloured hair from all that dry shampoo, and running after a crying child who is unhappy you won’t let them crawl off in the playground while they put slugs in their mouth.
The maternity leave fantasy exists even less when you have two or more children because there is no coffee shop with furry friends, or organic lunches out or endless strolls through National Trust parks. It’s just days filled with breathlessly chasing scooters whizzing down hills while you push your massive pram, cleaning up wee / juice / leaf sludge as you try to barrier off your baby who is intent on crawling through it, and filtering out one screaming voice while trying to communicate with another through gritted teeth. Maternity leave with multiple children feels endless, trying, tiring and monotonous.
So it is no wonder some women long to go back to work where they can have a hot drink (!), slip off to the toilet without someone climbing on them or demanding you get the milk out of the fridge while you’re mid-flow, and come home to a house that doesn’t look like it’s been hit by a cyclone during the day. Peace and quiet, the occasional chit chat (not about poo) and a lunchtime break feel like dreams sometimes!
For me, it’s quite different. Being self-employed I have the best of both worlds (hurrah!). This means I get to have fun with the kids, pick my eldest up from nursery school, bake with them in the afternoon and kiss their sweet cheeks good night while still exercising my mind and earning cash. Score.
But the reality looks somewhat different – in actual fact, I spend my life doing a crazy juggling act between trying to be a stay-at-home mum, homemaker, cleaner and cook, as well as a professional who can meet her clients’ demands without fail. It really means I try to wear every hat and hope that I can master them all.
So when I think about my maternity leave ending, I do fill with dread sometimes. Not about going back to work – I’m itching to start tapping away at the keyboard, think of great content marketing solutions to people’s businesses and sit peacefully at my computer again. But I’m terrified of having to spin all my plates in the air without letting any of them fall.
I still don’t really have a solution. I managed it remarkably well with one child, but two seems like a game changer. Instead of popping out one extra human being, we seem to have multiplied our jobs as parents by a thousand just by adding a baby into the mix. All I know is that the time is coming for me to return to work. My bank balance has dropped (is non-existent), Christmas is around the corner, and I have THREE birthdays (out of a family of four) within the first five weeks of the new year (not great family planning, it has to be said!).
And not just that, I’m ready for it. I want to earn money, use my brain and build up my client base once more, meet deadlines and feel proud that I've done a good job. So as I prepare to get back in the saddle and kiss goodbye to maternity leave over the next few weeks, I feel excited and nostalgic in equal measure. There have been some super tough times over the last 12 months (labour was no picnic!), but I have made some beautiful memories as well.
I know once I start back at work I’ll miss having the freedom to do whatever I liked with my girls, but I also know that I’ll never be too far away from a snotty muslin or a child crying every time I try to creep out of the room like a ninja to do something totally self-centred like make dinner.
So maybe when you’re a part-time worker and a full-time mum, maternity leave never really ends at all.
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