As Christmas approaches, and Lottie nears her 6 month birthday, life beyond maternity leave gets closer. The reality that I am going back to work in March became much more of a reality when, last week, I got the very happy news that I have secured a childcare place for Lottie in a centre a few blocks from my house. Because of the single-intake system for childcare, in order to get a place, Lottie will be starting in February and will be attending four days a week, with the fifth day thankfully covered by my mother and sister.
As much as I know I will miss spending almost every waking hour with Lottie, I am also quite looking forward to her starting childcare. Really? Yes, really.
This is because I know Lottie will absolutely love childcare. I’m sure she’s perfectly happy with me at home too – she is content playing with her toys, having visitors, going for walks, visiting family and friends, reading books, singing songs, grocery shopping, going out for coffee and cake (for mum!) and her latest favourite thing is eating food. But there is one major thing missing from her life at home – other babies. Watching her face light up when she sees her cousin, who is 10 weeks older, and seeing her enjoyment at playing with babies and children, shows me just how much she is going to love childcare. And of course, it’s not just about her having fun. Childcare is also good for her development; teaching her how to socialise, how to negotiate, how to be independent from her parents, how to play with others and hopefully, how to be a resilient little person.
I am also looking forward to going back to work. Really? Yes, really.
I know there is no cookie-cutter reaction to the whole ‘going back to work’ thing after having a baby; for each family there are a unique set of circumstances, decisions and resulting emotions. Some new mums swap their careers for full-time parenting when they have children. Some new mums expect to be going back to work when they go on maternity leave, but then after their baby arrives they realise they would much prefer to be stay at home mums, either while their children are small or forever. Some women might like the idea of being stay at home mums, but they might not be in the financial position to make this decision. It is also really common for previously-full-time workers to negotiate part-time positions so that they can keep their foot in the workforce and be at home some of the time too. Then there are people like me who expect to take some time out of the workforce when they have babies, and then go back full time when their maternity leave ends.
I am in the fortunate position that I absolutely love my career, and I have missed working while being at home with Lottie. I can imagine if I didn’t enjoy my job, going back to it would be hard. Either way, whether you like or loathe your work, there is no doubt that being a working mum, part-time or full-time, is a massive juggling act where you’re constantly compromising between your dedication to your job and your parenting responsibilities. I know it’s going to be tough, but I feel ready.
Since Lottie was born, I’ve watched my husband racing home from work to make sure he has time to hang out with Lottie, and to help me with the evening routine, before she goes to bed. If he gets home too late and she’s in bed, he physically looks pained to have missed her. But then I also know that his job, like mine, is very busy and it’s not always possible to leave on time when there are demands on you which are expected as part of your job. With two parents working, and Lottie needing to be dropped at childcare in the mornings, and picked up (on time!), we’re going to be living very hectic lives. But that’s just what reality is like with children and two working parents, no matter what age, so we may as well get used to it while Lottie is still a baby. Between now and then I have a whole Summer to enjoy, so I will make the most of what is left of my maternity leave as my return to work date draws nearer.