Clare is currently off on maternity leave having just had a new baby boy.
I have always known that the job I do doesn’t define me as a person. Of course, it has been a large part of my life since I graduated but it never defined who I was. My job was just that, a job, a means to affording the lifestyle I wanted. How could it be more when it wasn’t what I had always wanted to be? (….an equine vet by the way.) Despite my veterinary dreaming, I had been in media and telecoms for over five years, but barely watched TV and definitely didn’t find broadband interesting. For me, my job really was something I worked hard at to pay the bills and splash out on holidays!
As such, when I fell pregnant I didn’t give a second thought to missing my job while on maternity leave. Maybe I thought I would be a bit bored after a while, once I had gotten used to looking after a baby, but there are lots of other things I can fill my time with (I thought).
I am sure you can see where I am going with this…I was wrong. Nearly four months into maternity leave I have realised that my job has left a big gap, turns out it does influence my self-definition more than I thought. Not, however because I have suddenly discovered a deep love for TV or broadband! However, I have quickly realised that irrespective of the content, achieving in a challenging job provides a daily reminder of my strengths. My achievements at work make me confident in my own decision making and remind me that my abilities are respected and valued by others. All in, my success at work builds a confidence that plays a huge part in me being happy with who I am.
On reflection, this realisation isn’t ground-breaking or even that surprising, you might think it a little obvious (that was certainly my husband’s first reaction). But the point is that I wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t expecting to feel the absence of my job from my daily life in such a strong way. There is no guarantee that had I expected the resulting loss in confidence it would have made any difference anyway. But it might have done.
I guess the “so what” of this experience is that if I had the time again, I would have wanted to prepare myself to miss my job. Maybe sat down and considered what it did mean to me and worked out how I was going to live without that for a year. Easier said than done, but worthwhile if only to avoid the feelings taking me by surprise. There are enough surprises about being a mum for the first time…I would have rather my feelings about my job weren’t one of them.