A Q&A with new mum Clare about her maternity leave

Holly: Can you introduce yourself to the readers?

Hi my name is Clare, I am 38 and I live in Oxfordshire. I work at a not for profit organisation in the IT department. I have worked there for about five years and coordinate a team of six people.

Holly: Great thanks Clare, great to have you with us. Tell me about your current family situation – are you on mat leave currently or going off on mat leave?

I am currently on maternity leave

Holly: How did you first feel when you realised you were pregnant with regards to work?

Ecstatic! After trying to conceive for three years, I was just over the moon. I didn’t feel at all nervous about telling my work colleagues, as they all knew how long my husband and I had wanted to start a family. I told everyone at work after the 12 week scan and they were all very excited for me. Including my boss.

Holly: I am so pleased. It is great to hear you had such a good experience and that you had such supportive work colleagues. I also applaud you for being so open about trying to conceive and your struggles there. So many people try and hide it which is a shame. And of course you only ever hear about the stories when people got pregnant straight away, which can infuriate and upset those who need to try for longer. I know that sadness first hand sadly. So Clare, with such a good experience telling work, do you ever worry your maternity leave will hold you back in your career?

No – at 38, I’ve had success in my career already and have been able to climb the career ladder in my 20s. My priorities are now different and I know that I can re-establish my career after this break.

Holly: This is really interesting Clare. As you know this has been something that really worries me. You seem very grounded. Do you worry you would ever lose your identity by becoming a mum?

I definitely feel different being pregnant – you look and feel different and your priorities change. However, I am confident that I am still “me”, albeit me with a different role and focus at the moment. Part of the reason why I am confident about this is having taken a sabbatical at age 30 for 6 months where I stepped out of my legal career to volunteer in Africa. I was able to re-establish my career and my identity on my return.

Holly: Talking of returns, how do you think you will cope going back to work after mat leave?

I have no doubt it will be a really hard transition to return to the office, especially as I think I will only be able to afford 6 months of maternity leave. I’m very jealous of those people taking a year off! I’ve always loved working, so think it will be good to stretch myself intellectually and have the routine of a job. However, I’m sure I will feel quite torn about leaving my baby and having to divide my time between different priorities.

Holly: Absolutely. Those first few weeks will of course be really tough and you will need to rely on your network of friends and family for support. Likewise hopefully your work or HR department will be supportive too. On that topic, where did you look to for advice and guidance around maternity leave?

To my HR rep mainly, but I also looked up lots of information on the internet. Not-for-profits don’t always have good structures in place or lots of experience in this space, so it helped me to do my own research too.

Holly: That brings me onto our final question Clare, what do you think is the best thing about maternity leave?

I am loving not having to think about work – that was becoming a strain at the end of work as I always want to give of my best and tiredness often made me feel like I was working at less than 100%. I am really looking forward to being able to focus 100% on my family during my leave.

Holly: Thanks Clare, did you want to say anything else in summary?

Like a pregnancy, everyone’s views on starting maternity leave are different. It’s a very personal topic and there are no right or wrong answers. It’s a journey for us all and I’m certain that there will be some wobbles along the way. Hopefully this blog will reassure others that they are not alone in working their way through this minefield!

Holly: I completely agree and just having you on here has brought a whole new perspective to this issue. It has also strangely given me a load of reassurance – your maturity and pragmatic responses will certainly help me through what I am finding a struggle and reassure me that you can take time off and still go back stronger than ever. Thank you Clare.

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