It’s perfectly normal to be anxious about going off on maternity leave. Since I started writing and researching this blog, the below fears and worries are just some of the things I have heard in the struggle to let go for mothers to be. Do you resonate with any of these?
- “I am worried about losing my identity”
One moment you are a professional woman in business and the next you are just someone’s mum. This can be tough for women no matter what their career looks like. This is one of the biggest challenges I know I will have to face. My advice on this would be ensure you keep doing something that makes you who you are. There is no need to lose your identity as long as you ensure you keep up your hobbies and interests. Most importantly remember part of this battle is in your head, so back yourself and don’t put yourself down.
- “I love my regular routine”
This is something we all lose sleep about (which is ironic really given that sleep is probably the one thing you want as part of your new mummy routine). Your day used to be 9 to 5 with a dedicated lunch break and a commute to the office. Once the baby arrives you will be lucky to get 5 minutes to eat a sandwich, let alone do anything else. Until the baby is settled you want to avoid worrying too much about getting into a set pattern, but the one thing you can do is ensure you personally fulfil some routine practices, such as taking the time to wash your hair whilst your partner has the baby, or spending 15 minutes reading at the end of the day. It doesn’t have to be much and it will of course have to fit in around the baby, but to be the best possible mum, you need to remember to put yourself first too.
- “What do I talk about if I go to a dinner party?”
Many of us worry that we won’t be able to hold down an adult conversation when we spend all day with our baby. Granted you are going to spend a lot more time singing nursery rhymes and making funny gurgling noises to please your baby, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Try and join some mother and baby groups so you can chat to other mums or arrange to meet an old colleague. Also avoid losing contact with friends who aren’t parents, they will be able to ground you and bring you back to having an adult conversation when you most need it.
- “I am scared of how I will introduce myself to new people- they always ask what I do”
Ok let’s get this straight. You are still you. This is one of the things I need to keep reminding myself of. Just because you have become a mum doesn’t mean you can’t still be that amazing sports woman, that fantastic career professional and so forth. Stay true to who you are and never apologise for the fact that you are a mummy too.
- “I’m going to worry about what’s going on at work”
Like it or not, our jobs often define us — or at the very least, get inside our heads. Are you being missed? Is everything going to be in shambles when you return? But know that soon you’ll likely be able to put it into perspective much better and every day will get easier. In the UK we can also use keep in touch (KIT) days to regularly check in with work, so if you are the kind of person who will worry then make the most of this time. It’s not a crime to still be interested in what’s happening at work.
- “I am scared I will want to go back to work early, won’t this will make me look like a bad mum”
If you decide to go back early, then that’s absolutely fine. Follow your gut and don’t beat yourself up if you want to head back to the office. Only you know what’s right for you and the baby is only going to benefit from your strength and happiness, and so will your partner.
- “I am going to miss my friends at work”
This is definitely one that resonates with me, as I work with a great bunch of people. Just because you are on mat leave, doesn’t mean you can’t still keep in touch with work colleagues. Not only will they be desperate to meet the little one, but they will be missing you too. So arrange a catch up, pick up the phone and keep in touch or better still take your lovely baby into the office and show them off.
- “What if I am made redundant?”
Well let’s put this fear to bed right away. Sex discrimination rules protect you from being unfairly treated or dismissed because of your pregnancy. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in your job, or whether you work full-time or part-time. If you feel that you’re being treated unfairly, contact your HR department, or your trade union representative. You can also seek advice from ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) or your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
- “My replacement may be better than me”
See my earlier post on the term ‘replacement’. First up let’s just replace the term ‘replace’. No one is going to replace you like for like. Take comfort in the fact that they are a different person with different skills and expertise to you. They are there to cover you, not take over from you and your role will still be there when you get back – it has to be by law.
- “I worry I will be jealous of my partner”
Your partner gets up in the morning, fits in a workout, showers, dresses, and leaves…just like that! You, on the other hand, have a hard time handing over your baby long enough for a quick wee. Just remind yourself that, whilst you may occasionally envy the freedom your partner seems to take for granted, they may in fact feel like they too are missing out by having to head off to work each day. Talk to your partner about this and be honest. Just vocalising this will really help you offload.