New Mum returns to work – how it was for me (part 2)

new working mumMy maternity leave was coming to an end and I’d arranged a six month contract back with the employer I’d worked for before my daughter was born. I was going to use my spare time in that that six months to research and launch my new business.

That was the plan anyway.

Two weeks before I was due to return to work I found out I was pregnant again. We’d never really intended that our daughter would be an only child, but we’d been thinking of a three year gap between children, not the fifteen months we were now going to have.  But I could still start my business, albeit with a bit of a delay. In fact, with the outrageous cost of childcare for two children under the age of three, getting a traditional nine-to-five job just wasn’t an option any more.  So my safety net of a steady job was gone, but I hoped that would help push me forwards rather than stress me out.

So I spent a week settling my eight-month-old into her nursery and then back I went to work. Having read horror stories about heartbroken mums leaving wailing babies in nurseries and then the mums spending the best part of the morning crying in the toilets, my experience was uneventful by comparison. Baby wasn’t overjoyed by the nursery, but she was OK and there wasn’t any crying as I left.  I was able to concentrate on my work much better than I expected and didn’t feel the urge to phone the nursery every hour. But (and it was a big but) deep down I wasn’t happy. I’d not appreciated how much harder it is to motivate yourself when you’re away from your baby and you’re paying a big slice of your income for someone else to take care of her. Far from losing my ambition and interest in my career after having a baby, it mattered even more to me now. If my work was going to keep me away from my child, then it damned well had to count for something. It wasn’t enough to simply pay the bills.

Then life got really difficult. Baby picked up every bug going at the nursery and then passed them on to me. I was in the grotty early days of pregnancy when you’re totally exhausted all the time. Baby kept me awake at night, then my coughing kept me awake at night.  I was so run down that I had a cough that lasted for four weeks and only antibiotics would shift it. She couldn’t go to nursery, so I couldn’t go to work and I was very, very stressed indeed. My husband got ill and was off work for five weeks. Eventually a doctor and a midwife told me something had to give and I was signed off work for a few weeks myself.

Things started to improve. But in those first few weeks back at work a successful day was one where the nursery didn’t phone to ask me to pick up a poorly baby. There were a  few days when I had to leave at lunchtime and catch up the hours I missed on my days off. I felt terrible for letting my boss and the company down, but there was nothing else I could do. By then I was convinced that nine-to-five employment as the mother of a baby was impossible.

After two months at nursery, my daughter’s immune system must have built up some resistance as (apart from a permanent runny nose) she stopped being ill. I was able to get to work each day and didn’t dread the phone call from the nursery any more. I was into the second trimester and didn’t feel quite so tired, although caring for an almost-one-year old whilst pregnant did take a lot of energy. A midwife suggested that it might be best to start my maternity leave as soon as possible at 29 weeks, which is what I did.

So, looking back at being employed as the mother of a baby, how do I feel? I’m glad I did it because now I know I can. And I know my daughter not only coped with childcare, but actually enjoyed herself there by the end. But it still doesn’t make sense to me to pay such a lot of money for someone else to care for my child when I’d much rather do it myself. Surely it makes more sense to work less hours (even if they are  less sociable hours in the evenings and weekends), spend those extra hours with my child and pay far less, or nothing, for childcare? Being my own boss seems a much better option for me and my family.

Wish me luck!

A bit of an update…

“New mum returns to work – how it was for me, part 2” is still in the pipeline, I’ve not been too well over the last week . Fortunately it’s nothing to worry about, just generally feeling rubbish due to being in late pregnancy.

I’ve started to analyse the results of my online training survey and I’ve been delighted that so many people have taken the time to give me such detailed responses. So many thanks to everyone who has taken part.

This week I’m really looking forward to seeing my business adviser at Wenta and going to the June Mum’s The Boss networking meeting. I usually come away from both feeling inspired and ready to take the next few steps towards my new business.

New Mum returns to work – how it was for me (part 1)

When I was pregnant with my first baby I was in a permanent, full time job. I fully intended to go back to this after six months of maternity leave. OK, I knew this wasn’t ideal but I felt I had no choice. I thought it would be tough for a few weeks but that I would get used to it.  Looking back,  it’s hard to believe how naive I was.

The day after my baby girl was born, I was laying in a hospital bed thinking ‘I’ve got 5 months left before I go back to work and I don’t think I can do it so soon’. Within a couple of days I’d discussed it with my partner and we’d both agreed that taking the 9 months maternity leave would be better for both the baby and I.  The next couple of months were the usual blur that any new parents would recognise, but the worry of leaving my baby in a nursery when I went back to work was always lurking at the back of my mind.

When my daughter was three months old I started visiting nurseries, hoping that once I got her signed up my mind would be put at rest.  I looked around my first nursery which was perfectly OK with a good Ofsted report. There was very little to criticise but I knew right then that I couldn’t leave my baby there five days a week. In fact, I couldn’t leave her anywhere five days a week. It wasn’t a case of toughing it out, getting used to it, putting on a brave face. I simply couldn’t do it. And that was a shock, because I’m such a practical, down-to-earth type of person. That day, I felt that I stopped being a person who’d had a baby and became a mum.

This left us with a problem – we couldn’t afford for me to give up work. But I couldn’t work full time. I couldn’t see a way forward at all. Very, very stressful.

A quick browse through job websites and the local paper showed that part-time jobs were few and far between. And in most cases, the salary wouldn’t leave much after we’d paid for childcare. I’d been self-employed before and although this was the ideal solution in that I could choose my work and my hours, I knew just how much work was involved and how long it could take to earn an income. Could I really run a business and care for a baby? At this time Netmums was a lifesaver for me, giving me hope that there were some possibilities, even thought it would take a while to work it all out.

Eventually I realised that if leaving my baby in a nursery part time was hard, running a business from home with no childcare was going to be no picnic either. I’d be missing a opportunity if I didn’t ask my employer if I could return part-time, so I applied to work two days per week (see DirectGov for what you’re entitled to request in terms of flexible working as a parent). After one meeting I realised that reducing my hours was only part of the problem – I simply couldn’t do the travelling that my job needed any more. I couldn’t spend time in hotels, working away from home and leave my baby at home. However hard I tried, I couldn’t find an answer and reluctantly handed in my notice.

A month or so later, I was offered a part time job to cover someone else’s maternity leave with my old employer. This was perfect – I would have some income for six months while I got my business going. And I could cope with leaving my baby in the nursery part time.  After juggling our budget a few times and cutting back a bit (OK, quite a lot…), we could cover the nursery fees and all the bills with me working two days per week.

I’ll tell you about what happened when I went back to work in my next post…


My first post on my new blog, how exciting! My aim is to use this blog to help me plan, research and launch my new business.  Also, to help me network online and face-to-face and to help me grow my own website.

I’ve kept my previous business ideas close to my chest until I’ve been ready to launch, but I’ve found that if I put my ideas out there early on, I get loads of great advice and feedback.  So here I am!

Another  change for me is that I’m soon to be Mum to two small children – there’ll be a 15 month age gap with baby number 2 due this summer. The thought of juggling this with a business, albeit a part time one initially, does terrify me a bit. But I know it’s possible because there are other mums out there already doing it.

Soon after baby number one was born just over a year ago, I had a really tough time deciding what to do with my work and career. There’s loads of great practical advice out there, but not much on the new and bewildering emotions I felt, so I’m going to share those here with the hope that it’ll help other mums going through the same process.

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