Life as a Working Mum
As I prepare to go back to work after the Christmas holidays, I’ve had time to reflect on my first few months as a working mother. I am a full-time teacher with responsibilities for a little bit of context. Here’s a little round up of my first months trying to juggle it all!
When to Return
As a teacher, it just makes sense to go back at the start of a term if you can. And it was even better that the timing worked that my son was 7 months in September so I went back at the beginning of the academic year with my own classes from the start.
However, I went in for about 6 Keeping in Touch days (KIT days) when my son was about 4.5-5 months, and then I did a full-time week before the summer holidays so that I could do a handover with the lady who had covered my role and so that I could prepare for the new school term. This allowed my son to get used to a bottle too.
Several of my ante-natal group have taken the full year and perhaps if the terms had fallen differently I would have done the same but this has worked for us.
Before I had my son, I hoped breastfeeding would go well, and I assumed I would give up breastfeeding totally when I went back to work.
Luckily, breastfeeding worked really well for us, and I breastfed exclusively until I went back to work for the week when he was 5.5 months old just before the summer holidays. I had used my previous KIT days to get him used to the bottles of expressed milk for the week that I returned (anything under 4 hours and he’d wait for me to get back to feed), and we maintained the daytime bottles over the summer holidays.
By the time the new academic year started when my son was 7 months old, I had managed to reduce my supply enough that I was able to only breastfeed for the overnight feeds (pumping at school was just not feasible for me although my school were really supportive). I had never dreamed I would be able to keep up breastfeeding in any capacity once I returned to work, so it was great to be able to keep going for a bit longer. This worked really well for us until he was 8.5months and started sleeping through (don’t worry, he’s stopped again now but they were 3 wonderful days!). We were then onto solely formula but by then, he was also eating more through Baby-led weaning.
I am so glad I kept an open mind about our breastfeeding journey and just adapted as we went. Those night-time feeds were a godsend in terms of quickly settling him, and it allowed us to maintain our bond whilst I was back at work.
It has been a really full-on term for all my colleagues, and teaching is not one of those jobs where you can really get away with quietly napping at your desk through the day! The thing I dreaded most about going back to work was the thought of a disturbed night’s sleep. Teenagers know when you’re not at your best and it’s hard to perform when you don’t feel 100%. That was a test for me on the very first day back as my son had a really disturbed night that was actually quite uncharacteristic for him at that time. When I woke up I was expecting to feel like death warmed up, unable to function as I prepared for the new term.
I felt fine.
I realise now that of course I have already adjusted to those sleepless nights with my son. I have already survived so many days on so little sleep!
The night-time breastfeeding allowed us to quickly and easily settle him when he did wake. It has been a little more time-consuming to settle him now he’s on formula but we’ve adapted!
Keeping up with Housework
Luckily it’s dark when I leave and come home so I don’t see the dust.
Enjoying Work versus Feeling Guilty...
I do miss my son when I’m at work. Occasionally I feel guilty when meetings run late, and I’m back at work full time. It is hard seeing posts of my ante-natal friends at baby classes and wishing I could be there with them instead of teaching Year 9.
But actually, I love the time to be me – the ‘me’ before my son came along. That’s not to say I don’t love my life with him. But I still love my job and the way I feel when I’m at work – even teaching Year 9!
And I thoroughly appreciate my time at home with him and his little face when I come through the door at the end of a day. It’s nice to have an opportunity to miss him!
I enjoyed my maternity leave and I totally understand why being a stay-at-home mum works for some people, but I’m enjoying this way of life now. I actually love my job enough that I look forward to going back, even after this lovely festive period at home with my little family. I know it is the best thing for me, and I hope my son benefits from the example I set him as someone who has so much passion for my career, one I still feel is so worthwhile.
In fact, the biggest difficulty for me has been cooking.
I’ve always hated cooking, and I don’t count myself to be very good at it either. Where before my husband and I would eat whenever, depending on what time we could be bothered to start cooking, and what we were deciding to cook that evening, now we have to have dinner on the table by a set time or my son will just be too tired to eat properly. And realistically, that’s often only about 30 minutes after I get home from picking him up.
I needed to get organised!
I am so grateful to be working alongside Meals for Mini Mouths, and her Meal Planning post really inspired me to get organised and she gave me some ideas for batch cooking. My son’s favourite meals are my Spaghetti Bolognese and Shepherd’s Pie, both of which freeze really well so they’re perfect for those nights where we just haven’t managed to get organised but need to get a meal on the table before he gets too tired.
I’ve also started batch cooking lunches, and preparing fruit salads for when he is with his grandparents so that I know he has nutritious food all appropriately sized for his ability. So half an hour of my Sundays are spent slicing grapes into quarters and cooking up pouch pasties for lunches and freezer food, but I feel like Supermum once it’s all in lunchboxes for the week!
A Christmas present from one of the grandparents was a slow cooker which we are hoping helps a little bit with the evening meals too.
One of the biggest concerns for most working parents is finding the right childcare and how to afford it, Colleagues of mine have had to leave work when their child has fallen poorly, or take subsequent days off, and some friends have had struggles getting their child to settle at nursery.
Now I cannot speak from experience here because we are lucky that as things stand, our son is exclusively looked after by family. His nan will take him to baby classes, and he spends time with other children in the family.
I actually love being a working mum. I missed my job when I was off, despite also enjoying being at home on maternity leave.
I know I am so lucky to have fantastic support of our wonderful parents, and a husband who does more than his fair share. They say it takes a village, and I can attest to the fact that the village definitely help!