I still remember the restless night’s sleep I endured after making the decision to return to work following the birth of my daughter Stevie. I accepted a full time, Monday to Friday role, when Stevie was 11 months old and I still think it was the hardest decision I have ever made.
I experienced so many different emotions and differing levels of anxiety at the thought of someone else looking after our daughter. How could I possibly trust anyone to look after her the way I do? How will they know what she wants and needs when she can’t even talk yet? What if something happens to her when I’m not there, it will be all my fault! Is the money really worth it? Why am I doing this, and so on and so forth.
When I was offered the opportunity to return to work after taking 12 months’ maternity leave, I was lucky enough to be offered a promotion and a pay increase, which, after almost 12 years in my field, I thought I deserved and worked hard for. As a first time mum, I found it really hard to admit that the opportunity excited me! What would people think of me…. Choosing to go to work whilst someone else looked after my child… That is when major mummy guilt set in!
Returning to work in any form brings out the mummy guilt monster, and also raises the most important question – who will look after my child when I am not there? My husband and I had discussed child care options when we were pregnant and always agreed that if I was to return to work for 3 days or more, our preference would be to host an Au Pair. We didn’t feel comfortable having our daughter in day care 5 days a week and disturbing her routine when this was a choice we were making. This is not to criticise families who have chosen day care as an option, I know a lot of families that have and their children love it! This was simply our personal choice.
The first few weeks were the hardest… Leaving the house in the morning to my daughter crying and pulling at my legs for me to stay… I was heartbroken! For a period of time there, both of our days started in tears! My mummy guilt’s eventually became slightly worse as I was actually enjoying being at work! How dare I enjoy myself when I am away from my daughter whilst someone else is looking after her!
Whilst all of these feelings are normal, us mum’s need to stop being so hard on ourselves! We shouldn’t feel guilty for supporting our family financially, we shouldn’t feel guilty for enjoying being the person we were before we added mummy to our role description, and we definitely shouldn’t feel guilty and think we are negatively impacting the health and well being of our children!
What we should be thinking and what I told myself is this:
I am a positive role model for my daughter;
I am not negatively impacting my daughter and let’s be honest, how old were you when you remember your first memory… I was about 5 years old;
I am teaching my daughter independence from her parents;
I am enriching my daughter’s life by exposing her to other cultures and people who love her (our Au Pair’s);
I will not worry about what other people’s opinions are as we have made this choice for OUR family;
I am supporting our family financially so we can set up children up for the future;
I will focus on measuring the quality time I have with my daughter instead of the quantity.
All I can say is it does get easier! You will still have your tough days… I think the toughest one I had was the first day Stevie waved ‘bye bye’ to me smiling and ran off as if this was the norm. The mummy guilt monster came back with a vengeance – she doesn’t love me anymore, she doesn’t need me anymore! None of this is true of course… Your children will always know who their mummy is and how much they are loved.