Whilst I was pregnant with my son, maternity leave could not come soon enough. I couldn’t wait for parenting and to spend a year going for copious amounts of coffee and lunch dates, gushing over the cute, tiny human clothes, coo-ing over my first born, and taking some me-time.
It was fair to say, I had no idea what the reality of maternity leave was actually like! Not only that, but I had an expectation for myself to be this maternal being, wanting my whole existence to be for my new baby.
What I’ve learnt is that expectations suck!
Now let me explain – in my professional career I’ve been both freelance and permanent. When I had only experienced the permanent side of the coin, I found myself fantasising about the other side – how amazing it would be to have power over the hours and days that I worked. How I’d have more me time, and in theory, work harder during the stints I was under contract, knowing it was a temporary gig.
What I found was that freelance gigs are like busses – a bunch come along at once, and then nothing for ages. For me, those down periods were times of loneliness, isolation, boredom, and frankly downright depressing.
Now this brings me back to maternity leave. Funnily enough, a pretty similar experience for me!
The first three months with a newborn was the most challenging time of my life. Exhausted, covered in shit, isolated and with a baby with the worst silent reflux imaginable (aka terrible baby heartburn – they cry and are in pain a lot).
I longed to be back at work. But even once through that, if I had a day with no plans it made me feel anxious. Hell, even days with plans, I just didn’t feel like me. It’s one of those secrets many women don’t like talking about, but I suspect most mums feel at some point. Staying at home parenting can be spectacularly boring.
Let me be clear, I love my son more than anything, and for the rest of my days he will always come first. But it took me a while to feel like I wasn’t doing it wrong. It’s simply that some of us are invigorated by the day-to-day of parenting, and some of us need something outside of it to be fulfilled. For me, I realised- with huge surprise, that something is work.
Work validates me. It makes me confident and fulfilled. Between setting up playdates and juggling conference calls, bribing my two year old and negotiating with clients; proposal writing and bath time, I’ve found that I’m a master at multitasking. It’s also made me a better boss, with more perspective, empathy and creativity.
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Being both a mum and a professional allows me to be the best version of myself, and these two halves create a whole that makes me the best person I can be. And that’s the best possible result for my family.
And frankly, a big part of what has made this a smooth transition is the ability to work flexibly at YesMore to make both my work and mum life fit together.
So my biggest lesson of 2019? Forget expectations and working mum guilt (if that’s what you choose to do), and live your best life in the way that suits you. If you run a company, embrace flexible working to get the best out of your staff. And if you’re anything like me – cheers. I’ll raise my large glass of wine (kid in bed, Netflix on, emails done) to you! In fact, I wrote another blog post all about drinking wine after the kids go to bed, check it out.
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