Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The thing no-one told me about returning to work

When I found out I was pregnant with my first baby, I was two years into running my own business after resigning as the General Manager of a local telecommunications company. I had my own label and a fledgling menswear boutique that had not yet hit the income level required to pay for a full-time manager. At the time, I worked it 7 days a week to cover expenses and take a minimum wage home. 

I hadn’t planned on being a mum yet but I always knew the kind of mum I wanted to be. I wanted to be present. Invested. Full-time. I CHOSE to close the shop to allow myself to be that mum. I don’t see that as a sacrifice. I see that as a choice. My choice. Just as it was my choice to not return to paid work before both my kids were in school. I didn’t sacrifice my work to raise them. I didn’t sacrifice myself to raise them. I chose to become a mum. I chose to have children and I chose to parent them full-time. 

Was that easy? Fuck no. 

Was making the decision easy? Absolutely. 

Would I do it again? In a heart beat. IF I was going to have any more children. Which I’m not. DO YOU HEAR ME?? 


I was, voluntarily, out of the paid workforce for 8 years. 

Let me say that again, for impact. 8 YEARS

That’s nearly a decade of being driven by the needs of my children as a first priority. Yes, many times even before my own needs. ‘Cause, you know... I’m a mum right? It’s an incredibly demanding and taxing job which extends well past full-time but I gave it my everything.

My youngest starting school heralded the end of my full-time, stay-at-home mum role and the beginning of my part-time paid work role. Which should have been easy and perhaps even seamless in its transition. One would think.

What I didn’t know is that, actually, it’s a big shift in your thinking. That just dropping the kids off at school is not enough to trigger the highly efficient, super productive, over achieving paid work hormone that I had in spades previously. What I didn’t realise is that spending 8 years immersed in the minutia of motherhood can dull the professional senses a bit. That whilst I can juggle dinner, homework, grocery shopping, washing, cleaning and homemade biscuits all while organising the latest family get-together with the phone between ear and shoulder with the flick of the hair and a smile on my dial, getting your head in the business game takes a bit more deliberate thought. 

Being accountable to my husband and kids is NOTHING like being accountable to the ‘bottom line’ of a project budget. The deadlines of full-time motherhood have some room either side and if there is a day that I just can’t get my shit together, well everything will be ok. The house may look like it’s been ransacked, we might eat toast for dinner and the kids may be a bit stickier than usual when they go to bed sometime way past their bedtime but the next morning that day will be over and all will be alright. I forgot that to have a slow day when you’re working for someone often has quite serious repercussions.

When I worked full-time I was SWITCHED ON. Plugged in. Sharp. So much so that I even handled my personal relationships with the same business-like manner. In fact I still have an email from a corporate colleague comparing my 2 hour labour to my ‘usual efficiency’ performed at work. [HA! As if I had anything to do with that] I had mantras and routines and gym schedules and wool blend suits and the blessed Friday night drinks. I prided myself on my professional reputation and identified myself through my work. And then for 8 years I didn’t.  

And now that I’m back in the paid-work saddle, I’m working over-time to function part-time.

Did you have a big break from paid work? Have you experienced even some of what I’m talking about?

Please say 'yes'.


  1. hey, i can relate to this post. I wasnt out of work as long, 2 years for me but i only work 2 six hr shifts a week for now. But i do feel so vunerable at work in my status & character there, Im disposable to the bosses & probably a nuisance to some collegues as I work such little hours compared to them & am constantly having to be updated on residents ( i work in a nursing home) its a tough time and not one I particully enjoy after spending everyday being everything for my lil dude. But i do like that the break from me gives him excitement to see me again & he so loves his schooling so that cements my reasoning to going back to work xx

  2. It's definitely tough to 're-enter' the workforce after any length of time. You're right too, there's a feeling of vulnerability which is disconcerting. I'm so very happy to have had the choice to do it that way though :)