On returning to work

 photo KE-EVT-Huggies-Lowres-4182_zps58d9dccf.jpgas I hinted last week, life is changing round here. I’m starting a new job next week and Pip has started at nursery. to be perfectly honest, I don’t really know how interesting or useful this post is for anyone else. that said, I want to write about it. let me know whether it’s any help or interesting in any way, or if there’s anything else you’d like to know…

my job situation was a little more complicated than most of my fellow mums. I didn’t have a job to return to at the end of maternity leave. most of the mums I met either went back to their original jobs (part or full time), continued with or found freelance work, started new businesses or continued to stay at home with their children (or some variety of the above). applying for a new (full time) role wasn’t especially common.

when I went on maternity leave, Marto and I were commuting between London and Somerset, renting a cottage in Somerset (where I worked) and a room in a flatshare with friends in London (where M has always worked). at 34ish weeks pregnant we moved back to North London. we had always planned to consider making it work returning to Somerset, but in October, M started a new job which really removed any flexibility and so I resigned from my previous position. this meant that if I was to return to work, it would have to be a new post. (and most probably full time, as it seems from my search that part time roles are much harder to find).

with no time frame to adhere to, and with rapidly disappearing confidence, applying for and securing a new position seemed almost impossible. I couldn’t even decide whether I should return to work, let alone what I should return to doing and how I should go about achieving it. put simply, I felt stuck.

around Easter, an admin type job in a different field appeared on twitter and I applied for it. Immediately, I was asked for a first interview and then a second. In the end, I wasn’t offered the role and although I was disappointed, in hindsight, I’m really glad that I didn’t get it. However, it did renew some confidence that my CV wasn’t terrible and that I could interact with the adult world in a way that I thought I’d forgotten in a year long haze of babies and parenting.

that rejection however coincided with the last of my maternity leave. I received my P45 without so much as a good luck post it, and I felt really alone. I wasn’t just on maternity leave; I was a housewife and a mother. I tried to throw myself into enjoying it, but in reality, I felt empty. I alluded to my struggles here but didn’t really feel like writing about it much. looking back, now I feel so much happier, there seems to be a sort of empty space in my memory from February until the end of May. punctuated by happy events and fun things for sure, but, still, empty.

I still felt paralysed by indecision though. I knew I couldn’t just return to my old job. from a simple mathematical point of view, whatever job I applied for had to at least cover travel and childcare. which, in North London, meant realistically I couldn’t just take a basic admin job. I also have new priorities to take into account. M does a relatively pressured job, even if his subject matter is fascinating (wine). his hours are reasonable on a day to day basis but even so, he’s not back til 6.30pm earliest. and at least once a week, often more, he’s out for dinner or later. definitely not the worst it could be, but to be taken into account. I didn’t feel that our family could support two parents in a role like this. and, for various reasons, as M is the one who is doing that role right now, I felt that if I returned to employment, it needed to be in a more complementary role. but, I also couldn’t turn my back entirely on my profession either. I worked hard and felt proud of my qualification as a lawyer and try as I might to persuade myself to abandon the profession, it feels part of my identity and I wasn’t ready to let go of it. and yet, I also couldn’t bring myself to return either.

in the end, the answer presented itself. I’m not going to go into huge detail but it’s a non legal job in the legal industry. I came across the advert when updating my profile on LinkedIn (so, I guess from next week you will be able to find out!) and disappeared from here for a few weeks as I spent some time redrafting my CV and preparing for the application and interview process. although I haven’t started yet, I have no doubt that this is the right decision for our family, as I feel as if a fog has lifted and as if I am rejoining the real world. I felt similar when I got my previous role after being made redundant and spending the first 8 months of married life dependent on M aside from any freelance work I managed.

I think, for me, it was the dual factors of being entirely dependent on M, coupled with a small baby also entirely dependent on me was the problem. I felt trapped. I recall one occasion sitting sobbing at the breakfast table as M did up his tie, saying “I don’t want to leave, but I also need to be able to if I needed to”. I never even considered leaving but the fact I couldn’t have done if I wanted to really indicated that I needed to change the situation. nothing about the situation felt equal.

I also desperately craved interaction with adults. I missed smart conversation. not to say that mums that I hang out with aren’t great (they are, they are awesome, and we do have some good conversations) but our interactions are mainly child focused. I sat, a few weeks ago, on the floor of a church hall, in the company of more than a dozen highly intelligent women, all singing along to an inane song about a bobbin, and I wondered what I was doing. (and what that collective group of women with their myriad talents could have achieved if they weren’t singing songs).

so why didn’t I do something about it earlier? it just didn’t feel the right time, empty though I was, and I knew that it needed to be the ‘right’ opportunity. I didn’t want to be stuck doing a job I’d regret. I also wanted Pip to have at least her first year at home with one parent. it seems like a great time for her starting nursery now, as she seems to need more than I can offer.

and so, on Monday, I start full time work again. Pip will go to nursery full time (and I’ll post another post about that). I feel like real life is starting again.

just to point out – I believe as Cara put it – just because this is my experience does not mean that there are not other ways of raising a child. every one makes the best decision in their eyes for their own personal situation with the information available to them at that particular time. this post is nothing more than a recap of my experience and decisions.

(photo from Huggies #littleswimmers event on my last day of maternity leave – post to follow)



  1. Emma June 24, 2013 / 8:11 pm

    Hi Rachel, it’s been a while since I commented on here but I assure you I’ve been an avid follower of you and the gorgeous little Pip. Although our situations are a little different so much of what you wrote in this post rang true for me, from the paralysis of indecision to the desire to talk about something other than babies (I’ve actually stopped going to baby groups because of this!) I return to work on 29 June. I’m currently a postdoctoral researcher (history of women and medicine). I’ve decided to go back part time as that way I can make the 6 months remaining on my contract last a whole year while I decide what’s next. In fact, I’ve spent the whole of maternity leave considering what’s next with no real answer in sight! I want to work but I’m pretty sure I want to leave academia. I love the research but don’t want to lecture and that’s the next logical step if I want to get out of the cycle of short term contracts. But like you I feel proud of my qualifications and of the amount of time, effort and resources it’s taken to get where I am, and to be honest, the money and flexibility that comes with the job will be hard to beat in the ‘real world’ where I’m likely to be starting from the bottom again. I also have a nagging feeling that I’ll have somehow failed if I leave it all behind. The career that I’m currently considering (archivist) would mean a significant amount of costly retraining with no guarantee of a job at the end of it. That said, I feel like it is now or never, while I have the security of a year’s paid employment to fall back on, and I’m excited by the prospect. Your post has got me thinking that I too need to put the feelers out wider for other options and possibilities, re-gig my own CV for a different world of work than I’m used to and think about how I might apply my skills in other ways, so thank you, it’s been incredibly helpful. I hope your first day went well and that Pip is settling into nursery xx

    • thelittlepip July 9, 2013 / 1:01 pm

      Hi Emma, thank you for your comment. I am so sorry that I wasn’t able to reply to you until now. I read your comment which was emailed to me and I’m so glad that you found the post helpful. I’m planning to write more about the return to work and nursery. Hope your search is going well? xx

  2. Lauren July 5, 2013 / 9:47 am

    Good luck for your return to work.
    I have a daughter a similar age and agree that now seems the right time to start a pre-school (of course not judging anyone else, just that it feels right for me)
    I’ve started her on two half days while I’m doing a course and she loves it! I think it offers just that bit more stimulation for her and it’s nice for me to be using my brain again!

    • thelittlepip July 9, 2013 / 1:02 pm

      Thanks Lauren. I’m glad your daughter is enjoying pre-school and you’re enjoying your course. x

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