My perception of motherhood was that I would be completely prepared. I’d be the supermum that would ‘make it work.’ I would be in control and not let my personality alter. I was determined not to let my children change me or impact our lives in a negative way and I was really looking forward to having my maternity time off to ‘have a rest’ from my full-time corporate job and ‘prepare for motherhood’ my way.
As I write this, I say ‘I’ because whether or not you have a partner or husband, you still feel that YOU, as the Mother, always knows best and you go on this journey internalising A LOT of b*llocks, so yes – it CAN feel like you’re on this rickety old rollercoaster on your own, waving at your partner to press the damn emergency stop button and they’re off in their own little world, internalising their own dark pot of depressing thoughts about how their wife and their own life has changed.
Now, you’ll probably relate to this, but when the time came for baby number one to arrive, because of my single-minded stubbornness to do things ‘our way and on our own’, I declined advice and help from others. But, actually, mothers get SO much advice without asking from friends and family members who ‘just want to help’, that for some mothers, it can actually make you close down and shut yourself away from the world, because you know your children better than anyone else, so you know what’s the right thing for them – am I right? I used to filter those pieces of advice and secretly try what they had suggested and internalise a smug ‘told you so’ when whatever it was they suggested didn’t work.
So, when we decided to have baby number two soon after baby number one, I thought…okay…now I get it…now I know to be REALLY prepared. Then baby number two came along…and it was a like a ten tonne truck hitting me.
With two kids under the age of three and ride the wave of maternity leave, I did the normal meet-up with other mums at similar stages of motherhood, I connected with the various support groups, kids’ play and sing sessions, mothers crying over coffee time and I made life-long friends that I still have today.
But during those months, no one told me that I could still feel isolated, yet I could go out and socialise. I felt physically exhausted, yet I could sleep when my baby slept. I was mentally drained doing the same thing over and over again, yet I could have reached out and asked for help. I doubted that was I was doing was the best thing for my baby, yet I could have opened up about my thoughts to other mums. I felt guilty for not going out of the house some days, yet I could have just stopped putting that additional pressure on myself.
Our second bundle of joy was nothing like our first and no one tells you that despite you parenting them exactly the same, your journey can be completely different. Our second was a non-sleeper, a non-keeper of keeping food down and had a cry that would went right through you and of course, she was needy as hell, but just for me. So that vision of my life not altering, my personality not being affected, that got thrown right out the window and I became angry and unreasonable mum, frustrated and feisty wife until I soon became someone my husband and I no longer recognised.
Towards the end of my maternity leave and after some expert sleep intervention from a self-help book for getting your babies to sleep, I then started to stress about going back to work. How would someone else look after children like I did? How could I ensure they would nap in the day? What if one of my children was the one that all the other mums hated (because our second was proving to be a right little madam!) And what about me going back to full time work? How was that going to work? Was my job still the same? What if process had changed? How would I learn new stuff when I’d had all this time off? What time would I need to leave to drop the kids off at nursery and then what time would I need to leave the office to get to be in time for kids’ pickup and avoid the late penalty? I felt like I had lost the skills I needed to do what I used to do? Why does no-one understand what I’m going through? Why do I feel so alone? Why do I feel like the new person starting a new job? ARGH!!!!!!!
And let me remind you, I had taken on this new impatient and angry identity…so effectively I wasn’t returning to work…this was a new person going back to an alien environment who had flashes of her time working there, but wasn’t feeling fully prepared to make this giant leap back into her old work shoes, but they didn’t seem to fit anymore.
The process for my return to work was pretty clinical. I endured the one standard return to work interview and although I was asked ‘how are you?’ I didn’t feel I could reveal how I was truly feeling because the person infront of me was young and I assumed she wouldn’t have a clue what was whizzing around in my head at that moment, so I just smiled. I was then never asked again about how I was adjusting to going back to work but given an HR number to call which transferred me to a voicemail.
Back in my work saddle and during the next two years, I became very ill…I kept crying and not knowing why. I couldn’t explain what was going in my head at home or in work and I was totally irrational. My marriage was on the rocks and I was forced to go off sick. The long and short of my story is that I was diagnosed with post-natal depression but just hadn’t realised that the symptoms I was experiencing were actually quite normal for a mother, but I felt totally unsupported throughout this time.
I felt I had no other option (because none were offered to me) so I resigned and did what a lot of other mothers do and after a period off sick to heal my mind, my body and my marriage, I decided to look for an alternative job which would allow me to work around the children’s nursery/school hours. But, of course, with this came a massive drop in income, responsibility and a lack of sense of purpose and so in time, this created a whole host of other negative beliefs about my self-worth and my ability so my self-confidence took a massive nose-dive. It was the recurring signs of depression which alerted me to the fact that I’d made a mistake changing my job.
I felt like I needed a challenge and a sense of purpose. But, I needed to realign my purpose with something that I was really passionate about and to something that would make a real difference.
This is why I chose to use this life experience of motherhood and postnatal depression and turn the negatives into a positive by helping and supporting you super awesome mums, who are just like me.
Wouldn’t you like to feel prepared for your transition back into your workplace and feel like you’re supported and listened to throughout your return to work journey? Wouldn’t you like to get rid of any guilt gremlins and the whirling air of doubt and stride back into your workplace with your head held high feeling confident, organised and ready to take on the world? Yes, well then – we need to talk.
I help mothers who have experienced all or some of these negative feelings, thoughts and behaviours about returning to work or being in the job they’re in right now. But the women I help have me as their private ‘HR buddy’ because that’s what was missing for me back then. Someone to listen, understand and support.
Because I can fully understand and empathise with what they are feeling and experiencing, I help them to unlock more confidence in themselves and show them how they can reclaim their own identity, so they’re not ‘just Mum’ but they can reignite a sense of success by achieving in their career and help them to get that equal balance at home and in work without the exhaustion, guilt and anxiety.
If you’d like to have a chat to see how I might be able to help you, you can send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to call you back.