torn

past principle of tear. 

  1. to be in a state of uncertainty between two conflicting options 
  2. divided or undecided, as in preference she was torn 
  3. the position in which a first time mother finds herself in when returning to work 

I’d spent the last 13 years dedicated to a clear goal in my life, my career. I’d worked long and hard at it. I’d given everything of myself to this career, more than I should have in a lot of cases. But I loved it.  I was addicted to it in a lot of ways; the deadlines; the long hours; presenting ideas and solutions; building relationships. I was addicted to the all-engulfing rush of it, the thrill of tight turnaround times and the intense challenge of working in Advertising. Where, crazy busy is the norm, in an average day.  

So, at the age of 32, even the discussion about starting a family with my husband would send me to tears. I questioned the timing; surely I had more of it? More time to continue working on my career; my busy social life; Saturday facials and Sunday lattes? Surely? 

But it was time. 

After everything I’d invested in the industry over the past 13 years, surely it was time for it to give back to me? However, sitting at work at 10.30pm one night, 8 months pregnant, no dinner and generally exhausted, I had a ‘moment’. A moment where I knew that it wasn’t going to happen. And every time I heard the sentence, “We just need you to get this completed before you go on maternity leave,” the truth hit home a little more.  I left to go on maternity leave, not really knowing what was install for the next 12 months, or when I returned to work.  

working mum

But I quickly found out. Maternity leave was unbelievable! It bought me the perspective that I desperately needed, time I didn’t even know existed, and a love I didn’t know I could feel. This little girl was exactly what I didn’t even know my life was missing! 12 months of glorious sunny days full of giggles in the park, the good chemicals filling my body after every feed and 12 hour nights of rest and sleep. That’s not to say there weren’t a lot of tough nights too, believe me there were. But I remember being up one night sitting with my baby at midnight thinking, “I’d most likely just be getting home from work”. That was a big reality check for me.  

So how did I feel when I was about to return to work? 

Torn….  

I wanted so badly to get back to my career, the ‘blankie’ of what I knew. To use my professional skills, reignite my working brain, a life outside of daytime naps and pureed fruits; and for 8 hours a day I could forget that I was a Mum and get back to my career. 

When I returned, everything and nothing had changed. What I’d discovered was that nothing at work had changed, but I’d changed and I was never going to be the person that had left.  

However, what I did discover being a Mum returning to work, were some invaluable lessons. Lessons that would have been worthwhile implementing  pre-baby.  

  1. Set boundaries. I could no longer say yes to every task that was asked of me out of fear of feeling like I was ‘not doing my job’.  Guess what? People are ok with it.  

  2. Control the workflow. “O.K, so you want me to take on X project? I’m also working on A, B and C. Which task would you like me to stop working on to start on Project X?” 

  3. Delegate tasks to the juniors in your team. In a management position, its my responsibility to get the job done, but it's not my role to do it all myself.  

  4. Be strictly efficient. Don’t take meetings just to be nice if there isn’t a purposeAlso, focus on a specific task as much as possible until you get it completed.  

  5. Walk out of the door at 5.30pm. It’s ok. The place will not fall apart as soon as you leave.  

  6. Work and having a family can most definitely co-exist. If anything, I’ve found the balance in my life that I really needed. Having a baby is a safe bet that work won’t start to take over, without you realising it.  

So to write about how it feels returning back to work is something I actually had to think about. I have a tendency to think about how I felt during my 12 months off on maternity leave first. That is what stays with me. To spend a whole year with this new person, getting to know them and watching them grow. Its amazing. I went back to work knowing that I’d given everything of myself to her, and that this was one investment that is over the years, going to give back to me.