I’ve been back in full-time work for nearly 3 months now – almost out of the newborn phase! I feel like any life transition takes at least 3 months to recalibrate to a new normal. The past 11 weeks or so has been an entirely new arrangement, as Freddie started school the week before I started my job. These are the things I’ve learned about working and family life, and the way they mesh together…..
Transition Back to Work: making a Mum Back!
An extended “career break” (I had been out of the office and working freelance, mostly remotely, since 2007) really doesn’t mean that you’re incapable of easing back in or that you will have a catastrophic skills deficit. Experience counts for a lot, and we need to trust our abilities to figure stuff out and push away imposter syndrome. I have been working in publishing for 17 years now yet had made myself believe I was unemployable because of being a freelance mum for so long. Going back into the workplace has made me realise how much I DO know, and how much common sense and the wisdom of advancing age (ahem) is a wonderful thing. The most important thing is a growth mindset.
I have a more self-assured overview and am now seeing how much my experience gives me a depth to my ability to understand that mistakes don’t have to be catastrophic – can provide huge learning points (read: I am quite old and have been working in publishing for a lo-ho-ho-hong time). Making mistakes is an inevitable and actually useful thing to do in life, while you get to grips with a new working system. A decade ago, not knowing exactly how to do something would have crippled me with imposter syndrome feeling like I “wasn’t good enough”. Now, I simply understand the power of asking for more detail if you’re not clear, having things double checked if you’re unsure, and soaking up guidance without feeling it’s criticism. This is how being freelance has absolutely transformed my ability to be a brilliant* employee (*someone who isn’t defeated in morale by having to learn new things and not knowing everything perfectly, and gentle with myself about not always getting it right first time round).
In between work life and mum life
I’ve been consciously kind to myself about the fact that I feel absolutely bloomin’ knackered quite a lot right now. My natural inclination with my internal dialogue is to be critical that I am “not doing enough exercise”, and berate myself for all the things I’m not doing. I’m actively telling myself daily that there’s a LOT of flux going on right now, learning so many new things, meeting so many new people, operating on a different system in life, Freddie has been sleeping quite badly as he is also in flux starting school and needs mumma overnight quite a lot…and this is tiring for the brain, body and heart. I’ve told myself it’s totally ok if I feel too tired to go swimming of an evening, or if I really want to go to bed at 9pm. That’s ok. There is nothing lazy about rest.
Having been freelance for 12 years it’s quite hard to get out of the habit of bleeding work into all hours at home. And I am trying to stop doing that, trying not to check my emails on my phone constantly, etc. I have to tell myself: I am now being paid for regular hours, I am now being paid for regular hours. And honestly, the relief of not having to constantly WORRY about creating work, finding clients, filling classes, chasing payments, this has actually lowered my stress levels significantly. Being freelance, and being a freelance mum, has made me very, very grateful for lots of things about structured regular work which might for other people feel annoying or restrictive. I am just like, thank you thank you thank you…
Commuting is stressful – I want to get back into cycling, I lost my London cycling mojo when I was knocked off my bike by a hit and run driver 5 years ago, it really shook me up and I just haven’t quite got my confidence back since. So I get the train, which is inherently a bit sardine and stressful, not to mention a bit draining of wallet. But I make sure that the commute is not a depleting thing for my spirit by being kind – smiling at other commuters where possible! It’s all too easy to get drawn into the bad temperedness of mornings and evenings. I focus on my posture, softening my shoulders, breathing slowly and deeply. And I make sure I listen to music, which always lifts me out of the commuter autopilot, and actually gives me some “me time”, and allows a buffer between work life and home life.
Home life, Mum life
Mornings are going to be chaos. No matter what organised plan you have, what routine routine routine – you will ALWAYS be demanding that your children PUT THEIR SHOES ON! and chasing them out the door as if the house is on fire, however militarily organised you are the night before.
See above. You will inevitably forget that it’s “Opposite Day” at school and your child is supposed to go to school in pyjamas and duly deliver him to school in regular clothes and feel Mum Shame about this.
See above. You will always drop your children, having half conversations with other parents which usually consist of “Hi! Got to get a train! See you soon we should do a playdate!!” and run run run to the train station to catch the right train, and run run run from the station to the office not to be “too late”, thereby spending much of your time slightly sweaty.
Being a work from home mum where most of your time is spent shepherding your children according to their schedule rather than “yours”, you spend A LOT more time outdoors running around in parks than at any other period of life. Every autumn for the past 8 years I have usually been found pushing a buggy around a park, or running around a playground with a toddler/preschooler…Since being at work, I have been inside, at a desk, for many more hours than I’m used to, and the autumness of autumn has passed me by a lot more. And of all the things about “regular working life” this is the thing I am least used to and least conditioned to be comfy with. I spend at least 30 minutes of my lunch break in a nearby park, but my body feels a bit more lethargic than normal so I know that once this new normal feels more normal, I will begin to put more emphasis on outdoor walking, running, park life to up my daily outside fix into working motherhood.
That’s what I’ve learned. Does any of it resonate with your experience? I’d love to hear from you. xxx