At 8 months pregnant I was struggling to get in and out of my black BMW (the company car) without making unattractive heaving noises so with some reservation I opted instead to drive the maroon, less-guts-than-a-Kenyan-athlete Ford Focus (our 'family car' purchase) to and from work. I think this was a sign of my life to come - it was the first point at which all sense of style had to be sacrificed and my single short-term aim in life was to be comfy. The second sign was the fact that the first thing I did when I got home from work every day was to change into my husband's casual clothes to 'get settled' for the evening. The writing was on the wall.
Maternity leave, I thought, was a practical chapter where mother would bond with baby, establish the routine, before returning to work.
How massively misguided I was.
I had fully expected to return to my career in finance - full time, possibly four days - slotting straight back in to the job I had worked very hard at. I held this assumption for a good four, maybe five months, before I was all-consumed with the following realisation: I would never match up to my pre-pregnant working self. I simply had not thought it through.
Sure there are women who return to their pre-prgenant positions, slotting back in and re-joining their climb on the career ladder. I have nothing but respect (and a little jealousy) for these women. The trouble is, for most of us, something has to give. I had become accustomed to working late and logging on at weekends in the name of exceeding sales targets. I loved and hated the pressure of my job all at the same time and the reality is I chose to work myself to the bone - I thrived on it. But nowhere in this employment picture is there a 5pm teatime routine to get back for or frequent last minute meeting cancellations due to childcare issues - having a baby is so uncorporate. I could have gone back, I could have given it my 'best shot', but it would have been the best shot possible as a Mum, not the shot I knew I was capable of.
In the end I cut my maternity leave short at 6 months and returned to the world of work to take up a new role outside of the financial sector altogether. Similar rate of pay, dramtically less benefits, but it was a part-time job. Three days a week. The holy grail for working mothers.
Part-time work, I was told, would be the best of both worlds. And 10 months later I still maintain it is probably the most favourable option. You have a couple of days at home to enjoy motherhood, and a few days at work to be something other than a mother. Don't get me wrong, I understand why some mums choose full-time motherhood. It's just personally, if I am to maintain any level of sanity, I need to get out of the Mum Bubble for half of my week.
So now I have it all, right? The best of both worlds? Well not exactly. Career-wise I've taken a step back from my pursuit of promotion, and home-wise I still feel some guilt when passing my child over to somebody else three days out of five. I don't do either job at full capacity but I am at least doing both.
Lesson 3: When maternity leave ends you can't have it all. Perhaps we should stop striving for the best of both worlds and settle for a bit of both worlds instead.
The Unmumsy Mum