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Going back to work after Maternity leave

Tuesday, 7 April 2015  | 

I can’t believe I’ve had a year off work already. The Easter holidays coincided with me hitting 35 weeks pregnant, so by the end of the holidays I was 38 weeks and didn’t return to work. It’s a question you get asked all the time when you’re on maternity leave – ‘When are you going back to work?’ but the thing is I decided not to – at least not to my old job.
Sadly, logistics make teaching in that school impossible as it is so far from where I live and I was staying over there for a couple of nights each week. I can’t do that with a baby, nor can I commute each day as it would mean four hours of driving a day…so I am now officially unemployed!
However, I do now have a new teaching job lined up for September and it’s full-time. I was ideally looking for something part-time, but ultimately I needed a job and this one came up and is actually pretty perfect. Financially, it is necessary for me to work – but in all honesty I am really looking forward to working again. I am looking forward to the challenge that this new job will bring, and I’m looking forward to feeling just a bit more like the old me again. I have loved my time off with Millar and I intend to make the most of the next five months before my job starts, but being a full-time stay at home mum for the foreseeable future is not possible. I think Millar and I will both be ready for something new by then.
Which brings me on to my new problem/obsession/headache: childcare! I have wanted Millar to start some form of childcare for a morning a week or so for a little while, to give me a bit of time to do some writing (and hovering – he has a mortal fear of the hoover!) but money is quite tight so the idea had fallen by the wayside a bit. I had always thought that we would choose a nursery over any other kind of childcare, but as Millar’s personality has developed, I’m just not so sure anymore.
In September, Mark’s mum will be going part-time at work, so she will have Millar for one day a week – which means that’s just four days to sort out! I haven’t yet looked at any nurseries or childminders, but here are my thoughts so far.
Millar is a pretty shy boy. He isn’t at home…in fact he’s incredibly loud and chatty and confident at home. But when we go to new places he takes quite a while to feel confident enough to crawl anywhere and will tend to hold onto me for at least half an hour or so. He’s gentle and thoughtful and awesome, but not very brave in new situations.
I know he would quickly get used to a nursery, but I do worry that without me there he will be really shy and might get a bit ‘lost’ at nursery. He isn’t one to bulldoze his way over to toys like some babies we know, so I worry that he will be a bit of a pushover. Having said all of this, I think it is so important for him to get used to this sort of thing. It’s that tricky dilemma as a parent – knowing that something is good for them, but also desperately not wanting them to be unhappy – even for a few minutes. It actually makes my heart hurt to think of him being sad and me not being there to give him a cuddle and a bit of encouragement.
So I started thinking about childminders, wondering whether the smaller numbers and more ‘home from home’ style environment might make him a little more confident and he would get a bit more one to one care and build a relationship with the childminder. But then I started looking for one and found that I am going to be THE fussiest mum in the world. Basically, I want someone like me, but better! I want someone with similar values and approaches to learning and play and discipline, but who is better at doing all of that and knows what they’re doing! I also would ideally like them to look after another baby about Millar’s age so that he wasn’t playing on his own too much. I appreciate that the odds of finding all of this are rather slim!
So…at the moment I am thinking of finding a compromise and perhaps putting him in nursery for two days a week, and using a childminder for the other two days. This seems like a lot of different routines for him to deal with, but if it is the same each week, then hopefully he won’t be too confused and perhaps the variety will keep it interesting. The idea would be to phase out the childminder as he gets a bit older.
It just seems like the hardest decision in the world. I can’t imagine a stranger looking after my baby. I wrestle with my conscience about leaving him, but I can only take comfort from the fact that teaching isn’t like other full time jobs. It’s incredibly intense during term time, but Mark and I will both get 17 weeks holiday a year, where we will do loads of fun things with Millar and make the most of our time off.
My priority now is finding the right places/people for Millar and feeling happy with my choices. I want him to start going to wherever we choose for a morning a week as soon as possible. It’s very important to me that he is totally happy and confident at these places by the time I start working full-time, as I can’t imagine how awful it would be to start a brand new, tough, full-time job, and be worrying that Millar isn’t happy. It doesn’t bear thinking about.
In the meantime, if anyone has any advice on looking for childcare and what I should be looking for, then I’d really appreciate it!