Last Monday I went back to working full-time after seven months of parental leave. When R. was born, I stayed at home for about ten months, and it took a long time for me to get back on track after I returned to my job. At the time I was an academic researcher writing my thesis. I clearly remember the panic of the first weeks, when I was reading my own writings, and wondering what the heck did they mean, like someone else wrote them entirely. Given that memory, I was nervous about going back to my IT job after seven months. While I was away, my company grew by 30% and many of my old colleagues moved to different teams. The first day was quite a shock but I was happy to discover I didn’t forget any of the technical processes. My colleagues warmly welcomed me – then happily started throwing tasks around – and it really felt like no time had passed.
When I stayed home with R., it became clear to me that I am not a talented stay-at-home mum. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful and honoured I get to spend so much time at home with my kids, I know it’s a luxury few parents can enjoy. But it partly goes against my nature. I have a higher education and three degrees. I’ve always enjoyed working and my own independence. I love to feel competent, learn new things, and challenge myself. I need constant brain activity. In the past months I tried to bring that part of me more into my parenting daily life. I enjoyed reading many parenting books – the academic in me still alive and kicking – and I tried to involve kids in stimulating activities which pushed me to learn more. I am proud and happy because I was there with my kids the whole time, not longing to go back to work. On day 1 of my leave I canceled the work-related apps from my phone, deactivated the email inbox, and any notification. I didn’t check anything work-related in seven months. Partly, it was a sacrifice and I felt I was missing out on my career and individuality.
And there last Monday came and so the moment to go back to work. We switched places with my husband as he plans to be home with the kids for at least more seven months. R. was familiar with mommy working full-time – she’s been in daycare since she turned one – but we were worried E. would fight the change. Surprisingly, he didn’t. He didn’t cry or protest when I explained, nor when I left every morning. He was enthusiastic when I entered the door in the late afternoon, but not emotionally charged. Maybe for once some change came easy… too soon to say?
The cutest happenings after this change were R. telling me she missed having me at home and warmly hugging every night; E. asking to come to work with me, then adding “Small E. work“, which translates to “E. is too small to go to work”; my husband cooking dinner every night – used to be one of my chores -, it was amazing to get home to a ready dinner.
I would like to end this post by officially paying tributes to all not-for-granted little life pleasures I rediscovered this past week. Being in the toilet alone. Being able to cut a coffee break whenever I wanted. Writing on a laptop without little fingers randomly pushing the keyboard. Not having to change nappies! Chatting with adults with no interruptions during lunch. Being able to get phone calls. Driving the car alone. Thank you, work.