Going on maternity leave is surprisingly confronting. Under normal circumstances, the thought of taking 7.5 months off would be ultra-appealing. Hello South East Asian beach holiday! Hello road trip! Hello involved, self-indulgent creative project!
But no, not this time. I’m headed for the unknown horrors of the post-natal gulag which is, quite frankly, scary.
I have to hand over my hard-won job to someone younger and more enthusiastic (I am 36 weeks pregnant – there are sloths with more energy than me) and people keep assuming I’m not coming back or, if I do, that I will be a diminished mumzoid version of myself. How will I attend conferences? What about evening events?
The answer is: I don’t know.
I have never done this before.
And yet the human race relies on this process to continue. All mothers sacrifice their time, sanity and in some cases, careers, to have children.
It’s disheartening to feel as though you can only do one thing or the other. That you’ll either be a decent employee or a good mother and that the whole of your future will be defined by this struggle. It’s almost like people want you to give up and disappear because your focus will be compromised – there’s no way that it won’t be when you’re faced with the physical and logistical demands of raising a child.
And yet it needs to happen. We can’t sub-contract it out to other people. The task of motherhood is as old as time and of paramount importance. If it was remunerated, it would be taxed in the highest bracket. No other job demands or restricts so much.
If more workplaces had day care centres or nannies. If more industries built family considerations into their conference and event planning. If more jobs accepted that business hours are redundant in some roles. If only.
It’s a dilemma and one that I have no answers for but I would love to hear your thoughts. How have you managed this process? Did you want to give up and move to a yurt in the mountains to raise wild-eyed, bare-footed children with no WiFi whatsoever?