For the majority of mums returning to work after maternity brings about mixed feelings. On the one hand – feelings of anticipation and potential excitement about what lies ahead but on the other hand feelings of guilt and worryabout what will happen to the little person that you are leaving behind.
For many, including myself it can be a very traumatic time and one that often leads us to questioning our motives as to why we went back in the first place. Undoubtedly, we all have our reasons, for me it was a combination of financial pressures and a want to return to the life that I had led prior to having my son.
The first few months…….
When I look back now at those first few months of being back at work, I realise that the real reason I found it so difficult was the fact that I was severely sleep deprived. My now 6-month-old son had not slept well since he was born and the recent changes to his daily routine had only helped to compound the situation. Not only did this make it harder to leave my very young baby at nursery everyday but it also made the job that I had once found so enjoyable almost unbearable. I could no longer remember anything that had happened the day before and as for learning new concepts or understanding new office systems, it was virtually impossible. This left me feeling inadequate and totally demoralised.
In truth, I felt like I could no longer look after my baby doing the job that I had spent the last 6 months doing and I also wasn’t able to carry out the role that I had once excelled at.
The option of resting during the day whilst I made up for lost sleep the night before was no longer possible and this vicious cycle began to play havoc not only with my physical health but also with my mental health and self -esteem.
My Moment of Realisation
It was at my lowest ebb a couple of months in to my return that I realised that there was another way.
If I was able to educate myself as to what was going on with my little boy’s sleep and the reasons as to why he was waking up this would massively improve my mental outlook.
For rather than spending my days worrying about what if and why – I was able to appreciate all the developmental and biological changes that he was going through and how these in some way were impacting on his sleep.
I also developed an approach to helping him self settle that not only was gentle on him but also on myself. I think that when you are in a sleep deprived state however, much people tell you it is ok for your child to cry the answer is it just isn’t.
All children like us want to feel safe and secure and they need to have the reassurance that when they wake during the night (which they will) everything is going to be the same as it was when they went to sleep.
For this reason, I concentrated all my efforts of ensuring my son felt happy and comfortable in his cot so that he knew when I went out the door at night he was going to be ok and that I would always return.
That was nearly 5 years ago and now I have a happy little boy who sleeps through the night and for the most part loves going to school every morning with few complaints.
This experience also brought home to me just how difficult it is for so many mums like myself returning to work, however much you want to go back it is just never the same.
This realisation was one of the main reasons why I decided to set up Help Baby Sleep and to help empower and give all Mums the confidence and the tools to deal with their baby’s sleep or lack of. No one should have to go without sleep – there is a reason why they use it as a method of torture because it is.
As Katy Brand said recently on BBC Radio 4’s, The Infinite Monkey Cage “, I go crazy when I don’t have enough sleep. The impact of two or three nights of badly disrupted sleep is enough to a have massive impact on my general outlook. I am no longer able to see things in a positive light, everything becomes a catastrophe, I can’t cope with anything and everything makes me sit down and have a cry on the kitchen floor.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself it becomes impossible to cope with anything let alone the demands of a job without it.
So what advice would I give to my mummy friends returning to work.
- Firstly, don’t be too hard on yourself – set realistic expectations and if you don’t fulfil them there is always tomorrow/ next week.
- Be gentle on yourself and your children, remember they are still tiny and everyday something is happening within their bodies and brains that may well have an impact on their behaviour and sleep.
- Take time for yourself – even it is just for 10 minutes when you can close the door and go lie down on the floor, knees bent hands out to the side, breathing in and out slowly through your nose and out through your mouth. This is a technique practised by CEO’s and World leaders that equates to having 1.5 hours of sleep.
- If everything gets too much – don’t be afraid to ask for help, however hard it might seem at the time, I promise you it is a lot easier than not doing anything about at all.
Remember returning to work is a highly admirable achievement and just because you are not spending all day, every day with your children you have given birth fed and nurtured them and you will never stop being their mother.
You should feel immensely proud of yourself and never let anyone else tell you otherwise.
If you have any concerns about your child’s sleep and how it may be affecting you, please do get in touch for your free 15-minute consultation.