This is the first week of my maternity leave. To say I’m relieved to be finished working is an understatement.
I’m finding second-time pregnancy much tougher than the first. Physically, I feel like a whale on steroids; mentally, I’m exhausted just thinking about all the things I need to do before the birth; emotionally, I’m up and down like a yo-yo.
So far, there has been plenty of tea, list-making and time with Max. I’ve taken up daytime napping when Max is asleep – it’s the best bit of my day.
Second-time round, maternity leave feels so different. I know what to expect this time. And I’m not suffering from The Fear.
Will they keep my job open for me? How will a year away impact my career long-term? Will I be a step behind the millennials?
Last time, I had anxiety that having a baby made me a less desirable employee, less promotable and less ambitious.
This time, I can honestly say I don’t feel that way.
I’ve given my company the best part of a decade and I’ve given it my all. When I returned to work after my first maternity leave, I was a better employee. I was part-time so I wanted to prove myself. I worked harder, focused more and cut out all personal admin (no daily subscription emails from The Stylist or Oasis; no Facebook; no Buzzfeed).
But I also had a new perspective. Work wasn’t as important to me anymore. Sure I enjoyed being part of a team again and having a sense of ‘normality’ back in my life. Family just meant so much more.
So this time, leaving my responsibilities at work and pressing pause on my career doesn’t feel like such a big deal. It won’t be such a major transition in to motherhood this time.
I’ve prepared my replacement as best I can, provided my boss with strategies for the year and wished them all the best. And good luck.
Now it’s time to focus on my family and not feel guilty about it.
Of course there is the inevitable small niggle of doubt – am I waving goodbye to my career for a year or forever? Is it really possible to pick up in a year where I left off when I have two little lives to organise (three if I include my husband)?
In the end, it doesn’t really matter. Soon I’m taking on a new job. It doesn’t pay and it’s full-time for the next 21 years, but it’s the best one in the world.