You hear so much about mat leave from your mom-friends. That the days are long; that napping when the baby naps is ideal but, kind of a pipe dream; that people say it’s a vacation but you realize it’s not anything like a vacation; and that, no matter how ready you are to go back to work, if you are ready at all, the fact is, going back to work is hard. It’s hard to leave your baby with someone else and trust them to love and care for them the way you would. It’s hard shedding the yoga pants and baby talk and going back to your professional alter-ego.
The transition turned out to be much more difficult than I thought, but not for the reason you might think. No one told me how weird it would be to walk back into the office I hadn’t worked in in a year.
After having worked in the same job for over four years when I went on my first mat leave, I was shocked how new I’d felt going back.
Why did no one tell me life goes on without me at work while I’m home momming? It never occurred to me that new people would be hired, some staff would leave. Things would happen in the office and I wouldn’t be there. There would be new technologies introduced and others retired. Things would change.
I walked back into the office after a year away and felt like the new-old person. It was if I was starting from scratch, even though I wasn’t. I felt out of the cliques of which I’d been a part. I felt I had lost of lot of the momentum I had built as a well-functioning employee who knew and understood the lay of the land.
I felt lost. I felt alone. It made the transition back to work so much harder than I thought it would be.
I wish someone had told me. I can’t be the first person to feel like a fish out of water where I once felt right at home. Had I known, I would have made a more concerted effort to be in touch with colleagues, to keep a pulse of what was going on and to drop in from time to time to still feel like I was a part of it all.
Maternity leave is a gift we are blessed to have in Canada. Maybe not everyone finds the transition back into the workforce as difficult as I did, for the reasons I did. I haven’t heard many people talk about how they struggled trying to find their place back in the office environment they vacated for a year. But it never did feel the same, for me. It always felt like the world went on and people at work changed, and I changed. I was no longer to go out for drinks on a random Thursday. They went on without me.
My priorities and my energy and the effs I had to give about work stresses, they all changed.
I did find a footing, eventually. It was a different footing. A new one. I had to discover a way to morph my new reality into what was, before, a comfort zone I enjoyed.
Maybe it is just me. Or maybe, many of you felt the same way and didn’t realize that you weren’t alone, in feeling alone, in a place that once felt so familiar.