Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Decisions, decisions...

There's been a bit of a hot discussion happening on the message boards at Babycentre that I've been following with interest. I joined BC while pregnant and it's been invaluable to me as a first time mum, from weekly updates on my pregnancy and now weekly updates on baby milestones and developments as Gemma gets older. I don't look at that many message boards - as I subscribe to so many blogs through Bloglines this is pretty much all I can keep up with, reading-wise at the moment. In fact, the last boards I read on a regular basis were the Channel 4 '4Homes' boards when we were planning our extension in 2006 - for tips on where to buy the cheapest kitchen, etc. But the Babycentre ones are brilliant at reassuring me when I have a question it's not worth bothering the health visitor for, or just to see how other babies are doing at sleeping through the night (or not...), or what brand of cloth nappies is the best.

The discussion I refer to is one of returning to work after maternity leave, and it has engendered some very polarised and heated posts. There seem to be 3 positions:
  • How can I even think of working and leaving my baby to be cared for by someone else (i.e. not returning to work until the little one is of school age).
  • I would LOVE to stay at home with my baby but unfortunately finances don't permit it (i.e. returning to work either full or part time because I need to).
  • As a woman I value the independence and fulfilment a job/career gives me; I think my child will benefit more from having a happy and fulfilled mother; and will also benefit from the interaction with other children and adults at a nursery/childminder (i.e. I will be going back to work because I want to and as a plus I think it's better for the child as well as myself).
My own thoughts are a bit of a combination of the latter two. I am secretly and rather pointlessly hoping for some kind of fantastic luck (mainly involving a large cash injection from somewhere, which, as we don't play the lottery or otherwise gamble, is a bit of a non-starter) which will mean I don't need to go back to work in January, but instead can carry on looking after Gemma full time and be with her all the time in her early years. I am loving being on maternity leave and as I haven't spent more than a couple of hours at a time away from her since her birth, I can't currently contemplate what it's going to be like to leave her ALL DAY (gasp) with someone else.

But on the flip side, I do want her to mix as much as possible with other kids as she gets older, as well as get used to being a bit more independent from me. I also think that by the time it gets to January I will be more than ready to get back into the swing of things work-wise, have discussions with adults that don't revolve around baby stuff, and challenge my brain again (daily Sudoku is probably not enough...). Whether that means re-entering the world of digital marketing I don't yet know for sure, though I strongly expect it will. However, I do know that my perspective on work and life has gone through a significant shift since becoming a mother. Part of me is glad I have built a good career and wants to maximise the opportunities that's given me, and continue to build on it for my own personal development. And another, very large part of me, is convinced that having a child is the greatest personal achievement I have ever made, and am ever likely to; and therefore 'career' belongs to my life BG (Before Gemma, obviously).

I'm sure my thoughts on this will shift as the year progresses. In the meantime, I'm just massively thankful that we're able to afford for me to take 12 months out to look after our baby girl, and that I work for a company that makes this possible. I'm also pretty chuffed that I managed to sneak in this post before the end of the month and get at least one done in April...


Ali said...

Ah, the thorny subject of returning to work. It's a bit like owning a car - everyone is always convinced that their car is the right one for them. And that's a good thing. So long as we don't go round telling other people that they are driving the wrong one!

I count myself very fortunate that I got redundancy when I was 6 months pregnant and then fell into the back-to-work job that I did. No need to make any tough decisions!

woe is me said...

Well, in my (limited) experience, returning to work or not isn't "a decision" so much as a constant, never-ending series of choices. I also think these choices continue to feel completely right and completely wrong simultaneously. It seems like a particularly difficult issue for women (men too, but I do think it's particularly relevant for women) of our generation simply because we have so many choices. So we must choose, and choosing feels like aligning ourselves with a whole belief system. I wonder if people would be quite so vocal about this issue if it wasn't a topic that naturally bred self-doubt and defensiveness. It sounds hopelessly cheesy, but you won't go wrong if you follow your instincts.

Annabel Gaskell said...

I was hating the idea of going back to work for a big chemical company after six months off, especially as the local nurseries were either not very nice or exceedingly expensive in Stevenage. Luckily the other half got a new job in Oxford so we relocated and I actually took 4 yrs off, and I have worked part time ever since.

I'm sure you'll find a solution that works for you - and you can adapt as you go along. Toddlers are harder work than babies though ... Good luck.