Maternity Leave What’s normal?
Maternity Leave: What’s normal anyway?
By Beckie Taylor – Tech Returners
Following the birth of my son five years ago, I took maternity leave and whilst I still did bits and bobs like running payroll the day after giving birth for the most part I was ‘out of the office’ for nine months. Pretty standard stuff for maternity leave but what I hadn’t vouched for was how I would feel when I returned to work and how much confidence I had lost and, whilst something amazing was born out of this experience in my business Tech Returners, I vowed that should I be lucky enough to get pregnant again then I would it all differently and not do things just because that’s what I thought I should do.
In April 2019 my daughter was born and I returned to work 19 days afterwards. Some people think I’m crazy and some people think I’m mad or just stupid, for me the jury is out but here I share my story and why I chose not to ‘conform to the norm’
I worked right up until the week before my daughter was born, reflecting on this now the last month was a bit too manic with 4 speaking opportunities, workshops, events and the day to day running of a business but I did feel good right up until the last week. I finished on the Friday safe in the knowledge I had two weeks to prepare, at this point I hadn’t even packed a bag as I joked at my baby shower. My daughter had other ideas and needless to say at a standard midwife appointment I had signs of pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure and off to hospital I was sent.
Best laid plans
Let’s just say things ‘did not’ go to plan. I hadn’t planned for a c-section or the pain or not being able to drive and the loss of control gave me some very dark days but the support of my family and friends pulled me through and I came out the other side with my plan whilst slightly amended still going ahead and 19 days after giving birth I headed off to open a workshop for our Tech Future Female Leaders programme.
Back in the zone – or was I?
Whilst I delivered the session my Mum was pushing my daughter around town and the feelings of guilt, low confidence and ‘ I can’t do this’ were all in full flow, however, the session went fine and I felt uplifted for the following day. It didn’t last long. My daughter cried outside the room all the time I was delivering the session because she hadn’t fed enough and the feelings of guilt were overwhelming – could I do this? These feelings built and grew and I lost it emotionally, but I let it out and talked it through and realised I’d been trying to do everything and not involving my daughter, it wasn’t working and went against everything I believe in.
Doing it my way
I decided to focus on what I could control and started to bring my daughter to meetings, I didn’t ask or apologise because I’d decided this was ‘my norm’ even when I had to feed which raised few eyebrows for some. 8 weeks in and I’ve had a number of business calls pacing the house with my baby in my arms, in the car with her sleeping in the back and sometimes getting quite vocally involved! And rather than trying to keep her quiet or pretend she’s not there I’ve been open and honest with the people I meet and talk to and the majority have been supportive.
Back to the why
At the start of this blog, I shared the reasons why I decided to approach maternity leave differently this time around so to conclude I think it’s important to acknowledge the ‘why’ once more and what ‘ my new norm’ means to me.
On the business front, I have achieved a lot with a flexible supportive team by my side and on a personal level, I’ve spent some amazing time with my family but most importantly unlike last time around I feel like me! Even though things may not go right, there might be an explosive nappy in the office or I might leak through my top or have a tearful emotional moment, I’ve learnt to embrace these and reflect.
So when people say ‘ are you back already?’ I won’t lie or dumb it down, I’ll say
‘Yes I am, this is what I want to do and I’m proud of my decision’
Tech Returners is dedicated to supporting individuals looking to return to a career in technology after a career break to learn more about our programmes please visit www.techreturners.com