I’ve just got back from my first day at a proper job since I had my son. I’ve been working on and off from home as a freelancer for the past 6 months, but this was the first time I’d done the commute and committed to a long-term contract, 3 days per week, in a building populated by people who don’t demand that I change their nappies or clean up regurgitated food.....much. I was very nervous about starting back at work - had my brain turned to a smelly mush as is commonly advertised post childbirth? Would I randomly start weeping? Would I break into ‘row row row your boat’ if anyone asked me a complicated question? Would I miss my son too much? Oh, and would he be irreparably damaged by doing 3 days at nursery per week rather than 2 and grow up to be like ‘Kevin’ (the ‘We Need To Talk About’ one rather than the inevitable Harry Enfield one)?
Thankfully, the answer to all the above anxiety-based, 5am vigil-fueling questions is a resounding ‘no’. I feel better than I’ve felt in a very long while. Spending time in a context not associated with me as a mother and using my brain in a more cerebral way turns out to be more refreshing than I could ever have expected. It turns out that motherhood will not fulfill every part of me. I love my son; I love being with my son. But spending every single day with him can be extremely dull. Yes, I feel guilty for saying that, but motherhood can be very, very boring. I may admire my son’s amazement at things that for me are every day occurrences - I love how he notices what I walk past without blinking..but spending 10 minutes per day watching the bin men (‘trrruckkkkk, liiiigghtts’) can become a little less than riveting (and embarrassing if they spot you staring at them through your shutters when you’re sporting a full-length, grey, toweling nightie). In my humble opinion, motherhood is also far more emotionally draining than work - as a very good friend of mine recently said, sometimes having a baby is like having a nightmare boss who screams ‘you are shiiiitttt’ at you no matter what you do.
I remember reading the results of some study saying that PND is less prevalent in women who return to work within the first year of their child’s life. At the time, there was no way I could contemplate leaving the house, let alone returning to work...but now, I can see that maintaining your identity beyond motherhood could indeed keep PND at bay. I know balancing money-work and motherhood-work (I hate the term ‘working mum’...every bloody mum is a working mum even if they stay at home!) is incredibly hard. For me, though, it’s a juggling act worth mastering as for the first time in ages, I feel like I might finally be catching sight of the Real Me again, somewhere just around the corner.