Sunday, 15 September 2013

So long, and thanks for all the nursery rhymes

You may have noticed that this blog has been rather inactive in the past year. That's because I haven't been at work for a year. Sure, I've done the odd thing here and there: helped a colleague with an essay, come to work for a Keeping in Touch day, read a professional magazine or article here and there... but, essentially, I haven't really thought about work much for 12 months. I've been too busy worrying about that bundle of 'joy', changing nappies, cleaning up food, finding suitable nurseries, buying car seats...

All that changed two weeks ago, when I came back to work. And everything's different. And exactly the same. Just as with everything else where a baby is involved, it seems, you can't describe to somebody who has never been through what coming back from maternity leave is really like. I chose to return to work 3 days a week, because I didn't want to be away from my little one all the time. But I also didn't want to give up work completely. I'm lucky that I a) have a choice [we could afford it if I didn't want to work], and b) actually quite enjoy my job.

It's the routines and attitudes at work that haven't changed: coffee still happens mid-morning, the start of term is still horribly busy, lots of the faces are still the same with the same old good and bad points. It didn't take me long to feel at ease and just back somewhere where I knew the drill... until I sat in on a couple of meetings, and realised how much I'd actually missed in a year. The next few days were filled with questions and ponderings and much-needed explanations.

On top of all that, working part time is another challenge. Again, I'm lucky that some of the more obvious challenges of working part time probably don't apply to me: I work in a female-dominated profession, so part timers get taken just as seriously as full-timers (if they didn't, there would be no workforce left). Meetings and important information are also worked around part timers, and if you can't be there for any reason it's usually fairly easy to get hold of a comprehensive write-up. Rather, the challenges revolve around having to change my mindset back to 'family member' every Saturday, 'mum and sole carer' on a Monday, and then back to 'librarian' on a Wednesday morning. Of course, there's the normal nursery pick-ups etc. which means your day doesn't stop when you leave work; for your little one, it's just beginning.

One thing is certain: returning from maternity leave is like nothing else I've experienced. I'm not in a new job, but I'm not in the same place I was a year ago either. Just as with everything else baby-related, it's an entirely new learning experience. I might be tired, but I'm certainly not bored. I also know that I shouldn't be so hard on myself; I've been away from work for a year. Of course it's going to take me a while to learn about all the things that have happened when I've not been here. I've only been back for 6 days, after all.

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