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One year on, this is what Sara McCorquodale can report...

How to cope with going back to work after maternity leave

It’s 8.25am. I’ve dropped off my son at nursery. I’m sitting in the park. I’m late for work.

While fellow commuters rush, I stare at the grass. It’s raining, I’ve taken my shoes off, I’ve left my umbrella…somewhere. Please God, I think, don’t make me go.

This was spring 2015 - AKA the end of my maternity leave - when I went back to work. To targets, meetings, hot coffee, cool bosses.

Full disclosure? I was a mess (I mean, obviously) - I had no idea how I’d keep going in those first months. But a year on everything has clicked and here’s what I’ve learnt in the process…

1. Your working wardrobe requires thought

Like, deep thought. Your new morning routine is crammed with little activities that simply don’t mesh with certain textiles. Those childcare drop-off cuddles? Emotionally fulfilling, but sartorially crumpling. No silk shirt will emerge unscathed from a baby on your hip. The solution? Opt for less crease-prone materials such as cashmere, Lycra and Rayon. — Finery and Folk always have excellent options. Alternatively (and a useful one for the dads too), wear a thin jersey jumper to soak up the snot stains. It might make you look like a sixth-former, but you can peel it off before work and stash away.

2. You pay for a lot of childcare you don't use

Your kid’s immune system is beyond crap. Chickenpox, hand, foot and mouth, impetigo - it’s all immediately on the horizon and suddenly your raison d’être is reading ‘Octopus Socktopus’ and administering Calpol. The only way to balance work during this initial germ-ridden period is pushing deadlines back - even slightly - delegating and working in the evening. Rope in friends and family to help at home. The honest truth? When they’re sick, babies tend to want their parents. Everyone else sucks. There’s no silver lining. Like your kid’s immune system, it’s just really rubbish. But, like your kid’s immune system, it quickly gets better.

3. You won’t regret joining the office parent tribe

These are Your People now. Sure, the cool kids are hitting the pub after work and talking Tinder dates. And yes, it looks fun. But actually? You need fellow parents who have your back, supply coffee and can sympathise with the sheer agony of missing the bedtime routine.

4. You get blindsided by emotion

Regularly and aggressively. It comes out of nowhere and the triggers are everywhere. Other kids, songs, posters in Wholefoods (just me?). You wonder what they’re doing, if they miss you, how many poos they’ve had. In the first few weeks, it’s unbearable. The answer? See point two.

5. Your kid is having a brilliant time

Truly. You and your partner are suffering, they’re killing it at peekaboo and painting. So don’t worry so much. Enjoy lunch hours, dirty nappy respite and office gossip. Remember that being a parent doesn’t end with parental leave. Enjoy your job. They’re good, you’re good, it’s all good - or it will be (promise).


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