There is something about trains – they are so good for perspective. I think it’s the masses of anonymous people all just getting on with it. 

Over the last week, I’ve been internally obsessing about my feelings about my return to work…I’ve been waiting for the depression to set in – the first week back is meant to be hard, you’re meant to be sad, you’re not meant to cope. Real mums feel gutted to be away from their babies…surely doom and gloom was on my horizon. 

I’ll admit, I went to bed, on the night before my first day back, feeling a teenctiny bit like a victim who was being subjected to this awful system where I HAD to work…like the world was going to end in the morning when I set foot outside of the house….babyless. What kind of mum goes babyless. The whole point of “mumming” is to have baby in tow.

…and then I got on the train on Monday morning. Wow. Instant reality check. A jam packed train. Full of lots of people with lots of personal stories, all going to work. None of them appearing to be bothered by my internal Chicken-Little-sky-falling-in feelings.

How many of them left babies at home? How many of them were on their first day back after being on maternity leave I wonder? (It didn’t look like any…but it’s harder to spot a returning-to-work-mum than it is to spot a mum-to-be – there are badges when you’re growing the baby, but after they arrive…you’re just one of the crowd again). 

But that’s not the point is it – the point is, that they all left somebody behind, and they will all be coming home to somebody later, and meals will need to be cooked and washing done, and work finished and life lived. They are all husbands and wives and mums and dads and they all just got on the train and got on with it.

After a week back at work, sharing the train with these people, every morning and every night, that is my lesson – being a great Mum doesn’t mean being with my girl all the time. Of course it doesn’t! Where I summoned that ridiculous notion from I don’t know. Or actually, I do…

It comes from the unspoken glances or pity filled conversations with others. The ones where you say you’re going back to work soon, and they say things like “ooooh, are you going back full time, that will be really hard” or “how are you going to cope?” or “5 days a week – that means no time for your daughter” or, personal favourite “.” 

It’s also in the awful unspoken looks of sympathy and sometimes, the looks of pity – “shame, she works full time”, their looks will say. You don’t ask for these looks, you don’t necessarily even honestly feel the things that the looks tell you, but if you see enough faces pitying you, something in the back of your mind makes you start to believe that maybe your situation needs to be pitied.

It’s these things that make for the overwhelming sense of mum guilt. They make you feel like going back to work is a bad thing. And worse still, they make you put the notion that you might actually WANT to be back at work (even if just a couple of days a week), in a deep dark place at the back of your mind.

Well I’m calling BS on all of it! I have to be honest, one week in, and I feel great. I feel like I have reclaimed an old part of my pre-mum self that I thought was gone. I thought I had to let that part go to make room for the mum part, but that’s just not true at all! As it turns out, I can be all parts of me – I just have to make some changes to accommodate all my priorities.

For me, in the week, being mum now means early wake ups (probably earlier than I would like) and rushed trips home to make it back for bath time. It’s not an ideal situation, but if I put my phone away, and clear my mind of other worldly distractions, the couple of hours that I spend with my girl, morning and evening, are probably more focused and special than the ones some people who get the whole lazy day with their kids. 

So for all you mums going back to work at some stage soon….however much or little, here’s my advice –

Don’t feel bad about it! Seriously, just don’t. You’re allowed to go back to work without feeling guilty. You’re even allowed to go back to work and feel proud to be a working mum. You can even be so bold as to love it…right from day one! Scandalous, I know!

Plan some good childcare so that you feel confident to leave your baby behind, put on your big girl panties that first morning, (and maybe pack a couple of tissues), and then head back to work knowing that you deserve to be both Mum, and the old parts of your pre-mum self. Know too that you’re not loving your baby less by being away – you just have to find more concentrated ways of showing them that love when you’re with them….hello early mornings together! 

Of course it feels weird at first to be without bub in the day, and of course I miss her, but there is definitely a part of me that is liberated by the freedom of having a couple of hours a day where people call me Niki instead of calling me Mum. Where I use my brain to think about work things and not all the baby routine things. 

After only a week back at work, I already I feel so lucky to be able to work out a balance to be both of those things…long may that last!

This article originally appeared on www.beingmumme.com.  If you liked what you read here, you can find more articles just like this one on that site.

Published by Niki Edwards