“I had recently read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I thought the world was my oyster. Motherhood had given me drive and focus like never before. Unfortunately my boss didn’t see it the same way.” Juliet Forsyth on returning to work after maternity leave…
Juliet Forsyth, 34, lives in north London with her two-year-old daughter and five-month-old son.
“Deep down I always thought I’d have a family but I didn’t have a perfect age or plan of when to start. I stopped taking the pill and about six months later had a miscarriage. Six months after that I was pregnant with our daughter and when she was 14 months I conceived our son.
I really enjoyed both births. The first was 16 hours and most of it at home and the second was four hours. Most of that was at hospital. I felt well informed about childbirth but not from the normal sources. We did antenatal classes which were very factual but I felt like that was only one part of it. I did hypnobirthing classes, yoga classes, spoke to a doula, learnt about homeopathy, researched about the physiology of birth. That’s how I came to a more holistic view of childbirth. Then I felt like I knew the full picture of birth.
The early days with my firstborn were happy days. I was in a complete bubble and completely in love. This lasted till about four months in. Then I woke up and everything was a bit more real!
It wasn’t difficult in the beginning but by four months things got real with both babies. The sleepless nights. The hormonal changes. The routine of two little people. No longer does my little baby fall asleep at the sight of a sling or boob! I also started to understand that growing up is a tough ride for babies. As a parent I thought I could protect my babies from any and everything. I was torn apart when I started to realise that sometimes I couldn’t stop my child from being hurt, sore, upset. I felt like I had failed. I felt guilty.
What makes it all worthwhile is the smiles, the cuddles, the laughs, the love
However, it helped to talk to other mums and read more about the radical amount of change little people go through in such a short space of time. I started to see all the amazing accomplishments my baby was making and understood it was all a perfect/imperfect design. Then things started to fall into place. I hit my stride in being completely supportive of my children and how or whenever they needed me. I made peace with it and thankfully myself!
I intended to go back to the same place of employment after my year of maternity leave. When I spoke to my boss about going back to work I was gunning for a promotion. My partner was looking after my daughter full time and I had recently read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I thought the world was my oyster. Motherhood had given me drive and focus like never before. Unfortunately my boss didn’t see it the same way and told me I needed to prove I could handle the expectations of full time work and motherhood before any promotions came my way. Her comments stung so much I decided to leave and get another job.
I’m a teacher so I went back to work at the beginning of the school year in September. Initially, I constantly missed my daughter and any time that I wasn’t with her ripped at my heart. However, I started to get back into the swing of working again and really took pride in what I did. I definitely was doing it better than before I had a child. My time management skills were second to none and the motivation to make my family proud was huge. Any time I had with my daughter was precious and work came second.
When I was working I was ruthlessly efficient and wouldn’t dare waste time on anything that would keep me unnecessarily away from my baby longer than needed. I prioritised everything against my family. The social aspect of working, which had previously been so important to me, sort of fell away. On my return to work, I didn’t realise how much I had missed adult conversation. Talk about something other than a baby was very refreshing. Having something of my own, like my career, was so nice to go back to. It was like a familiar world compared to the new realm of motherhood which I was/am still a novice at.
Since becoming parents, my partner and I are a lot more duty bound. Before we just enjoyed each other. Now we are bound to each other and our children. There is a deeper layer to our union that wasn’t there before.
I’ve been most surprised by how little sleep I can still function on!
There’s nothing I wish I’d been told before embarking on parenthood. I think some things are best discovered. But if I could go back in time, I would have appreciated the freedom of life before children more. I would have more drive and not underestimated my own abilities.
My advice to expectant parents? Find out as much as you can and then do it your own way. Use a birth coach to help you find out exactly what you want and how to get it.
The greatest challenge I face, as a mother, is making my children proud of me. I read a saying somewhere about giving children a childhood they don’t have to spend their adulthood getting over.”