Hello all, I’m Holly Pither, a PR professional, mum to baby Amelia (nine months old), blogger and currently on maternity leave. Though not for much longer.
When I announced I was pregnant and people asked me how I felt about becoming a mum I also responded that I was ecstatic. However what I didn’t tell them was the real feeling that used to hit me when they asked this; utter fear. Oh, but I wasn’t fearful about putting on weight, swollen ankles or feeling tired. I wasn’t even anxious about the long and painful birth, rather, I was fearful about leaving my job in public relations, if only for a short while.
It’s embarrassing to admit this and in many ways I always felt it made me look like a bad mummy before I had even started. However happy I was, I couldn’t shake this deep-rooted fear of how I would deal with my time off* on maternity leave. I just couldn’t work out how I would let go, pass over the reins to a maternity cover, and worst of all, whether I could deal with going from PR professional, to simply being ‘mum’. In short I was terrified of going off on maternity leave.
*By the way, I should just caveat that ‘time off’ is completely the wrong term of phrase here. I’m nine months into maternity leave and I can assure you having a baby is far from ‘time off’ – more like ‘time always on,’ but for want of a better phrase I will leave it as it is.
I felt incredibly alone in these fears. I couldn’t find anyone writing about this issue of maternity leave anxiousness, and it is never discussed in the pregnancy books or at antenatal classes. None of my friends seemed to mention it either… was I just not cut out to be a mummy because I was too focused on my career? Could I really love both my baby and my career?
There are women all over the world panicking about letting go, anxious about going off on maternity leave, fearful over losing their identity when they stop working – and all the time feeling guilty about these emotions.
It was only about two weeks before I was due to give birth that I decided to be honest and commit my very biggest fears to paper (or rather to screen) in the form of my mummy blog, that I realised I’m not the only one feeling like this. There are women all over the world panicking about letting go, anxious about going off on maternity leave, fearful over losing their identity when they stop working – and all the time feeling guilty about these emotions. Yet it is like the elephant in the room and something no one is willing to admit to for fear of people judging.
I have always loved my career in PR. I have also, up until relatively recently, believed that my career defines me, makes me into the professional that I am, even makes me the person I am. So how would I cope if I couldn’t do what defines me on a daily basis? How would I continue to be me? How would I deal with losing my identity? What will I talk about at dinner parties or social events if I don’t have my career to fall back on? All these questions I agonised over in the run up to my maternity leave, resulting in my last few months being stressful and emotional.
But now, as I enter into my ninth month of maternity leave and having had my beautiful baby girl, I have realised that what defines me is not, in fact, my career. Rather, it is my deep rooted values that define me. I am me, whatever job or role I do, whether this is being a mum or a PR consultant. And these values won’t change whether I am at work or at home. They will remain intrinsic in me until my return to work and help me every day as I practice my new (very difficult) job as a mum. Not to mention the skills I have picked up along the way of being a parent which I can take back to my workplace, such as patience, the ability to meet new people, being able to think on my feet, the requirement to put in all the hours of everyday no matter how tired I am, and of course the skill of multitasking.
I love my job because it is hard and because it stretches me. But so too does being a parent, and perhaps even more so than I ever imagined. There really is no harder job on the planet and certainly nothing you feel so invested in. And in time (actually in no time at all) I will return to work and I’m sure I will go through a whole host of new emotions trying to make both work together and the term, ‘being stretched’, will take on a whole new meaning.
it’s definitely ok to love your career and love your baby.
But until then, what does it feel like ‘just being mum?’ Well never before have I felt a blog name to be more relevant to me. Because well, “I am so much more than a mutha!” And as I continue this journey into motherhood, I am so relieved to know that I am not alone in my fears. So let’s talk about the elephant in the room and address this stigma of maternity leave fear, because it’s ok to be scared about going off on maternity leave and it’s definitely ok to love your career and love your baby.
Holly Pither is a new mum to baby Amelia and similarly new to the blogging world. She started her blog when she first went off on maternity leave. Unlike many of her friends, Holly was very fearful of going off on maternity leave, scared about losing her identity and panicked about just being mum. She writes all about the trials and tribulations of maternity leave and finds it very therapeutic. In her day job Holly is a PR associate director at an agency in Oxford, England. She loves her job and she loves her baby. It is her belief that all parents can love both their kids and their career and, with the right flexibility, neither should suffer.