Much is written about the dilemma of returning to work once you have a baby. Will you be able to afford the childcare? Will you be able to arrange flexible working hours to suit your family? Will your child grow up to be Norman Bates because you are not giving them your undivided attention 24 hours a day?
All valid questions indeed. However, as a female human who has recently spawned offspring and now finds herself returning work, I feel that not enough has been written about the real benefits of doing so.
I’m not talking about the financial benefits here, or even the benefits of your child growing up knowing that Mummy is more than just a combined feeding/cleaning unit whose consumption of vast amounts of Dairy Milk is likely keeping Cadbury’s solvent – I’m talking about the benefits that you only realise exist (or at least, are only willing to believe exist) once you are in this situation.
So in order to tip the balance back towards truth, here are my top five benefits of returning to work after having a baby.
1. You can actually drink hot tea.
When you are used to drinking your tea cold, or with a toy digger sunk in it, or stewed beyond recognition (because your baby, aka Captain Irrational, has decided he’s not tired after eight solid hours of climbing the furniture and is refusing to nap without you shushing him for forty minutes), drinking a proper hot cup of tea is beyond bliss.
2. Time spent working genuinely qualifies as ‘me time’.
As someone who, pre-baby, was never that into ‘quiet alone time’, I now relish every opportunity I can get to sit in a silent room, on my own, without being interrupted approximately every three seconds. Despite working being less relaxing than, say, sitting in the sun by a pool with a cocktail, it’s still vastly more relaxing than anything involving a baby.
3. You can pretend you’re a normal human when out and about.
When I go to work meetings these days, one of the parts that I genuinely enjoy is the commute. Whether it’s a cross-country train journey to another city or just a walk to a client’s office, I am now filled with covert glee at the fact that to anyone who walks past me, I am just a woman in a jacket carrying a laptop case. Rather than how they usually see me, as yet another one of those inconsiderate, pram-pushing, in-everyone’s-way, baby-effluent-covered pain in the arses also known as ‘mothers’.
4. You finally realise how productive you really are.
I spend a significant proportion of my life as a mummy feeling crap about the things I haven’t got around to doing. You know – cleaning the bathroom, writing christmas cards, functioning as an adult, that sort of thing. Returning to work requires such a fine balancing act to fit everything else in that you literally don’t have time to procrastinate, and as a result you become extraordinarily efficient. A work task that would have taken me weeks to finish pre-baby can now be cracked in one extremely productive day. (It should be noted however, that I still don’t clean the bathroom often enough – there’s only so much productivity one person can fit in.)
5. It makes you remember how awesome being a mummy really is.
OK, OK – I know how annoying it is that these types of lists always end on a puke-inducing ‘but it’s all worth it’ note (probably to make sure that social services realise it’s a joke and don’t swoop in and declare you an unfit mother), and here I am doing exactly that. But really, it’s not just the time spent apart that makes you appreciate your baby that little bit more (although don’t underestimate the power of a little distance to make you forget that at 5am this morning, your little bundle of joy was lovingly pulling your hair, biting your face and screaming in your ear). It’s the realisation that while work can be fulfilling, rewarding and yes, even fun – no client or boss is ever going to feel about you the way that your kid does: that you are the most important person in the whole wide world. And that’s pretty special.