Having given birth to my little girl, Hilde, last July, I was often asked how I manage to balance motherhood and work. This was the moment when I began to realise that I wasn’t balancing the two that well. Much of this relates to the expectations towards me when it comes to being there for Little Tummy as well as for my daughter. These are mainly my own expectations but they are often formed by those things that I read and hear on an everyday basis. It struck me that I was very good at giving advice to parents at my practice but that I had neglected to follow that same advice for myself as a mother.
This realisation prompted me to focus on the Maternal Mental Health Month as an opportunity to change things for the better. So here I am, writing this after putting my daughter to bed, whilst waiting for the laundry to finish and our dinner to cook. I have highlighted three things that I have learned over the past year and explained how I will try to make changes:
1 Take your time - but dare to take that first step
Every mother feels differently about the right time to go back to work or even something like going out for the first walk after birth! It is important to give yourself that gentle nudge and encourage yourself to do it - you will find that it is easier than you imagine! I felt that I should give the impression that I had never been absent so I was eager to make my first appearance back with Little Tummy. I can barely remember that first meeting as naturally I was still in a haze of Hilde and hormones. In retrospect, however, I am pleased I made the effort as the next meeting was so much easier and from them on I found myself more able to develop a better routine.
2 Have a programme but give yourself a little flexibility
I had thought working from home with a baby to care for would be easy as after all they sleep much of the day and meetings can be done via phone or video conferencing. I found it very helpful to make a list at the start of each week to structure my days and to prioritise tasks. But then, as babies are not predictable, I had to learn to navigate my way around skipped nap times and days of teething. It is important to be realistic and to accept that compromises have to be made.
3 Talk to your partner and do ask for help
Something that has helped me tremendously over the past year is not only to talk to my husband but also to my close family and friends about the challenges. They have been amazingly supportive, from taking time off work to come to events with me to looking after Hilde so I could take a shower or just those simple thoughtful touches such as checking in and asking how I am. These acts of kindness help me to push away those negative feelings that can arise when people question my commitment to my company or my child.
Inevitably it is still very much a work in progress and some days are better than others. Ultimately, it is a case of being kinder to ourselves as parents and being equally kind to other parents. We are all in this together in trying to provide the very best future for our children and ultimately for the planet.