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Nothing can prepare you for the arrival of your first-born child. The instant unconditional love, the knowledge that your heart and happiness is integrally connected to the wellbeing of your child, the sleepless nights and exhaustion, the worry, the frustration, the magic: everything as you once knew it changed forever in the most extraordinary way.
I went into labour ten days after my son’s due date. We spent the first week in hospital, before we finally got to bring him home. The first six weeks were very intense, as little Wilfred (‘Wolfie’ for short) struggled to feed. When he continued to lose weight, we finally saw a lactation specialist who confirmed that he had tongue tie. Once we had that sorted out, he started to feed well, gain weight and sleep better. Everything felt lighter and easier.
I slowly got more confident and adventurous with my little companion, taking him for long walks in the forest, coffee dates with fellow mammas and attending music sessions at our local library.
About a month before I was due to return to work after 11 months of maternity leave, I had a call with a colleague at IDP Connect. I’d undergone such a huge life transition and was frankly very nervous about how my return to work would be. From that very first Zoom call, however, I was reassured I’d be 100% supported for my return and that they’d work with me to ensure it’s an easy and successful transition. I also had a meeting with my new manager before I officially returned to work who was also incredibly kind and sensitive to my needs as a soon-to-be working mum.
The first day Wolfie attended nursery was bittersweet with tears shed by both Wolfie and me. My husband and I waved him goodbye, as we nervously sat at a nearby coffee shop hoping all goes well.
Soon enough he settled in and work officially started up for me again.
I met my new team online and even though it would be months before meeting in person, we soon developed a fantastic working relationship.
One of the most surprising parts of returning to work has been how much I’ve appreciated and enjoyed the sense of balance that work offers. I love the fact that I’m first and foremost a mum, but I also love that I can use my brain in a different adult-centred way at work. As a mum, I spend my time living in the moment, engaging in and initiating play, ensuring Wolfie’s needs are always met, nurturing, conversing and deciphering sentences, organising, doing house chores, prepping meals and trying to instill routine. At work, I put on a completely different cap that includes strategising around content plans with other adults, analysing trends, conducting interviews, writing copy, creating thought-leadership articles and trying to outdo my colleagues with GIFs!
I use a completely different skillset as a mum to what I use in my working life and I love the balance this gives me. I think it’s important to feel positive about your work and to show that openly to your child. I hope that as Wolfie grows older, he will know that I enjoy and cherish what I do for a living.
Another somewhat surprising part of motherhood is that I’ve become more efficient in all parts of my life, including work.
My time before and after work is mostly dedicated to Wolfie’s needs, so while I’m at work I know I must work as efficiently as possible to stay on top of my to-do list. I now also only work four days a week, spending the fifth with Wolfie, so I’ve learnt to work smarter, to stay more organised and to prioritise better, all ironically also skills honed by becoming a mum.
When it comes to exercise, I have to be stricter with myself. Carving out time for exercise with a busy toddler around can be tricky business - I find the best time to make it work is to sneak in a run or walk over my lunch break, often easier said than done.
The juggling act
Having a baby during the time of COVID certainly came with its challenges. I think the hardest part for my husband and me was not being able to see our families who live in South Africa. While Wolfie has a whole community of doting grandparents, uncles, aunties and friends back home, he wasn't able to meet most of them for much too long. I’m happy to report that my husband’s parents were finally able to visit last Christmas and we were able to return to South Africa in March this year for the first time since Wolfie was born, a very happy moment for all of us!
Wolfie’s nursery was extremely strict when it came to anything COVID related. At the slightest cough or temperature, the little ones were sent home and could only return with a negative PCR test. As a result, there were countless days of having to juggle work with childcare.
The work-childcare juggle has probably been the most stressful part of being a working mum, however, my team has been nothing but supportive during these times, which I’ll be forever grateful for.
Happy at work
Overall, being a working mum so far has been a very positive experience. I think what contributes to this is that I love what I do, which often entails turning data trends into compelling narratives and creating content that appeals to leaders within institutions. Most of all though, it’s the support, understanding and trust I get from my team that makes me a very content working mummy to my little Wolfie.