Nicola Semple is the owner of Life After Maternity Leave, a service dedicated to supporting new or ‘new again’ parents as they make decisions about their life ‘after maternity leave’. Whether that be returning to work after maternity leave, becoming a stay at home mum or doing something different and setting up their own business. She is also the author of ‘How to be a stay at home mum: Stay sane, stay ‘you’ and enjoy your time at home with your child’
After the birth of her first child Nicola gave up a successful corporate career as a business change consultant working for large corporate organisations to become a stay at home mum. Over the next few weeks she will be sharing her story with Parental Choice about being a stay at home mum, deciding to go back to work flexibly and finding a childcare solution that worked for her and her family.
When I first decided to be a stay at home mum, many people I spoke to told me how lucky I was and that it would be just like a big long maternity leave. And I suppose the first month or so was just like a continuation of my maternity leave. But very quickly thereafter things changed.
So, ‘what do you do?’
First of all I was no longer on maternity leave, so when people asked the question ‘what do you do?, my response was ‘I’m a mum and I stay at home with my child’ and to begin with that felt very, very odd.
I had gone for so long being an employee, a person of status, a person of perceived worth(!) that suddenly it felt odd to be labelling myself as ‘just a mum’.
Where did all the money go?
At the end of the first month, rather than having a nice deposit of statutory maternity pay into my bank account, all I had to look forward to was a diminishing bank balance and no plans to replenish the funds.
That also felt incredibly strange, for the first time since I was 15 I was no longer financially independent and there wasn’t any pay packet attached to the hardest job I had ever undertaken.
Where did all my friends go?
Also, round about this time, the friends that I had made while on maternity leave started to return to work. One of the nicest things about being on maternity leave had been the circle of friends that I had built up in my local community.
But one by one they started going back to their previous jobs, reclaiming some independence and were no longer available for tea, cake and playdates at any time of the day or the week.
Where did my baby go?
And the biggest change of all, happened about six weeks into my new role of Stay at Home Mum. My daughter started to walk. I was no longer mum to a baby….. I was mum to a toddler….. and I was soon to realise that was a whole different kettle of fish.
They tend to have a mind of their own, like to stick to a specific routine and let you know about it when that routine is knocked out in any way, they’re not so happy about playing down on the floor while you have a chat with friends, they want to be entertained and have very specific preferences about where and when.
Altogether a much more tricky proposition than a baby who is happy to go with the flow and fit in with what’s going on round about them.
The toddler world
It was then that the guilt kicked in. Had I done the right thing? Would my daughter be better off if I had gone back to work and I’d left her in the care of professionals who knew how to do this properly!
It took me a while to get used to the toddler world. I made peace with the fact that I was going to have to spend quite a bit of time hanging out in soft play areas and at toddler groups….. a whole new sticky, noisy world which I can’t say I embraced wholeheartedly to begin with but I got there in the end.
I also started to make a new circle of friends with other mothers who had also decided to stay at home with their children. Through talking to them I realised I wasn’t alone and that we were all sharing similar thoughts, fears and worries and ultimately doing what we think is the best thing for our children and surely nobody could ask us to do any more than that.