I remember sitting at home before coming back, filled with a combination of excitement, anticipation and slight anxiety, questioning how it would all work and whether I would or could cope.
This probably isn’t a million miles away from the thoughts hundreds of other mothers have before returning from maternity and remembering that, gave me comfort as I prepared to dive back into the world of corporate communications at a global law firm.
So one year on, here are five things I’ve learnt since returning:
1) I have multi-tasking down to an art - 10 months at home with demanding twins gave me all the training I needed to be doing or thinking two or more things at once. It’s amazing how much your brain can actually process and get done.
2) Strict start and finish times due to childcare mean I have to be ruthless about stripping out things from my day which don’t make me productive or do not add value to the work I’m involved in. That can be hard sometimes, but I remind myself that I have to stay focussed on activities that will really deliver something meaningful. But it’s also about appreciating that there needs to be a degree of flexibility, from both sides, and if you have that, alongside an agile working mindset, hopefully you can find a way of making it work for everyone.
3) It’s refreshing and revitalising to use that part of my brain that isn’t focused on baby sensory classes or concocting interesting weaning recipes. Whilst baby brain may or may not be a real thing, experience and expertise is like riding a bicycle - the knowledge comes flooding back. It seems that 10 months off and twins wasn’t enough to erase all the information about the world of financial regulation!
4) Everyone has an opinion, whether that’s colleagues in the office, friends and family or random strangers in the street. And it’s on everything from whether you’re going back to work too soon, doing too many/too little hours or on your childcare options. It’s easy to get caught up in this but you have to do what’s right for you, your health and your family.
5) I can’t have it all - this idea of ‘having it all’ is nonsense. I’ve made peace with the fact that some days I will be awesome at my job and others not so much or some days I have enough energy to go to networking events as opposed to wanting to slump on the sofa and watch Peppa Pig on repeat with the little ones.
Nothing is perfect and I sometimes don’t quite strike the happy work-life balance I’d like, but I’m still standing- absolutely exhausted on some days but still standing.
So, if I have any advice, it’s to make sure you’re in a job you enjoy, one that makes you happy and surround yourself with people who understand your story; it will make life so much easier.
Surinder Sian is the PR & communications manager at Linklaters LLP