Starting back at work after a year-long maternity leave is tough. I survived the first week and am trying to wrap my head around the fact that this life is my new normal. One thing I’m starting to realize is that maternity leave was a bit like a bubble.
At the beginning of maternity leave, it feels like you’re living inside a brand new, tiny bubble. The walls of the bubble are thick and there isn’t much room in there. It’s ok, though, because you don’t need much room. It’s just you and your new baby, really. Sometimes dad or older siblings make their way in, but for the most part, it’s just mom and baby.
As time goes on, your bubble grows. You start leaving the house again and seeing friends and family. More people fit inside your bubble and the walls get a little less blurry. But still, you’re separated from real life by a pretty thick film.
The bubble grows some more as your baby gets older and more independent. You may actually get to leave the house without the baby (gasp!) and you start doing more activities. You go out for coffee with other moms and babies. At this point, you start to notice the rest of the world carrying on with work, commuting and all the other regular things that real people do. Still, though, you aren’t really doing it yourself.
Then, no matter how prepared you are, that bubble suddenly bursts. Your baby is separated from you, at daycare or with another caregiver. You find yourself standing on a subway platform waiting for your train. You’re wearing make up. And nylons. You shuffle along in a sea of other people on their way to work, like the march of the penguins. And then, there you are, sitting at a desk with a huge, blinding computer screen in front of you and a bunch of fresh pens. An IT guy hands you a blackberry that you can’t remember how to use and mumbles something about remote login.
It goes without saying that returning to work after having a baby is hard. It’s a different, bigger, louder world than what I am used to. Everyone has been saying, “in a couple of weeks, it will feel like you never left.” They are probably right. But for now, I miss my bubble.