Returning to work after maternity leave is tough

By Jen Gouthro

I went back to work last week after 14 months away from office life. The maternity leave police showed up at my door and said, “Sorry lady, this party is over.” They made me hand over my sweat pants and hair elastics in exchange for high heels and makeup. I accepted them begrudgingly, realizing I would now have to spend more than five minutes getting ready in the morning. They also gave me a quick debrief on how to put pantyhose on, which I appreciated because I had completely forgotten about those hellish contraptions.

Topics : 
Toronto , Cape Breton , Dominion

Of course the biggest part of going back to work is saying goodbye to spending practically every minute with the twins. Friends recommended I ask our new nanny, Janet, to start coming before I went back to work so we could all adjust to this change. This proved to be an excellent idea. I spent more and more time away from the apartment every day so the twins could get used to being with Janet and I could get used to things like peeing alone. It also helped me experience some of that working mom guilt before I went back to work, preventing any major breakdowns in the office. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Everyone deserves a good work cry occasionally.) Both Gavin and Lauren really like Janet so I don’t have any worries about their care.
The night before I went back to work, I updated my Facebook status to say my maternity leave was over. (I’m not an avid Facebook poster, but I figure if I only post major life updates I won’t bore anyone.) Reading through people’s comments, you would swear I was going in for major surgery the next day. And not a good surgery, like a tummy tuck or liposuction or something. It was all, “Good luck/I hope you survive/You’ll get through it,” etc.
There is a real “back to reality” mentality about going back to work after maternity leave, as if the year away from work is all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. However, I do have a few friends who are quick to admit being at work is far easier than being at home with their kids, because you get a lunch break, a bathroom break and a coffee break. Basically you get a break. Stay-at-home moms, I salute you!
I dragged myself through that first week of work. I like my job, and I’m not just saying that because my boss reads this column occasionally. (Hi, Ruth!) I really do like what I do and I like the people I work with very much. I guess it didn’t help that I had a terrible cold and I had grown accustomed to a mid-morning nap because the parenting experts all tell you — sleep when they sleep! — and naps aren’t a part of my work schedule. It also didn’t help to see Gavin, his little face pressed between the bars of the baby gate, looking all sad and forlorn as I walked out of the door that first morning. My heart flip-flopped in my chest but I managed to hold it together.
Normally when I write this column I look for connections or major differences between Toronto and Cape Breton, but on this topic I can’t see how my experience would be any different if I lived in Cape Breton. I’m sure every mother returning to work finds it a difficult transition, wherever she lives. Especially if she has to wear those damn pantyhose.
Jen Gouthro, a Dominion native, moved away from Cape Breton more than 16 years ago. She has lived in Antigonish, Banff, Maine and Windsor, Ont. and currently resides in Toronto. She can be reached at