The Last Day: Returning to work after maternity leave

the last day

This is it. After over 13 months of maternity leave I return to my job as a Modern Languages teacher tomorrow (we go back to school crazy early here in Scotland!). Although I’ve been off work for over a year it feels like the time to go back has come round so quickly. It wasn’t helped by the fact that a month ago I still didn’t have a job to go back to – it was only two weeks ago that I interviewed for and was offered a new job in a new school and with a different council, so the end of maternity leave hasn’t been entirely stress-free!

I have such mixed emotions about going back to work – on the one hand I’m looking forward to going back to work. I enjoy my job (most of the time!) and I’m looking forward to doing something that involves using a bit more brain power for a change. And I got to buy some new clothes too. But on the other hand, I’m going to miss Toby so much. It makes me so sad to think someone other than me will be looking after him. And because he’s going to nursery full-time he’s actually going to be spending more time with the people at nursery than he is with me and Barry. I know though, that he’s going to get so much out of being there and playing with all the other babies. He’s had three settling in sessions this week; we went for an hour last week and I stayed with him and then he was there on his own for two hours on Monday, three hours on Tuesday and then a full day (7am-4:30pm) on Wednesday as a proper practice for what we’ll be doing next week.

And I’m relieved to say he seems to have taken to it remarkably well. I was quite worried about it as no-one has ever looked after Toby except me and Barry (apart from a couple of times when we’ve been out in the evening but that’s always been after he’s been in bed). He’s been fine at nursery though – we did pick up a very tired and slightly grumpy boy on Tuesday when they couldn’t get him to have a nap but he managed two naps on Wednesday (albeit much shorter ones than he would have at home) so I’m hopeful that he’ll settle into a routine soon enough. He’s been eating well at least and they managed OK with his cloth nappies too, although I might have to give them a few more fitting lessons yet!

So, it seems Toby is going to be all right at nursery so that just leaves me. For the fourth time in five years I will be starting the new year at a new school. I really wish I was going back to the school I was at before my maternity leave. It was a small school and I knew most of the kids and had fitted in well with all the teachers and other staff too. It’s always hard to start a new job but as a teacher you don’t get any time to settle in and find your feet. Fortunately the first day is in-service day so at least I’ll have chance to see what classes I’m teaching and find my way about a bit but from Tuesday I have to be on it. I need to at least pretend I know what I’m doing from the very beginning or it’ll take months to get the kids to accept me. There are so many things to learn going to a new school. Every school seems to have a different way of doing things, from where the pencils are kept, to what you need to do to get a brew at break time! I know it’ll all be fine in a couple of weeks but for now, I’m really not looking forward to that aspect of starting my new job.

The only other thing then, that I’m trying not to worry about, is that my new job means that both me and Barry will be working on the other side of the Forth Road Bridge to where we live, and more importantly on the other side to Toby’s nursery. In severe weather the bridge can be closed, or if there is an accident or breakdown this can cause massive delays so I’m really worried in case we both get stuck on the wrong side of the bridge and we can’t collect Toby. Not having any family near by means there isn’t anyone we can call on in an emergency. At a push my friend Claire could probably get him but she has her own twins to look after too. Hopefully it will never come to that, but it doesn’t stop it being something that is going to sit at the back of my mind. Before having Toby I never would have thought that going to work could involve so much stress and worry.

So anyway, it’s going to be a big change for us all over the next few weeks, and I have a feeling that blogging is going to have to take a bit of a back seat for a while. Don’t worry though, I’ll still be around and I’ll try to post a few updates when I can. If anyone has any tips for combining a full-time job with being a mum then please do let me know, I think I’m going to need all the help I can get!

I’m going back to work (and my worries about nursery)

I’ve been on maternity leave for 13 months now – I’m a teacher and a conveniently timed pregnancy meant I started my maternity leave at the beginning of the summer holidays last year. It was always my intention to return to work after a year but I was only on a temporary contract before my maternity leave and unfortunately, although I was successfully interviewed there were no posts available for Modern Languages teachers in the council where I was working previously. In this council everyone has one interview with the council and then they allocate people to the available jobs, rather than the decisions being made by individual schools.

Staffing requirements can often change over the summer holidays which means a job may come up once the schools start back in a few weeks (and this is what has happened to me every other year I’ve been teaching) but this year, with childcare to organise, just hanging around and hoping something came up wasn’t ideal. I can go on the supply register, but again I wouldn’t be able to make myself available at short notice because of having to arrange someone to look after Toby. We don’t have any family nearby so it’s not like I can just ask my mum to pop up the 250 miles to look after Toby so I can go to work for a day!

Anyway, it was starting to look like I might not be going back to work after all. We told the nursery we wouldn’t be able to take up the place we’d reserved for Toby and after doing some sums we worked out that although we wouldn’t have a lot to spare, we could manage on just one wage. But then I saw jobs advertised in two schools in a different council. They were a bit further away than I’d like ideally but I had to take a chance and apply for them. I was selected for interview for both jobs and had the first one today….and they offered me the post!!

I’m very pleased to be going back to work – I love being at home with Toby but I’ve been surprised just how much I’ve missed my job over the last year. But it’s really scary to think that in two and a half weeks I’ll be back at work full time (Scottish schools go back mid-August). And even scarier is that my little baby boy is going to have to go to nursery full time in a couple of weeks too. Luckily the place was still available at the nursery we had chosen so he’ll be going there. He’ll be doing some settling in sessions very soon and I really hope he manages to get used to it quickly. miss him I know, when I think about it logically, that nursery will be really good for Toby. He’ll get to socialise with other children, he’ll get to do so many more activities than he would if he was at home with me all the time…but but but…..I wish he didn’t have to go. Nobody has ever looked after him apart from me and his dad (apart from a couple of times when we’ve had babysitters while he’s been asleep) and I can’t imagine him spending more time with the nursery workers than he does with us. I feel so sad that someone else might witness his first steps, or his first proper words. I’m so worried that he’ll get upset and I won’t be there to comfort him. I feel like he’s too little to understand what’s going on, and I can’t explain to him why I can’t be there.

Toby woke up from his nap just after I got the call this afternoon to say I had got the job and I went upstairs and gave him a cuddle and I cried for all the cuddles I’m going to miss. I know, really, that I’m doing the right thing, and I’m sure Toby will love nursery soon enough. (And if our plans work out the way we hope it will only be for a year and then, hopefully, I’ll be on maternity leave again…and after that, who knows.) For now though I need to start organising and working out how I’m going to fit in all the chores around a full time job. And I’ve got two and half weeks to fit in as many cuddles as I can!

Back to work

Back to work

Did you know that if you are on maternity leave you may be able work up to ten Keeping In Touch (or KIT) days, which you should be paid for, without it affecting your Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)? These days are optional and must be agreed in advance with your employer. I am fortunate that the council I work for allows KIT days and pays a full day’s salary for each day worked. As a teacher it is important that I keep up to date with what is happening in my profession, and this is even more important this year as new qualifications are introduced into Scottish secondary schools.

I worked one KIT day in November on an in service day. I got to attend some meetings with other languages teachers which was really useful. When I was planning my next KIT days I was keen to have a day in school actually teaching so I arranged to go in on a day when one of the other languages teachers was going to be out of school so I could cover her classes. As it happened this was the day before another in service day so I agreed I would work that day too.

Me going into work for two days meant that the hubby had to take two days off work to look after Toby. My mum has offered to come up and stay and look after Toby but I was a bit worried that she had never looked after him on her own before. Having had two kids of her own I’m sure she is perfectly capable but the trouble with living 250 miles away is that Toby has only actually met his grandparents five or six times, and although he’s always seemed perfectly happy with my mum I’m not sure how he would be on his own with her all day without me or his dad around. The other worry I have is that my mum has a bit of a bad back. Most of the time it’s fine but it’s one of those bad backs that can just ‘go’. Toby isn’t a tiny baby any more and I worry that if my mum had to pick him up all day and her back went she’d be stuck, unable to get him off the floor or out of his cot. So anyway, the hubby booked his two days off work and I got ready to go back to the chalkface.

I don’t know if it makes me a terrible mother but I was actually looking forward to a couple of baby-free days! I would be teaching some of the same kids I had last year and I was keen to make sure I hadn’t forgotten what I was doing. And do you know what, it was as if I’d never been away! I even remembered all the kids’ names. I really enjoyed teaching again and I was glad the kids listened to me and didn’t give me too much bother.

The hubby, on the other hand wasn’t so lucky. My two days at work just happened to coincide with Toby’s first two teeth cutting through, both at the same time, leading to a very grumpy and upset baby. He was ill when I went into school in November too. Maybe he just knows that I’m not going to be there so makes life hard for his dad!

I’ve not planned my next KIT day yet. I don’t think I’ll be doing all ten – although I’d like to, it means the hubby using up a lot of his annual leave just to stay at home looking after Toby. I’d rather he saved them so we can have time together as a whole family. Although I enjoyed my days back at school I’m not sure I’m going to like it quite as much when I have to go back to work full time in August. Leaving Toby with his dad for a couple of days is a very different prospect to leaving him at nursery five days a week. But for now I’m going to make the most of my odd days back at work and remember what it is like to be me and not just Toby’s mum.