Julie Helen: Mixed emotions as my maternity leave comes to an end

This week Julie Helen's maternity leave came to an end. In her weekly column in WoW! she wrote about the mix emotions about returning to work
Julie Helen: Mixed emotions as my maternity leave comes to an end

Ricky Helen.

I can scarcely believe this day has come. I have very mixed emotions about the end of this little era. On one hand, I am looking forward to returning to work and having adult interaction and contributing to my organisation again. On the other hand, I already know I will miss my tiny human a lot when I’m sitting in front of the laptop.

It’s important for me to work, it’s part of who I am. My maternity leave has had a huge impact on how I view myself, in a good way. I have always valued my work very highly. As a person with a disability, I wore the fact that I have a full time position as a badge of honour. I truly felt before becoming a mother that work was the thing that made me part of the “real world”. There were times in the last two years that I really felt I was floundering through my days. In 2018 in particular, I spent a lot of time travelling to and from Dublin engaging in very worthwhile projects but the travel was slowly killing my energy reserve. It was very difficult for me to say I found the travelling so challenging because it felt to me like I was making excuses.

Julie Helen and son Ricky.
Julie Helen and son Ricky.

I became pregnant and everything changed. It became easy to put my child first. Ricky was born and my heart exploded with love. I would have considered myself a very happy person before I became a mum but I didn’t really know what pure joy felt like. Joy is different to happiness. I can be having a really tough day and my little boy still brings joy.

Ricky was only shy of three months old when the first lockdown was enforced. We have been to his grandparents and aunts and uncles houses but nowhere else. My experience of maternity leave has been very different to what I expected it would be. We have been at home in a small bubble. I feel I have missed out on interactions with other mums apart from a few lucky encounters early on. Ricky is flying it, lockdown has given him undivided attention.

The good thing about the way my maternity leave played out is I got to be exactly the kind of mother I want to be, without anyone passing judgement or watching. I didn’t feel I had to keep up with anyone else or prove myself to anyone. My husband, mum, dad, brothers and sisters-in-law to be, already had my back so I could really relax into my role. We have figured out all the stages of development together for 10 months, it’s been a privilege.

There have been difficult moments throughout my maternity leave but I can put my hand on my heart and say I have laughed and smiled every single day, sometimes through tears.

My purpose has changed and I’ve never felt so content. My purpose is to be a parent. I’ll never forget when Ricky was a few days old, my mum was minding him and I was resting. He was screaming the house down and when I returned she placed him in my arms. He went instantly silent. It was me he had wanted. It felt incredible.

Watching him grow is fascinating and playing my part to make each day count is wonderful. I return to work on a three-day-week basis,taking parental leave. That way I get to work and be mum. I’m nervous and excited about my return-I know there’s lots of adventure just around the corner. Wish me luck!

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