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Workplace wellness: returning to work after having my kids

What was your experience returning to work after having children? Here, one of our working mums talks about what it meant for her.

Returning to work after having children is a big, sometimes divisive topic. Some women have to, some want to and some don’t, some love it and others no longer feel it’s the right place for them. What you can guarantee is that it’s different for everyone and that the only stories that matter are the real ones. 

Within the team at Spabreaks.com we have a number working mums, all of whom have taken different approaches to combining work and family life. One of them is Laura, our CRM & Email Marketing Executive, who joined the team in 2021 after seven years away from the office taking care of her young children. 

Here, Laura tells her story, explaining why she wanted to come back to work and what her experience has been so far.

Taking a career break

Before I had my children I worked in the corporate world. After I finished my degree I became a junior marketing executive at Amex and then I went to Samsung in London, before coming home to Brighton and joining EDF Energy. All three companies were huge and they were fun teams to be a part of, but by the time I went on maternity leave with my first baby I had been at EDF for six years and I think I was ready for a change.

Initially I planned to take nine months of maternity leave and then go back to work. However, after a couple of weeks I knew I wouldn’t be able to leave my baby and I contacted EDF to tell them. They were amazing and gave me all the time in the world to think about it and were ultimately very supportive about my decision. 

What started as a year of mat leave turned into seven years off work. My husband and I decided to have a second baby quite quickly - their birthdays are a year and a day apart - and I spent their early years with them. I was lucky to be in a position where that was an option, and I loved being at home with the children. 

Of course it was challenging at times, but you soon forget about the hard bits. They didn’t go to nursery and I decided that as it was something we were able to support, I wanted to be at home with them while they were little.

Choosing to come back to work

Then, in March 2020 a few things happened. Firstly, we were all in lockdown so my husband was working from home whereas before he had been in the office up to six days a week. It quickly started to look as though working from home, at least in part, was something that would be an option even after lockdown ended. The other thing on the horizon was that my youngest would soon be starting school.

I started thinking that with this different structure, perhaps I could consider doing something workwise again. I was curious about going back and I was worried about feeling purposeless after dropping the kids at school. I had a degree I wasn’t using, and while I would give lots of advice to my friends about having something for themselves, I wasn’t following doing it myself. I had been in my own bubble for so long and I started to yearn for something that was just for me.

I wasn’t really proactively looking for a job, but I found a role advertised at Spabreaks.com on LinkedIn and rattled off my CV without much thought. A few days later I got a call from HR asking if I would come in for an interview. I was floored! I had been out of work for ages and I really didn’t know what I could bring to the table. Marketing had changed a lot since I was last involved, but I figured I would go and at some point they would figure out that there was someone better for the job than me. There was a three stage interview process and to my astonishment, they offered me the position! 

A new chapter

It took me a little while to absorb the information and as this was spring 2021 and my daughter wouldn’t be going to school until September, I said I would need it to be part-time until then. I expected them to say no, but they didn’t. It actually worked out well as it ended up being a good transition into the business.

I was incredibly anxious going back to work, but the combination of some days in the office and some at home has worked well for my family and I. After the first few days I had a wobble. I was working from home and the children were upset. I called Marketing Manager Lauren and cried and said I couldn’t do it. She was amazing. She talked me down and told me to take the day and call her the following evening. She was right, by the next day I had calmed down and was ready to keep going.

It’s not that I haven’t had wobbles since then, but they have been few and far between. I love my work, and while I know it’s a cliche, I have rediscovered a part of myself that I didn’t even really realise I had lost. I don’t regret a single moment spent taking time off with my children, but somewhere along the way I wasn’t Laura any more.

In the office I like being part of a team. Not only do I feel that I’m growing professionally, but having my job gives me greater fulfilment in other areas of my life as well.  I have richer conversations with my friends and it’s actually been amazing to see how everything has found a new balance. 

It’s absolutely not to criticise anyone who doesn’t go back to work - it’s a very personal decision. However, I had lost myself and I didn’t really realise it until I made a change.

My worries about being a working mum

My biggest fear about going back to work was that the children might miss me and things would fall apart at home if I wasn’t there to hold them all together.  However, as I stepped back a little, everyone else has stepped forward - especially my mum and my husband. 

I started to realise that if I did everything then there wasn’t a need for anyone else to do anything, but as soon as I stepped back a bit, they were there and wanted to help. As a result, the relationship my husband has with our children is so much better. He was always a great dad, but whereas before he was home late and at weekends, now he’s friends with their teachers, he knows what they like in their lunch boxes, he’s much more organised with the school run than I am, and being able to see that relationship develop has been reason enough to go back to work.

I think Spabreaks.com itself has been a big part of why coming back has worked for me. I don’t know if it would have been the same anywhere else. They have been incredibly understanding about balancing home and work, and I think in many ways that comes from Abi (Spabreaks.com Founder), who’s a working mum herself. She’s very understanding if one of the children is ill, or there’s a school play or the school run, and helps me to fit work around those things so that my kids never lose out. It’s full-time but there’s flexibility, so if that means starting earlier or working later so I can fit it all in, there’s some space for that.

I remember her telling me early on that it would all go swimmingly at home until the winter, and then it would be the busiest time at work and everyone would get colds one after the other at home, and it would feel like chaos. She said: “I promise it will happen, and I promise it will be ok” - she was right. Knowing that she understands has meant the world.

What I’ve learned so far

The first big lesson I really learned was that my husband is an amazing parent, and that in stepping back a bit and sharing the daily routine, there has been space for him to shine. He’s nailing it and that’s a beautiful thing to witness. It’s so easy as a mum (or for anyone) to hold onto everything so tightly and think we have to do it all ourselves, but by letting go a little and having my job, I now feel more empowered and more myself but I have made space for other people too.

The other thing that I have learned is to integrate home and work. I don’t know if it would work for everyone, but being able to work from home some days and the office on others has been really helpful. 

When I started, I was talking to Abi about balancing home and work, and she knew I was worried about it. Her advice was not to totally separate work and life - that it was ok to blend the two a bit - let the kids meet the team on video calls, sit on my lap when I’m on the phone or answer a few emails while they’re in a swimming lesson. Let the kids know that the laptop isn’t something that takes me away from them.

I learned that I don’t have to compartmentalise my life and who I am - there doesn’t have to be ‘work Laura’ and ‘home Laura’. So now, my life is integrated. The children know what I do and if I drive them into Brighton I point out where I work. Work isn’t a separate me, it’s an extension of who I am at home, and I’m excited for what comes next.

This month we celebrated International Women’s Day and to honour the occasion we honoured the women leading the way in the spa industry. Want to read more?

Read about the women behind the spa world 

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