A year of maternity leave during a pandemic

When I left the office for my maternity leave on a cold December day, I had no idea that I would have to come back to work during a global pandemic. It’s weird to think about that time, before I had my baby, before social distancing, and before our bedrooms became our offices, our dinner tables our conference rooms and a commute to the kitchen to start the day!

2020 had big plans for me, and just after New Year Eve I became a mother to a little boy who turned our world upside down. “That was it” I thought, 2020 will be our year, I had so much planned in my head to make the most of my maternity leave. I thought I was going to have coffees and pancakes every morning with some friends. I would join some baby classes to learn some super-catchy nursery rhymes. I would go shopping with a sleepy baby in my brand-new pram that cost  me a kidney! Well, that was before we all heard of COVID 19… I had a few weeks to enjoy my freedom, I did start some baby classes, but they all got cancelled after a week or two. I met some mums but all we were talking about was this new virus, and shortly after we met we were asked to stay at home.

I have to admit that for my husband and I, the first weeks of lockdown #1 were quite easy. We knew that we weren’t going to go to the pubs and have fancy dinners anyway, so we didn’t feel like we were missing out on anything. We missed our family though; we missed the support, but we had the chance to spend all our time with our baby.

As my husband was working from home, he could see our son all the time and we were really grateful for that. It wasn’t all perfect, don’t worry! Being stuck in a flat with a newborn isn’t ideal and we soon started to feel like we needed more space and we were so sad that none of our family and friends could see our baby growing up.

Every month I had a catch up with my manager and our HR manager here at PHA. They were always keeping me updated on what was going on, and just checking in. I enjoyed our catch ups, as it made me feel like I had an adult brain again and I started to look forward to going back to work. No one ever pushed me to come back to work, I never felt like I had to make a decision straight away, which was really nice.

Once the first lockdown ended, I went back to France to see my friends and family for three months -Yep, now you all know the truth… I’m French! We spent the summer there, my husband and I took shared parental leave, which is an amazing thing, and I would advice anyone to look into this as many companies offer it, but no one really knows about.

During my time in France, I decided that I would go back to work but I wanted to also spend time with my son so decided to come back on a part time basis. The PHA group including my manager, and the HR team were really supportive of my decision, and I never felt like they were pushing me to do more days. This was so nice for me, becoming a mum, you feel guilty about everything. I was guilty about wanting to go back to work, but I just needed to use my brain again so working part time was the best option for me.

Before I knew it, it was time to go back to PHA! I couldn’t believe how quickly that year went. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go to work and see people or if I had to start working from home on from day one!

Luckily, at the time we were in Tier 3 when I started so I managed to go into the office and spend some time with my team who got me up to date. I had IT support, which I definitely needed after a year not using Outlook. I felt like a grandma using a laptop for the first time. It was so nice to get to see people, talk about something other than nappies and food – I felt like myself again.

Shortly after I started (two days) we entered Tier 4 and a new lockdown so I only went to the office once but that was all I needed, and now I’m an expert in Team’s meetings!

The PHA Group has been extremely supportive, and I couldn’t thank them enough for their understanding. Working part time means that I have time for myself but also time to look after my son without feeling guilty of not spending enough time with him. Of course, it feels super busy, but I wouldn’t change it.

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