Today I sat and arranged my maternity leave.
Whilst this may seem like a normal every day thing for many women, for me it was a big step. It was a step towards acceptance and it came with the acknowledgement that I had finally burned out. I’d reached my maximum capacity and I really needed a break as soon as possible.
For a long while now I have proudly worn my workaholic badge. Proudly rattling through hour after hour of work, juggling life with 2 small children, studying for further professional qualifications and then throwing a bit more work in for good measure whilst my children are asleep. Keeping previous maternity leave to a minimum for fear of missing out on opportunity. Challenging myself to continually improve, striving to be the best I can be and all the while telling myself that I can indeed have everything.
As women we can be our biggest critics and I’ve realised this is definitely true for myself. No one around me has put the pressure on me that I have myself. No one has questioned my performance, no one forced me to do more education, no one has asked me to work until late at night, no one expected me to work full time around my children or work up until 38 weeks pregnant as only by doing this could I then be a fully committed member of staff. Only I have applied all of this pressure as I have pushed myself over and above my limits striving for perfection as a person, a mum and in my career.
Now I find myself staring at a computer screen trying to remember what my focus was supposed to be on. I find myself questioning the career I’ve worked so hard to build. Struggling to take one more phone call from a tenant, snapping at my partner and children. Lying in bed at night mulling over the daily tasks and everything I’ve forgotten I needed to do. Beating myself up regularly with the dreaded ‘mum guilt’. Walking around in what feels, a permanent haze with no physical energy to push myself anymore. Living with constant headaches as my body is trying to tell me “no more”. It’s safe to say I am exhausted and only now am I accepting this.
The purpose of this blog is not to delve into the argument of whether women really can have it all, who am I to answer this question and what exactly does that mean anyway? The purpose, is to remind all working mums that it’s ok when all that balancing becomes too much.
It’s ok to admit defeat, hold your hands up and accept that you may have just reached your maximum limit. It does not make you weak, it does not mean you’re a failure and it doesn’t make you any less of a good parent, work colleague or person.
For the first time I will be taking a full maternity leave and starting it as early as I can. Taking some time to ‘just’ be a mum, giving my head some much needed rest from work and taking time to re-evaluate what’s truly important in my own life, because somewhere along the way, I fear I may have lost sense of that.
I am fortunate to know that my career will be there waiting for me at the end of the day and if I’m lucky, I have a further 40+ years ahead of me in my working life!
Whilst I’m not sure I’ll ever really reach a stage of not being a workaholic (I can but try), I know that the time we have here is precious and it’s important we are using that in ways we won’t regret. To not lose balance, to spend time with those little people in our lives and to take time to look after ourselves.
Only when we are truly the best, healthiest version of ourselves can we then hope to achieve great things and help others in the world.