Holly Pither wants to open up spaces for women to speak honestly about how they feel when they become pregnant. She herself was terrified of the impact going on maternity leave would have on her career, but felt there was no-one to talk to about her fear. “I didn’t know how I was going to cope,” she says.
She had been very keen to get pregnant, but it was not until the last few months of her pregnancy that it all became very real as people started to talk to her about making plans for “when you go” and she started to think about the logistics and how she would manage everything. “I was trying to find my maternity cover and it suddenly started to dawn on me that everything was going to change. I believed my career defined me. I loved my job and I didn’t know who I was without it,” she says.
Holly, who works in PR, struggled to adapt in the early days of her maternity leave as she felt her old self disappearing and found herself becoming almost invisible. “I became Amelia’s mummy. I would talk to other mums in baby classes and it was just about our children. We never asked who we were as people. It was very supportive, but it is ironic that it was only when my NCT group went out without our babies some time later that we really got to know each other as individuals,” says Holly.
She kept in touch with the office a lot while on maternity leave and got regular updates. She went in a few times and is a big fan of Keeping in Touch Days. “You get so much from them, such as reassurance you can still do your job. It made me feel like me again. I was able to be the person I used to be,” she says.
Over the course of her 10.5 months off, Holly found she really enjoyed her maternity leave and came to realise that she was not defined by her career. “I realised that I am so much more than that and that my dread was based on a fear of the unknown, but that fear was something I felt I could not talk about at the time,” she states.
Being back at work now for a couple of months, she says there are other issues which she doesn’t feel are honestly discussed about becoming a mum.
She found she loved being back at work and stretching her brain, but she feels that the expectation is that she should be feeling guilty about being at work and missing her baby. “I don’t feel comfortable admitting this openly,” she says. “It makes me look like a bad mum.”
Holly returned to work on a phased return, working two days a week to ease her back and building up to four days a week. She says phased returns work well to build confidence, though she has had to learn to be very strict on doing her days and saying no to things she would have said yes to in the past. “In other situations you would ask if it was right to throw a worker who has been away for so long back in and expect them to go from zero to hero in a day. Building up gradually means you are not panicking trying to do all that you used to as well as coping with returning and the logistics of having a baby. You can return with greater confidence. I know friends who went back full time and some of them are really struggling and feeling they can’t do it all. I think gradual returns can be very beneficial for both employer and employee,” she says.
Because of the expectations around how new mums will feel and because she didn’t feel able to talk honestly about her feelings, Holly recently started a blog, www.pitterpatterpither.com, which has got a lot of positive response. “This whole issue of fear around having a baby and how it affects your career is still the elephant in the room,” she says. “My blog is about saying it is fine to be scared and that it’s okay to want to go back to work and to admit you love your career as well as your baby.”
Through her blog, Holly would like to help other women and ensure that the whole transition to motherhood is not so hard. She wants to use her blog to share stories and publish guest posts. “My blog has been like therapy to me, like a dear diary. I think it is important for mums to share our stories. I feel more could be done to support women returning from maternity leave, especially in my industry, and to ensure it is not such a stressful process that some consider they have to quit their career.”
*If you would like to contribute to Holly’s blog contact her via her blog. You can also contact her via social media on https://twitter.com/PitherPatter and https://www.instagram.com/pitterpatterpither/?hl=en