My son is almost six months old. The “when do I go back to work?” question has been playing on my mind even louder this past month.

Before I started maternity leave my main job was working part time at an OSHC (Out of School Hours Care). I had been there almost 6 and a half years before going on leave. It was hard in certain ways. I had a great team. I had to step back, especially over the Summer, as pregnancy wouldn’t allow me to do certain things anymore. I cried on my last day a couple of times (happiness!) because they gave me gifts and I was going to miss the kids and workers. You form special attachments. Yet I was also looking forward to my baby, who I had long planned for. I had requested a full year off with the possibility of returning earlier. I just wanted to leave that door open…….

I also worked for two other places, casually, usually on the weekends. One of these places has said I can return whenever I want. The other one has said they will take me back depending on the amount of shifts available at the time. I had originally thought I’d go back to these soon after my son turned six months. Now I’m not so sure.

I had a baby and quite frankly I now don’t know how I am meant to go back to work. I find it hard to be away from him. My first trip to the supermarket without him, I cried. While that has since become easier I have only spent two hours as the longest stretch of time away from him. I usually work short shifts of 3 – 4 hours so again, it shouldn’t be that hard. I work longer days in school holidays. I have my husband on weekends and my Mum available (and very willing!) to care for him on certain week days.

I’m struggling with the feeling of “my obligation” to return to work. Like society expects it. Like I should be contributing financially to my family. Like I should go back earlier rather than later. But am I really expected to or is this just what I am putting on myself, to go back earlier than a year? Financially I don’t need to return to any of my workplaces right now. I received the Paid Parental Leave and had also been saving money prior to falling pregnant. I know that while I feel a little guilty about not working now, I will feel even more guilty for leaving my son.

My baby is only little for so long. I only get this time once. Why shouldn’t I take this time to watch him and be with him for every moment I can – since I can?

I think my mind reminds me of that “obligation” feeling and my heart says “stay at home”. The heart is mostly winning. Then the mind whispers……. maybe just one shift a week? This week I’m planning on taking the full year. Who knows what will happen?

How did you make your choice? Did you have a choice or did your circumstances send you back earlier? Please let me know in the comments…….