Maternity leave anxiety is raging high and I haven't even watched The Replacement.
This time in my first pregnancy I was counting down the days, meetings, commutes, minutes until I left work. Looking back, it's unsurprising that I didn't return when my 12 months were up, but at the time it did surprise me. I didn't see myself as a stay-at-home mum and though I fell hard for my new baby, I knew my professional self was still there - lurking beneath the cuddles and the nursery rhymes; critically evaluating the promotional material handed to me at every coffee morning. I loved being Marnie's mummy, but constantly being referred to as "Marnie's mum" was eroding my sense of self. I wanted to continue working; to have some intellectual stimulation, some adult conversation and some interactions with people who called me by my name, but not to physically go back to work. Like so many of us coming to the end of maternity leave I didn't know how to define what I wanted, let alone how to ask for it.
In this state of disorientating dilemma, I did what many of us still do and turned to my own mum. Luckily for me, my mum is an expert coach with many years' experience helping women through every sort of life transition. Being given the time and space to acknowledge how I was feeling in a safe environment and to visualise my ideal situation (however fantastical) helped me see the way through and find a solution that worked for me.
Two years on and there are five months to go before baby number two arrives. As D-day approaches I'm getting increasingly anxious about starting the maternity leave process again, but for different reasons this time. Leaving a job that you are invested in, that you have ownership over and where you hold true responsibility is a daunting prospect. The realities of maternity leave when your job is dependent on YOU - as a personality, a creative, a presence in the system really isn't discussed enough. The idea that we are all replaceable, often with a younger model or another identikit 'part-time mum', is difficult to confront.
So, how to deal with the anxiety caused by impending maternity leave? It is, after all, an anxious time. For my part, I'm forcing myself to monitor my own over-thinking. If I can identify the distorted thinking that is causing my anxiety, I can reframe my thoughts and find more peace. If I find myself indulging in 'all-or-nothing' thinking, telling myself what I 'should' or 'must' be doing, or speculating about all the things that could go wrong in the future, I interrupt my own thoughts with this simple question: 'What else could I think that would be more useful to me?'
I'm also asking myself these two coaching questions every day:
"What must you have in your life to make you feel complete, fulfilled and happy?"
"Think about your current situation. Imagine what you would tell someone else to do in the same circumstances."
The answers are changing day by day, but it is so useful to stop, think and reflect on how I'm feeling and what it might mean for the future - before the baby comes and I forget my name again.
Questions taken from Coaching Cards for Every Day, available to buy now.