"That was me this time last year,” I said to my colleague Marcella as we walked to a meeting last week. We paused and looked at the woman coming towards us. Pushing her pram, she wore that tired look of a night of disturbed sleep but there was a smile in her eyes as she gazed at her baby. “It seems like yesterday,” Marcella (mother-of-three) said quietly. Emotionally, I agreed.

It’s been one month since I returned to work after maternity leave. Stepping into the editor role has been a busy, but exciting challenge. Between work and two kids, Molly (3) and Jack (13 months), there isn’t much time to ponder. But in those quiet moments when I do, I’m trying to catch up on this big shift.

It’s like I’ve stepped from one life zone into another. For the past year, I’ve very happily been in ‘mom mode’ where my uniform was leggings and runners, my daily routine was dictated by my children’s naps and running errands was my outing of the day. I miss it. I miss the storytimes, walks in the park and baby swimming classes. Most of all, I miss them; spending all my time with them.


In those moments of melancholy though, I try to be realistic. I was blessed to have a full year of maternity leave with my two healthy children. Women are now entitled to 26 weeks of maternity leave and 16 weeks unpaid leave. It was announced in Budget 2024 that from next August, parents leave will be extended to nine weeks.

I’m conscious that not everyone is in a position to avail of that time. I have friends who are self-employed who were back within weeks and others who weren’t in a financial position to take unpaid leave. My mother went back to work when I was 12 weeks old. Back in the 1980s, maternity leave wasn’t what it is today. We had a long journey to have our babies so I’m very grateful for that time.

But let’s be real, some days were hard. Like last December when Molly was sick (I’m convinced she had Strep A). She was two and Jack was eight weeks. She was so ill and wouldn’t leave my side and I was breastfeeding Jack, petrified our tiny baby would get sick. Then there was the four month sleep regression, when Jack woke to feed every two hours. That time passed in a fog of caffeine. And there were days – quite a few – when I never left the house as I fed, cleaned, cooked and folded clothes.

When the time came, I was ready to return to work- to have adult conversions, to write again, to express my views and – let’s be honest – enjoy a coffee that isn’t interrupted by a little person wanting to wee. But my head is still catching up on it all, on this new life zone.

Another change on the horizon next year is Molly starting primary school. I submitted the application form last week, but as I handed it to the secretary, I was thinking of Sarah McIntosh’s article this issue on teacher shortages. Presently, 306 primary schools have vacant posts to fill and principals just can’t get teachers. And if a teacher rings in sick, it is near impossible in some rural areas to get cover. Often the special needs teacher is pulled in, but that is impacting children that need additional support.

This is a situation that is only going to get worse and there needs to be some serious thinking at government level about tackling this issue and putting measures in place to future proof our education system.