Returning To The Kitchen After Maternity Leave

By Kate Lawlor posted 23 days ago


About the author: 

"After 20 years working in Cork and for 9 of those running  award winning restaurant Fenns Quay, I went on to join the team at the iconic Oyster Tavern before moving to the UK in 2019.

I am currently working for a Rule of Tum on their sites in Worcester. I work in both the burger shop and lucky cat noodle bar I am in involved in recipe testing, development, and cooking. The company have a keen interest in local foods and sustainability."

Returning To The Kitchen After Maternity Leave

December 1st Ríona Meabh Lyne came into the world 3 weeks early, 2 weeks into my maternity leave. A year living in England and with a head chef job I qualified for 9 months paid maternity leave and 3 months unpaid.  I had already told my employer that I would not return as head chef as I could not see how I could balance childcare and home life. I was required to work 48 hours in my contract not inclusive of breaks. I intended at that point to come back to work after 6 months on a part time basis.

Lockdown hit early March and I made the decision to take my full 9 months leave as much to my surprise, I enjoyed the time away from the kitchen and time with my husband and daughter. Leading up to having Ríona, I had felt the pressures of being a head chef and heavily pregnant.  My replacement didn’t work out and some staff left and weren’t replaced.  One lasting memory from my last few weeks was a Sunday when we did roughly 250 for lunch with just me and 2 chefs on duty. I was due to finish at 4pm.  However, the pot wash had a seizure and had to go to hospital. At 5pm my GM said ‘Sorry I can’t help you guys’ and left., Roll on 10pm and I’m 8 months pregnant still standing at the dish wash.  I’d been in work since 9am.  I arrived in at 8am the next day for stock take, which had been cancelled but not communicated to me by the GM.

My leave was due to expire in September.  I had very little contact from my employer while on leave and in early August I got a job offer from one of the husbands in my antenatal class. I felt a loyalty to my employers and had thought I’d go back to them and then leave, but on a trip home to Ireland I had a realisation of what I needed from an employer. 

I need support from my bosses. I need to be near childcare.  I need to work less hours.  I need to feel appreciated.  The phone call I had with Rupert of A Rule of Tum offered me that and he, himself a new dad, understood my needs as a mother. I handed in my notice and received a nice email from the pub group owner thanking me for the work I had done but nothing from my GM, this made me realise I had made the right decision.

A Rule of Tum as a company remained open for take away during lockdown and during the second and third lockdown have ensured we all get a few hours a week to keep us sane. My job is varied, working between our Japanese Ramen Bar, Lucky Cat and burger shop. I’m currently covering chef’s paternity leave. I’m learning new methods; new techniques and the job gives me great energy.  The team works around me as we don’t have any family or support to help with childcare - this is gratefully appreciated.

I have always respected female chefs, but even more so now that I am a mother myself returned to the kitchen. To those female chefs that run there own businesses, the female chefs that head up there own kitchens whilst raising their children, juggling breast feeding, childcare, sleepless nights and family time, you truly are amazing!

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