The most obvious benefit is cash. During maternity leave we had used up all of our readily-accessible savings and so wouldn't have been able to pay the mortgage without my salary (not that my salary adds an awful lot once you take nursery fees into account).
Then there is the fact that at work I am me. I'm not a mummy; I'm a software engineer. And an awesome one at that. It feels good to be defined by my work again, rather than by my ability to maintain Holly as the bubbly, happy bundle of fun that she is.
But the best benefit, at least in my eyes, is that I am once again an equal partner in my relationship with Mr. B. It's weird how being a non-earner has such a profound effect on our relationship. Both times that I have taken maternity leave I have felt like I've played second fiddle to Mr. B. And this, despite the fact that the reason I'm taking the time off work is that I'm doing something that he could never do himself. OK, so he could be a stay-at-home daddy but he wouldn't have been able to breastfeed for 7 months and I'm almost certain that he couldn't have stayed on top of life as a home-alone full-time parent as well as keeping the house clean and the books in order.
I should feel proud that I can do both things. I am proud. I can do the full-time mummy thing when I choose to, or need to. But I can work as well. I am a woman of many talents!
But when I'm not earning, that means I'm not contributing cash to the family pot. I know this shouldn't be a problem as I'm contributing just as much in other means... but it is.
And I'm sure the reason is this...
When I'm working I work with my husband for the same department of the same company. I do a very similar job to him and earn a similar salary (well, I would do if I worked 5 days a week). When we get home in the evening we share the nursery run, we share the chores, we share the girls bedtimes by alternating nights, we share the cooking (perhaps not as evenly as I'd wish) and when we finally collapse on the sofa at the end of the night we can work through our thoughts and dreams together, knowing that one another has had the same sort of day.
If I have spent the day at home with one or both of the girls while Mr. B is at work then this balance and equality is totally absent and our days bear no resemblence to one another.
It feels nice to be able to share again and to once again be on an equal footing with Mr. B.