For many women who choose to take time off work to have a baby, maternity leave can be something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it means that you’re able to spend precious time bonding with the newest, tiniest person in your life – not to mention recovering from the physical strain of pregnancy and childbirth.
At the same time, being transplanted from the world of deadlines and after-work drinks into an uncharted landscape of pureed food and mother-and-baby groups can sometimes be isolating and intimidating. And the thought that someone else is blithely doing your job while you’re at home trying to figure out how to work a breast pump? That can be downright unsettling (so unsettling, in fact, that the concept was enough to power recent BBC One psychological thriller The Replacement).
It’s a predicament that Annie Mac understands only too well. The Radio 1 DJ, who recently took six months off to have her second child, says that she initially struggled with the fact that other people were covering her shows – to the point where she couldn’t bear to turn on the radio.
Mac’s regular weekday evening programme was covered by fellow DJ Mistajam during her maternity leave, with Danny Howard filling in on her Friday night dance show – meaning that the 38-year-old was in the unique position of being able to literally hear other people doing her job for her.
“At the start I didn’t listen,” she tells BBC News. “It’s always weird when someone else does your job. It’s a strange situation.”
But gradually, Mac says, she was able to tune in without feeling jealous – and she believes it was actually beneficial to hear how other people handled her job.
“It’s been really nice to have a perspective on it and think, ‘Right, what could I do differently when I come back?’” she says.
As well as her new baby, Mac also has a four-year-old son with partner Thomas Bell (aka fellow Radio 1 DJ Toddla T). She says that being a working mother has inevitably changed her relationship to work.
“What keeps me up at night is just not having enough time to do everything, which I think is what every working woman has,” she says.
“You have to be focused. You get better at streamlining and making sure you maximise every second of the time you've got.”
While the thought of returning to the airwaves is slightly “terrifying”, Mac says, she also “just can’t wait to get back” to work. “I love my job,” she says. “I feel so privileged.”
And with regard to The Replacement – in which Morven Christie plays a successful architect who becomes paranoid that her maternity leave cover is trying to take over her life – Mac says that she watched it, but didn’t let it get to her.
“As I was watching it, I was thinking, ‘I probably shouldn’t be watching this!’” she says. “But luckily Mistajam and Danny [Howard] are not psycho people who are trying to steal my child. So it’s fine.”
Images: Getty, instagram.com/anniemacdj, Rex Features