Hey! Did you notice I’d gone? I’ve been somewhat absent since ..oooh, July. I lost my mojo for a while. I wrote a few posts, but they were a bit crap, so they’re still sat in my drafts folder, then I mentally wrote a few more, but never really got my arse in to gear to write them down, then before I knew it, it’s freaking February. FEBRUARY.
I’ve been back at work for 3 months. Maternity leave is a distant memory. Billy has a busy social life these days: swimming with Neil on a Monday morning, a couple of days with his Nana, one day with a childminder and two days at a local nursery. It keeps us on our toes remembering what to pack and where to drop him off, but MOST of the time, I get it right. OK, so I did send him to the childminders with one spare nappy and no coat on a particularly cold February. But still, we’re doing OK.
Maternity leave and becoming a new parent is this fantastically weird time. For a start off, after spending my entire life getting a qualifications and building a career, I went ‘…HOLD UP, I’m going to go spend the next few months playing with this hilarious little boy’. I switched off from work entirely. Completely and utterly. I even forgot my email address. At some points, I feared that growing/giving birth to/looking after a baby had made me a bit thick, but I realise now I was wrong. I was just operating on an entirely different wavelength, making mental records of time slept, nappies changed, latest developments and ounces of milk consumed.
Before Billy was born, I assumed that something wholesome and all encompassing would take over and I would feel weepy-eyed at the prospect of leaving my baby and going back to work, but the reality was a bit different. I had no comprehension of how much entertaining a 6 month old child needs. By the time I went to work when he was 8.5 months old, it made for quite a nice break.
That’s not to say that I escaped the tears completely though. When I hit the ‘one week to go’ deadline, I got a bit misty eyed about the weirdest of things, like emptying the toybox in our PJs at 10am on a Wednesday and going for a walk around the park any time we liked. The big kicker was the maternal guilts though. Me and Billy had been together for a really long time. He’d never spent that long being looked after by other people. He was still only so little (HA, have you SEEN the size of him?), and I was clearly a terrible mother for abandoning him.
In the first couple of weeks, getting out of the house on time was like a military operation. Lists were written, bags were packed the night before, diary pages from nursery were studied with frightening attention to detail. I enquired about every nap time, every nappy, activities, mood, I called every lunch to make sure he was OK, fretted when he teethed and generally acted like a helicopter parent.
After a couple of weeks, the ‘getting out of the house’ bit got easier (or slacker, hence forgetting coats and nappies), but emotionally, it got a lot tougher. He was ‘great’ at my mums, ‘OK’ at the childminders and ‘bloody miserable’ at nursery. He wouldn’t sleep, he wailed when we left, I could hear him crying at lunchtime when I called and he was crying when I picked him up. On one particularly bad day, I sat in the meeting room and sobbed my heart out for half an hour, wondering whether to jack it all in and go pick him up. Eventually, I got my arse in to gear and walked back in to the office, vowing to look at other nurseries or childminders as this nursery clearly wasn’t working out.
Then we broke for Christmas. I enjoyed every second of those two weeks with Billy, and really made the most of our time. We went to see a nursery close to where we live (as opposed to close to the office). It was purpose built and state of the art, it even had an organic fruit basket for you to help yourself to. I’d made my mind up when we walked in the front door that we would be moving Billy here, until the point that we were handed a price list and I realised it was £15 a day more than we were currently spending. Cue parental guilts about how much you love your child and what price you put on their happiness. That one sucked pretty bad. But seriously. If there’s a little brother or sister in the picture in the next couple of years, £100 a day on nursery fees would mean there was very little point in me going to work at all. For some people that would be living the dream. The same prospect puts me in to a bit of a cold sweat.
We took a look at another nursery that was in our price range but left us feeling a bit ‘meh’ and then, one day, he went to nursery and didn’t cry. He blew us a kiss as he left, slept well and was happy and smiling when we picked him up. I’d love to offer words of wisdom about the struggles we faced and how we overcame them, but I have literally not a bloody clue what changed, other than the fact that he learnt to crawl (I SAY crawl, I mean dragging-his-belly-along-the-floor-commando-crawl-style-crawl) over Christmas. But in any case, something just clicked with him. He became a big fan of his key worker and started enjoying playing with other babies, and all of a sudden, finding another nursery became less of a priority because we didn’t want to unsettle him where he was.
The thing I wasn’t expecting to realise was: all maternity leave and no work makes Kate a dull girl. I love Billy. I love Neil. I love work and I love my leisure time. Going back to work has given me a bit more of a balance between all these things have made me appreciate each one more. I’m pretty lucky in that I can pretty much choose my own hours. I generally work 8am-4pm and don’t really take a lunch. If I don’t finish by 4pm, I’ll take it home and work in to the evening, but that doesn’t happen too much. My favourite time of day is walking in to my Mums/child minder/nursery, scooping him up and taking him home for a toddle around the house, a rootle around the tuppaware cupboard (favourite place ever), dinner, bath and a story.
And to stop being all “me, me, me” for a second: Billy gets the best of both worlds. Neil takes him swimming on a Monday morning which they both LOVE, he (Billy, not Neil) terrorizes my mum’s dog and has one-on-one time with my Mum, spends time in small groups at the childminders and experiences things on the busier/noisier end of the scale at nursery. His movement has come on leaps and bounds, he has a cracking sense of humour and he’s so tired from a day of activities, he’s quite happy to curl up with us and read a stack of books before bed.
I’m not sure where this post is going, other than I know I needed to get my arse in to gear and post something before this blog died a slow and certain death. So there you go. In summary: I went back to work. It was a bit shit for a bit, but it got much better than I’d ever imagined. I regained a bit of balance in my life and activated a bit of my brain that was redundant for a while. I am WAY more efficient with my working day than I’ve ever been pre-Billy, and I enjoy my time with Billy more when we are together because we’ve been apart all day. And when he goes to bed and I cook dinner with Neil? We bloody deserve that beer.
Cheers to HappyBabyProject for the inspiration to write stuff down.