09 Mar Hi-ho, hi-ho, its back to work I go…
When I went back to work after my first, I was nervous but felt fine about it. In fact I was keen to go back and prove to my colleagues that nothing had changed – I could be a mum and still kick ass at the office. I obviously missed my 9 month old, and I will confess to feeling utterly bereft when I left her at nursery for her first day of settling in (to the point that I spent the morning hanging out in H&M kids, ostensibly to buy my baby girl some new clothes but actually in the vague hope that someone might let me hug their baby – I am lucky I wasn’t arrested). But I could see how much she loved nursery and that helped enormously. She literally did not bat an eyelid when I dropped her off each day. She loved hanging out with the other babies, and, as an only child at that stage, the interaction was good for her. She was learning about sharing and that not everyone is going to be as attentive to her every whim as her crazy helicopter mummy, and therefore sometimes she needed to be patient (obviously I am not imagining that she understood this as a nine month old, but you get the point).
Returning after my second I found harder. My baby this time did not settle into nursery as quickly as my first. In fact, he screamed blue murder every time I dropped him off. It was horrible. Frankly, had I not already known and loved the nursery I would have whipped him out of there immediately and home schooled him when the time came. Never again would I leave him (except obviously during the court-mandated therapy sessions that would have been required as an adult to undo the psychological damage of my insane mollycoddling).
On top of that I missed the adorable conversations I had got used to having with my (very chatty) 2 and a half year old. Admittedly these usually involved poo and bums, but, hey, I am not above a bit of toilet humour, especially when accompanied by the cheeky grin of my two year old.
Then, last summer the prospect of returning to work again after my third baby loomed on the horizon. I had taken a full year off with my third, and was dreading going back to work. I literally could not bear the thought of leaving my three babies. It was heartbreaking. Knowing that I was only going to get to hang out with my gorgeous little people at the weekends and one day every few weeks, was soul destroying. I just could not even begin to contemplate it. I spent weeks stressing about going back, sorting out all the logistics of how we would juggle work, childcare and pick-ups, while trying to enjoy my last precious moments with my babies. I even played the lottery a few times in a last ditch attempt to avoid having to go back (as an economist, this is a clear act of desperation).
As I settled my youngest into nursery I tried to busy myself with sorting out the house and finding clothes in my wardrobe that I could a) actually fit into and b) did not have holes in (not easy it turns out). I also found myself smiling a little too over-enthusiastically at anyone I passed on the street with small children (at the time I assumed they knew I was just another parent looking fondly on their little ones, but frankly it was probably just creepy).
When the time came to go back to work, I managed to last until day three before I had my first meltdown during the nursery drop off. I had hoped I would at least make it through the first week. But on the other hand I suppose day three is better than day one (or indeed day two). So I spent much of the first few weeks ferrying my children to breakfast club and nursery before dashing off, sobbing to work, scrolling through pictures of them on my phone and inevitably stepping in dog poo along the way. By the time I got to work I often bore an unfortunate resemblance to Alice Cooper.
For the first few weeks I tried to be home in time for bedtime in order to make the transition for the children as easy as possible. Basically I did not want them to think that mummy had vanished completely and a grumpy, shouty troll that only appeared in the morning to get them to nursery and school had replaced her. But inevitably the children did notice that I was not around as much and they became very clingy. Evenings were filled with long discussions about why I could not sleep in each of their beds, questions about whether they could just come with me to work every day, and lots of crying and fighting over whose bedtime story I would read first.
Thankfully, after a few weeks we had all adjusted to the new routine and I was actually enjoying work. Going back was not as bad as I expected. At all. In fact I very quickly got used to being able to wear nice clothes, going to the loo on my own, drinking my tea while it was still hot, and having lunch made for me every day by the very talented Mr Marks and Mr Spencer, or the equally capable Mrs Pret. I enjoyed the mental challenge of being at work. And to be honest it was good for me to re engage with the world again – to come out of my baby bubble. As my husband pointed out (several times), I have a tendency to become slightly anal about everything child-related while on maternity leave.
Six months on and we still have the odd outburst that I am fairly sure is the result of my going back to work. I try to ignore these and focus on the positive behaviour (which there is lots of too thank goodness). I still miss spending time with my children, and cherish every moment I do get to spend with them (or most of them anyway). Unlike my previous returns to work I sadly know that this time there will not be another maternity leave to look forward to. But the plus side of this is that I am able to throw myself more fully into my career once again. To start planning where I want to be in five years time, rather than simply treading water until my next pregnancy. While this is daunting it is also exciting. So for now I will focus on this.