After nine months on maternity leave with my chunky monkey, I was soooo ready to get back to work! I think I can vouch for a lot of us mummies when I say that I love my baby with all my heart, but I needed something to remind myself that I am so much more than just a mummy. I felt like my brain was turning to mush, and by the time Alfie was 6 months old, the “baby brain” excuse seemed to be inadequate for pretty much every ditsy thing I did.
I was starting to lose who I was as a person and was worried that I’d have completely forgotten how to do my job, or that everything would change and I wouldn’t fit in anymore. I also needed to use my brain for something other than making up songs like, “Alfie’s done a stinky poo poo, why can’t he use the loo loo”.
Before deciding to go back to work we had to work out our finances and find affordable childcare. (I know, affordable… Hahaha). At first we looked into nursery prices, £40 a f*cking day…. YOU WHAT? Can you repeat that please? FORTY F*CKING POUNDS…. For one single day. And believe it or not, that was the cheapest. That kind of cost might be okay for parents with established careers and a bigger income, but for a young parent whose career is still in its infancy like mine, £40 a day is a LOT of money.
We decided to do some more research and discovered that our neighbour who we knew quite well was setting up her own childminding business. This was perfect because it meant we didn’t have to travel far for childcare, and Alfie already knew Jolene. To save money my friend also looks after Alfie two days a week. As a mama-of-two herself, she knows the juggling act all too well! All hail this wonder-woman AKA Mama Natalia!
I even get daily updates about Alfie… Even those I don’t really want to know about, like this…
Excitement of Going Back To Work
Although I was anxious to leave Alfie for four days a week, I was eager to get back into the swing of work life. I knew I would miss him, but I also knew that my little boy was in safe hands and would get to spend time interacting with other children. I found comfort in the knowledge that going back to work would only benefit us all in the long-term, and I was so excited to have adult conversation on daily basis!
So five weeks ago I was preparing for my first day back at work. I felt like a Supermum and for once like I really had my sh*t together! I’d even laid the clothes out for the next morning and prepared lunch for the next three days (who even does that?!).
Fast-forward one month…
Fast forward one month and life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and I certainly don’t feel like I’ve got my sh*t together. In fact, I think I am close to losing my sh*t. You know when you think you’ve got the whole bedtime routine and sleeping through thing, cracked? Yeah well don’t get too used to it, because there’s one thing that is almost guaranteed to disturb your 12 hours of peaceful sleep a night… That thing is called TEETHING!
At 4:30 this morning, I sat on my son’s bedroom floor and cried into his blanket out of sheer frustration that no matter how much I rocked and “sushed” him, I could NOT get him to go back to sleep and I was completely exhausted. At 4:45 I opened the medicine cabinet to discover we had run out of Calpol and he had thrown his dummy down the side of the cot as a result of a teething tantrum. I then remembered that I hadn’t prepared any lunch for day ahead and I wasn’t entirely sure I even had clean clothes to wear when I had to get up in four hours time. Defeated, I walked back up the stairs to my screaming nine-month-old and continued to rock him.
At 5am I found myself nodding off whilst standing up with a baby continued to wail in my ear hole. I got back into bed, this time cradling Alfie in the hope that he might sleep better in Mummy’s bed. Nope… Still twisting and crying. By 5:30 I thought F*CK THIS. I got up and went downstairs to make myself a cup of tea. Alfie finally decided it was bedtime at 7am when it was time to get up for work.
It is now 8pm on a Tuesday night and I am sat on my sofa with a glass (bottle size) of wine in hand because I’ve been up since 4am with a teething baby and I am f*cking knackered. It’s been an exceptionally long day and I am riddled with overwhelming guilt because I spent the majority of it at work. I know that eight hours isn’t a long working day in the grand scheme of things, but it is eight hours that I missed out on comforting my poorly baby, and it seems completely unfair that he doesn’t understand why mummy leaves him first thing on a morning and doesn’t come back until an hour before bedtime.
As if being a parent wasn’t a juggling act enough with trying to manage a household, a baby, making time for a social life and still trying to manage to squeeze a bit of already non existent “me time” in, I now have a job to uphold too!
Every night without fail, I sit in bed and think to myself “okay so if I get up at 7 and get the baby ready then get myself ready I can get out the door for 8:15. Then I’ll pick the baby up from work at 5:30, get him bathed and into bed, then make the tea, then eat, then wash up, then make make lunch for the next day… maybe I’ll get to sit down at like 8pm!”
(And you’re probably thinking “well how do you get time to write a blog then?” I actually started this last Tuesday and it has taken me an entire week to complete!)
Oh and does someone want to tell me when the F*CK I am meant make time to wash, iron or clean the house?! I barely get time to wipe my own arse let alone clean the entire house from top to bottom. I can spend a whole hour cleaning before someone comes to visit, just to say “excuse the mess, I haven’t had time to tidy up”, as I swiftly throw all the toys behind the door and brush the biscuit from my child’s face.
Making Mummy and Baby time special
I’m lucky that work let me go back to work four days a week instead of full-time, and I’m super grateful that I get a long weekend with him. One extra day with my little monkey makes all the difference and I feel far less guilty for leaving him – even if it does mean I’m knee deep in cheese puffs, snot and sh*tty nappies.
The thought of missing major milestones like crawling or those first precious steps is heartbreaking, which is why I always make the most of my days off with my Alfie. I normally spend my Thursday night cleaning (if I can be arsed) when Alfie goes to bed, so that on Friday morning my sole focus can be me and Alfie. Whether we cuddle up on the couch watching movies together, have an indoor teddy bears picnic or play outside in the paddling pool, Fridays are our special Mummy and Alfie days. Spending quality time together somewhat mitigates the guilt of not seeing him during the week.
Our new normal…
I had been so excited to get back a sense of ‘normality’ and routine back, but a few weeks back into work and I have realised that ‘normal’ has completely changed for us both. Mummy being at home all day everyday is all that Alfie had ever known, and going back to work meant that I was completely turning his little world upside down. It was going to take time to adjust to this new juggling act that they call ‘life’. So now I consider myself to have two jobs – my part-time job as a Marketing Executive is what I call my “career job”, and being a mummy is my job for life.
The guilt is unreal, and sometimes I question whether I am doing the right thing. The way Alfie looks at me when he realises that I am leaving him yet again is heartbreaking. This morning I dropped him off at Natalia’s house, and he cried when I left him. I know it’s important for him to get used to being independent, but I couldn’t help feeling guilty. As I left I said “oh I know sweetheart, bad Mummy!” To which Natalia reminded me that I am not a bad mummy, I’m simply setting Alfie up for a better future!
I’m still getting used to leaving Alfie and dealing with the guilt on a daily basis. I don’t want to miss his first steps or his first proper words. I don’t want to have to choose between sports day and important meetings at work. I never want to say the words “sorry Darling, Mummy can’t make it” to his school football match. As a new mum I’m asking myself, “am I being selfish?” I am learning that life is about compromise and sacrifice, and not to take advantage of every moment I get with my little man… Even if that does mean 4am wakeup calls and sleepless nights. And I’m learning not to be so hard on myself, because I’m trying – even when I feel like I haven’t got my sh*t together.