The time has come for me to leave my little bubble of motherhood, with days filled with play dates and cake, and return to the big bad world. My maternity leave is at an end.
How I’ve dreaded the date 23 June 2014 for so long as, circled in my diary, it served as a stubborn reminder that the day would come that I would have to leave my baby and go back to work.
And I actually have a job that I like. But I don’t think there’s a job in the world that would have made me feel any better about it.
I expected to feel the worst case of back-to-work blues ever the night before my first day back. I didn’t – I couldn’t bring myself to think about what was happening the next day; not for me, but for Honor. We’d had a couple of settling in sessions at nursery, but they had only been an hour or two long and I had been there with her almost the whole time.
I left her once, to give her a chance to bond with the nursery staff, but returned 20 minutes later to find her sobbing. Not the success I was hoping for (but it turns out they had tried to wipe her nose, which is apparently one of the worst indignities you could inflict on her, so I consoled myself with the hope that it hadn’t gone quite as badly as it first appeared).
So that night before my return to work, what I felt was guilt that the next morning we would be packing her off to nursery for a whole day without us, and she had no idea. I was at least excused the pain of actually dropping her off there – that onerous task belongs to my husband as I am on a train long before nursery opens for the day. Not that that helped my guilt much.
[New Mummy Blog: Going Back To Work Was Heartbreaking]
[New Mummy Blog: How I Manage To Get A Full Night's Sleep]
Guilt really is the word that sums it all up. I’ve watched and read with interest so much commentary on the working versus stay-at-home mum and the conundrum of what best to do for your children’s sakes. And it seems there are no winners here.
For my part, I feel guilt that I’m leaving Honor in nursery five days a week. I feel guilt that I love my job and that I am enjoying being back in the office – having adult conversations, drinking tea while it’s hot, going to the loo on my own, rediscovering the other side of me again.
I feel guilt that I’m working reduced hours and leave the office before my colleagues – not to go to the gym or the pub, but to go home to my ‘other’ job, of tea time and bathtime and organising, trying to cram a day’s worth of motherhood into an hour or two before bed.
I feel guilt at the thought of the ‘firsts’ that I’ll miss, that others will get to see Honor achieve while I am at work and I will learn about second hand through reading her daily report that comes home in her toddler-sized backpack.
I feel guilt that I can’t explain to her why she has to go there Monday to Friday, and that she can’t understand it’s to help provide a better life for her. And that the weekend will be here soon, although not soon enough, and we will have two glorious days together as a family.
But on the other hand, I am lucky – to have a great job to go back to, to have had the amount of time off with Honor that I have had. And more than anything else, I am so incredibly lucky that every night when I get home and I walk in the door to my daughter clapping and shouting with glee at the mere sight of me, there’s not a place in the world that I would rather be.