So I have been back at work just over a month and am really enjoying speaking to adult humans all day. I was vastly out of practice at first. Turns out shouting at TV’s “Loose Women” doesn’t count as actual human interaction. For the first couple weeks I crawled home exhausted, nay spent, at the end of each day. I would lie in a foetal position on the sofa, drooling, staring at the wall, unable to cope with any stimulation at all. But now I am acclimatising and I am glad to be back using my brain on a daily basis. I am also getting used to compartmentalising my two lives, work me and mum me. (I sound like a really dull, domesticated double agent, who goes from the thrilling world of Powerpoint to the equally thrilling world of changing nappies.) And actually having both lives makes me appreciate the other one more. HOWEVER, saying all that, there are four things I have not enjoyed about leaving mat leave life behind, four thorns in my side, four constant niggles.
The mum guilt is the hardest thing. It’s always with me, like Quasimodo’s hump, bowing me low by the weight of my own expectations. After a year spending every day with Bella we have effectively achieved an emotional symbiosis, where we are like two halves of one person. So when I left her for whole days at a time it felt like I had torn off my right arm and left it in the sand pit. I can’t think about her when I am at work or I would just break down and slowly weep, like a leaky tap. And mum guilt is such a strange beast. I feel bad for leaving her, even though she is having the BEST time. Let’s face it we don’t do singing time, story time, bubble machine time and light display time at home…we put the tele on and hope for the best. I also feel bad that I actually enjoy myself when we are apart. So it’s a tenacious double hitter that keeps on giving.
So when we were little we had a hamster, called Hammy (yep, see what we did there). Most of the time Hammy was trying to gnaw our fingers off with his razor sharp needle teeth, but when he wasn’t doing that, he was on his tiny hamster wheel. And on that wheel he raced, his little feet moving so fast we could barely see them, his eyes bulging, his expression one of delight and stress in equal measures. And he thought it would never end. This is me. I am Hammy on his wheel. Being a working mum can feel absolutely relentless. Although I love both parts of my life, I feel like I can never get off the wheel to just have a little rest. And maybe a Jaffa Cake.
The thing I loathe most about being back at work is the commute. The northern line between 7.30-9am is like the start of an Armageddon movie. “London was saturated, BURSTING at the seams, when one day an evil corporation tried to get numbers down by turning them all into zombies. The end.” I did not miss being squished into several armpits like human Tetris. I did not miss folk standing so close that I could feel their breath on my skin. And I did not miss getting buffeted by the dirty breeze, which surely carries the dead skin cells from all Londoners since Victorian times. And don’t even get me started on the commuters who have what must be Tuberculosis and cough into their hands and then PUT THEIR HANDS ON THE POLES. Patient Zero, keep your mucus-covered mitts to yourself. (And I can say this as someone who has had a non-stop cold since September thanks to living with the human petri dish that is Bella.) Last gripe. Since when did trains start stopping three times between every station so your ten stop journey becomes thirty, inching forward at a jerking yet glacial pace.
Nursery drop off and pick up
So yea, commuting is NOT fun. Nursery drop is also not fun. Not because Bella cries, on the contrary she now leaps from my arms into the waiting bosom of her favourite carer, Odeffe, with gay abandon. But they keep the nursery at sub-tropical temperatures at all times. So you arrive all freshly coiffured and with your face plastered on, and leave sweaty and dishevelled and smelling slightly of the dish of the day. And the pram room. The pram room. Which is basically a “how many buggies can you fit in a cupboard” challenge, where if you snooze you lose. Last in ends up having to construct some kind of winch out of their scarf and the rain cover and hoist their prams onto the ceiling for safekeeping. Nursery drop off also has its challenges. Bella is apparently fine there all day, doesn’t sleep too much as she is TOO EXCITED to close her eyes and miss anything, (ahhh I have a FOMO baby). But she eats everything, plays with everything and generally romps around after the other kids trying to gum their heads. But the moment I get there….BOOM….floods of tears, prompting a fresh bout of mum guilt for leaving her. So racked with sweat in the morning, racked with guilt in the evening. Great.