You see me I be work, work, work (Rihanna)

I am bereft. And spent. So this was my first five-day week at work since coming back from mat leave in December.  LORDY. I am the human equivalent of a deflated balloon; prone on the party floor, covered in fag ash, a little bit of vomit and specks of glitter. Now all I want to do is flop onto the sofa and have my mind numbed by bad TV.  Possibly whilst drooling on my own chin and necking wine like it’s juice. How do people do this every week?

 

It also feels so weird to not spend Friday with my little toddler buddy.  Fridays were like all the best bits of mat leave condensed into one day per week.  A shot of maternity leave or maternity leave lite.  On the weekends every play area is teeming with 50 different versions of Conan the Rampaging Toddler.  You take your life into your own hands if you venture into the ball pit. Who knows what is lurking in the depths? Definitely e-Coli.  And lets not get started on watching 50 toddler-divas try and share one plastic rocking horse (because of course they all want the same one). Formal hostage negotiation skills are needed.  On the weekend it’s Lord of the Flies.  But on Fridays everywhere was empty.  We frolicked round the soft play venues and parks of SW17 with gay abandon. It was nothing short of fabulous.

 

Going back to work five days a week has also prompted a hefty dose of mum guilt.  As mothers we not only get to push our babies out of our vaginas, forever ravaging our bodies, we also get mum guilt, forever ravaging our minds. As you tiptoe the fine line between your needs and your child’s needs it can raise its head at any given moment.  And putting Bella into nursery for five days has unleashed THE GUILT (Caps Lock required). My rational brain tells me that she is really happy there.  In fact she cries when we come to pick her up now (which is dispiriting in a whole new way). My rational brain also knows that as nice as our flat is, we don’t have 20 different baby dolls (THANK GOD, TERRIFYING), a bubble machine, a host of dinosaur toys, or daily singing time (well technically I sing, but it could also be classified as inflicting ear torture).  In the blue corner we have the rational brain, in the red corner we have mum guilt.  And mum guilt wins every time.

 

I also now feel a pressure to make the weekends EXTRA SPECIAL, as we only get those two days with her.  And that means not just sitting in front of the “TV babysitter” watching back-to-back episodes of Hey Duggie and Justin’s House.  (Incidentally, Justin, AKA Mr Tumble, seems very asexual, like an aggressively cheerful Ken doll.  I am positive that if I took his clothes off there would be a plastic mound where his man-bits should be).  However, thinking about it, extra special is all relative these days. Bella is a cheap date at the moment. I am an exceptionally cheap date.  So extra special can be nothing more than going to the playground and letting her go on the slide 500 times in a row.   And then the swings.  500 times in a row.  And then the roundabout.  500 times in a row. Whilst I watch on, taking the millionth video of swing-time, and devouring all her rice cakes (the apple ones are JUST delicious). So that’s where I will be every Saturday and Sunday from now on. It’s a done deal.

 

swing 2
Swinging. That’s where we will be…

I’m lost in the world (Kanye)

So when I was on mat leave I became good friends with the guy behind the till in Aldi. Well, as good a friend as you can be without knowing someone’s name. And that was for two reasons. Firstly, we were in there pretty much every day. It had all the heady excitement of Supermarket Sweep for the new mum (how many value treasures can you find before your baby gets bored and starts throwing her toys out of the pram? Literally.)  And secondly, whilst on maternity leave I became a chit-chatter; a small talker; a purveyor of “isn’t it hotter than the surface of the sun/colder than the Tundra” (delete as appropriate) bants. I would sidle, nay, scuttle up to other mums in the park, like a hopeful crab, prepared to coo at length at their little ones. I did this in supermarkets, coffee shops, on the train, everywhere (except on the tube, I drew the line there, I didn’t want to get shanked).

 

Before Bella I wouldn’t talk to a stranger, I wouldn’t even make eye contact, this is LONDON and I am BRITISH after all. But that all changed on mat leave because as well as being one of the best years of my life it was simultaneously one of the most lonely. Suddenly I would talk to anyone, ANYONE, just to hear my own voice. I was used to spending twelve hours a day with other adults, dashing all over London like some kind of human pinball. Then overnight all that stopped and a tiny baby whose only words were “dada” (traitor) and occasionally “mama” (punches air) became my constant companion. There were days when my voice went all Mariella-Frostrup-on-40-fags-a-day because I hadn’t spoken actual sentences in hours.  When I started engaging in out-loud debate with ITV’s Loose Women I knew I was in real trouble.

 

This isn’t apparent at first though. At the beginning you are besieged by visitors, visitors with cake and/or booze (FYI the BEST kind). Not only that, when babies are vagina fresh they are super transportable, so you can travel far and wide to see your mates and fam.  Then this furore tails off; everyone goes back to his or her normal life and you are left in the confines of your immediate postcode with the days stretching out in front of you, tumbleweed heavy. And it’s worse in London, where your friends are scattered all over the place by the time you get to your mid-late 30s (OK, late). Gone are the flat share days when your besties all lived but a room away; the days of five bottles of pink wine on the Ikea sofa before you even leave the house, of guessing if someone has got lucky because there are MEN’S SHOES by the door, of picking the vestiges of last nights kebab off said Ikea sofa in the morning. Now my best mates all live over an hour away, in every far-flung corner of London that’s not SW17.

 

So mat leave life was solitary at times. Many a moment was spent trudging solo round Tooting Common staring at groups of people frolicking with gay abandon and wishing I was one of them. And it was difficult without my normal support group front and centre, especially when you think about the monumental changes your body and your mind go through having a new baby, and how you need mates there to help orientate your sense of self as everything else shifts. Then add into that heady emotional cocktail a regular dose of confidence crisis. Some days I worried whether I was doing ANYTHING right (the days of brushing my own teeth with Sudacrem as Bella cluster-fed like a rabid terrier) which meant I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone for fear of being judged heartily incompetent.

 

However I was saved from becoming a full time street-mutterer by the gorgeous ladies I met through NCT. We joke that we are the best mates we have ever bought. The course itself served to scare the bejesus out of both Phil and I, specifically with the graphic vertical diagram of the baby coming out of the uterus stage by stage (both of us felt faint), and allowed us to establish that we were the only ones who hadn’t even agreed what hospital I was going to give birth in. Great. But more than that it gave me amazing friends who have been there day and night for fifteen months. Having mates who are going through EXACTLY the same things at EXACTLY the same time and who live within ten minutes of me was invaluable. Who else could you text at 1am, 2am, 4am, 6am with the WHY IS HER POO GREEN questions, sometimes complete with pictures (sorry for that in retrospect)? In fact we probably sent at least 700 WhatsApp messages a day. We have also all met up pretty much every week since our babies popped out. This has taken us from inhaling vats of caffeine with our sleeping, drooling newborns strapped to our chests, to chasing our rampant snot-ridden toddlers round the fetid soft play venues of SW17.

 

So now, as I re-integrate into work, a big part of me still misses mat leave, despite the loneliness. And I must say a massive thank you to my NCT friends for saving me, or as they have now become, just friends. And of course the guy behind the till in Aldi. Maybe tomorrow I might even ask his name.

 

NCT
Wine Wednesdays. What a great mum-concept.

 

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑