I have almost completed my first academic year back at work after having Zara. This time last year I was beside myself with worry about returning to work and how Zara would cope being at a childminders. I’m not always one for rationalising and am prone to worrying (that’s an understatement) so I managed to spend a good 3 months getting myself into a complete state about having to leave Zara. I can remember countless ruined evenings because I would start thinking about going to work and leaving Zara all day and I’d cry and get really upset. She was only going to be 10 months when she started in childcare. She didn’t crawl and just seemed to little still.
Zara seemed to get separation anxiety from a very young age and even as a small baby used to scream if someone else tried to hold her. She never took a bottle despite spending a huge amount of time (and money) researching different bottle teats, cups and methods to get her to drink some milk without my presence. She used to feed to sleep and only I ever put her down for a nap. For the first 10 months of her life she was never really separated from me at all. I simply could not imagine her ever being happy without me there and it broke my heart. I felt completely desperate and lost because I had to go to work (I was only returning part time) in order to live but I just couldn’t bear having to leave Zara and felt like I was physically unable to.
We did find a lovely childminder who was very understanding about how I felt and helped us ease Zara in really gently. She went for several settling in sessions over the summer, first just staying without me for an hour and gradually building it up. On the whole, Zara seemed to enjoy her time with the childminder.
I am lucky that I do work part time so I get to spend some of my week with Zara and some it at work. We have actually moved her to a new childminder this last term and she absolutely adores it there. I genuinely feel bad when I have to take her home. She has started running away from me shouting ‘no’ when I say its time to go home. It feels so good to know that even though she cannot be with me she is spending her day playing outdoors, collecting chicken eggs, swinging, playing in a mud kitchen, painting, hearing stories, singing, bouncing on the trampoline, hearing wonderful stories, interacting with other children, walking in the woods and all kinds of other things.
I still sometimes struggle knowing that she is only little for such a short time and I am missing out on some of that time. At the moment it feels like she says new things every day and understands more and more. It’s hard knowing that I’m not always there to witness the first time she says or does something but I do feel we are all doing the right thing for our family. At busier times I know that my job preoccupies me even when I’m not at work. I know there have been times when I’m not very patient at bedtime because I have to get my reports finished once she’s asleep and time is running out or times when I haven’t come home from work two nights running because it’s the school show but I think on the whole, for me, going to work and doing something I love doing makes me happier. (Eeeeeek writing that makes me feel bad). Even before we had Zara I’d get grumpy towards the end of the Summer Holidays because I was getting bored and wanted to be getting on with work.
There are definitely times when I don’t want to go to work and want to stay at home and be with Zara. There are some days I rush into work having just taken Zara to her swimming lesson or to Creation Station (so I go to work covered in paint or looking very dishevelled having not had time to get ready properly after swimming) and my head is very much still with her. There are other days when I’ll admit, I look forward to dropping off my beautiful (grumpy) toddler and I bounce into work letting someone else deal with her need to carry around at least 5 or 6 different cuddly toy animals and knowing I’ll be able to go to the toilet on my own and eat without a small person stealing my food.
I was convinced that I would hate being away from Zara and I would hate being at work. I have to admit I was wrong. Part of me feels guilty to say it but I love my job, I love being busy with something that isn’t soft play, peppa pig, nap times and the park. I found that whilst on maternity leave and having such a velcro baby I forgot who I was before I was a mum. Being Zara’s mum is a hugely important part of my life and is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. It is an honour and a privilege and it makes me incredibly happy. However, it isn’t the only thing I am. I feel like I lost myself a little bit during my 10 months at home with Zara. I had a new role as a mummy but lost a little bit of the part of me that is a wife, a friend, a teacher and going back to work has really reminded me of those things.
I still get to spend lots of time with my girl….and my man. I think we’ve got a pretty good balance. At the moment it works and we are happy. (Or maybe that’s just because I’m about to have 6 weeks off…ask me again in September).