Life as a working mum, 6 weeks on – the reality

So I’ve been back at work for 6 weeks now after an incredible 13 months off with my little lady. I know I’m lucky to have been able to have that time off, but maybe it also made it harder to leave her. In fact I’d never left her for so long in one go, which possibly made it harder for both of us. And on top of that I was starting a whole new job in a whole new company, so had all the new names/faces/work/paperwork/commute to add into the new routine. Plus Lily had to start nursery, just to add into the ‘new’ pile.

At first I found going back to work really hard, mainly because she would cry when I was leaving in the morning, then cry or ignore me when I came home – the time when all I looked forward to was a cuddle, but she didn’t want me, only my mum (who we are super lucky to be coming up a couple of days a week from London to look after her). 45 mins later she’d be in bed, and then this would start again the next day. 

It should be me making her laugh, changing her nappy, taking her to the park, comforting her when she cries, or reading that book. It just makes things hard. 

She also didn’t want to sleep at night, so would wake many times at all hours just for a cuddle. The new routine just threw her. So I was going to a new job, learning so much new stuff every day, while feeling like an absolute zombie. One night I only got 90mins sleep. It was like she was a newborn again… and I’m greeting my students within 20mins of arriving at work, teaching within half an hour, so it’s not a job I can hide behind my desk for a few minutes peace!! I love teaching and I love my job,  and I pride myself on trying to do my job as best as I can, but I found myself frustrated at things that I found difficult, just because the exhaustion and emotions were more overwhelming than I’d imagined. 

Thankfully now things have improved and I’m even having to wake her up for nursery after 14hours sleep that she’s sleeping so much. I think nursery has also helped her self-settle and she’s even napping longer in the day. 

She still cries when I leave the house, especially when she sees my bike coming through the house, but we now know to get my mum to take her to brush her teeth to distract her. Unfortunately it means I don’t get a goodbye cuddle but it does mean I don’t have her tears guilt- tripping me as I leave. She gets excited when I come home and doesn’t let me go until bedtime! It means so much.

But the true challenges kick in first thing in the morning. If she’s asleep, you’re creeping round in the semi darkness, trying not to wake her while getting washed and dressed, attempting to look semi-decent for the workplace. But you then have the sadness of not seeing her little face before you leave the house, which completely crushes my heart. 

If she’s awake, there are new challenges to embrace… that of getting ready for work with a toddler hanging off your leg like a koala bear. The only way of getting through this is by offering a quick-thinking distraction (the upstairs box of toys no longer works), which usually involves including time for a clear-up operation. Last week’s fail was offering an “empty” cereal box from the recycling, without realising there were what seemed like a million rice krispies in the bottom. These shortly ended up trailed through the house, stamped on, and crushed into the rug. 

But at least I had my clothes on, Lily changed and dressed, and the washing up done, before the 7am deadline to leave for nursery! 

If you’re out the door, dressed, without banana/weetabix smeared down your trousers, and make it on time to your destination, you already feel like a winner!

On nursery days, we have to take the bus by 7am. This means she will inevitably sleep in. Her nap time the day before involves a manic prep of her pram, nursery bag, her clothes, nappies, my bag, and my clothes, in order to get through the door in time the next morning. She gets quite hyper first thing in the morning, so 15mins after she wakes up, the early morning bus crew who just want a silent, early morning commute home after their nightshift in the local warehouse, instead get a waving toddler shouting ‘HIYYAAA’ in their face, extracting their headphones, grinning and babbling at them for 45mins, and offering them random toys/wetwipes. All the while, I’m attempting to get her to sit down, not press the big red Stop button, and to leave the glasses on the face of the gentleman in front. Having only been awake 90mins, between the chaos of the getting ready, getting dressed, clearing up the trail of destruction through the house for the 10th time, and surviving the 45mins bus journey, I feel I’ve already worked a full day! 

She immediately starts screaming as I drop her at nursery, which makes me feel guilty and sad the following 8 hours. But thankfully I hung by the door a little longer last week and heard her immediately stop crying when she got through the doors, reassuring me she is fine the moment I leave. Thankfully she’s also extremely hyper when I pick her up and her daily report from the nursery staff is also great, so we can end the week on a high! 

So now I know she’s happy at nursery (and how good it seems to be for her development), I’ve got into a routine with getting ready, Lily has got used to the weekly routine, and she’s sleeping like an angel again (no jinxing!!), things are slowly getting easier. I’ve settled into the new job and although still getting used to everything, I’m slowly getting my head around the information overload that comes with the first few weeks. 

It doesn’t mean I don’t miss her every minute, but in fact it has made me cherish every minute I do have with her, even when I do want to crash out with exhaustion at the end of a day, but still have a hyper toddler crawling up me, to feed, change, bath, and then to prepare my own things for the next day, and perhaps sneak in some quick food myself, after clearing up the books and toys for what feels like the millionth time! 

Some days she’s quite clingy, but her kisses and cuddles mean everything… even when she’s force-feeding me slobbery rice cakes, unrolling the toilet roll, messing up the toys while I’m clearing them up (again!), or relocating the bins around the house, I do cherish it (at times!!). I also can’t get to the nursery/home fast enough to see her again!

On days off I just try to make the most of every minute and seeing her cheeky little smile as much as possible. 

Mumlife involves alot of 24 hour one-handed multitasking as it is, but working while being a mummy feels like you’re simultaneously working 2 full time jobs (one with night shifts… and definitely no sick days!) but she is my world, and she’s growing far too fast, so every minute I can help her learn, develop and explore is precious…it does still crush me that I’m not the one comforting her when she cries, or making her laugh, but it has got easier and I’m no longer checking she’s OK every 5 minutes… but then I’ve taken on some extra shifts and so don’t have a full day off with her until November 16th, so maybe I’ll be retracting all of these “it gets easier” statements in a month’s time!! 

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