For someone who’s supposed to be relatively good at maths you wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve sat and counted out the months on my fingers to be sure that yes it really is three months since I went back to work. We’ll technically it’s four since my maternity leave ended in August but then I spent a month on holiday and extended parental leave so I don’t think it really counts. So three months it is. Three months of the daily commute, three months of being waved off from the front door as I turn into the road and three months of being welcomed home by a thunderous stampede down the hall as they hear my key in the lock.
So how has it been, how does it feel to go back full time?
Well I’d be lying if I said it was a walk in the park from the start. I’d never really been apart from Pip save for a few hours in the entire of his life, and over my year and a bit long maternity leave I’d got used to spending my time immersed in the children and the gentle rhythm of our days. Leaving them every morning, particularly in the early days when I didn’t have very much to do at work to take my mind off it felt like I was ripping my soul out and leaving it on the front doorstep with them. It was all wrong and topsy turvy and I just wanted to be home with my baby and his sister’s to give him all the cuddles he could want, to keep him on his nap schedule and to do anything to stop him greeting me with ebullient smiles quickly followed by the reproachful glare that so clearly said “you left me”.
When I’ve gone back after having the girls it’s never felt like it took too long for everything to settle down into a routine, but then I was working part time and they were in nursery and I think that helped. There was less of the leaving and more of us all going out together, combined with the shorter days and fewer days it was much less of a giant upheaval.
This time it felt like it would never feel right. The weeks plodded on and I wondered whether we’d made a big mistake. I missed the kids, they missed me, H was worn out and falling asleep on the sofa every evening. And then imperceptibly the tide began to change and now, three months in, it’s normal. There are still mornings when I have to peel a sobbing Pip from my shoulder, pass him to H and bolt out the door, but there are more when everyone cheerfully waves me goodbye from the porch. H has found the ways in which Pip can be persuaded to nap (well timed car journeys and the sling) and the only morning that Kitty was even a tiny bit late for school was (a) one where I was doing the school run and (b) because she’d taken half the skin off her knee and had to be patched up, so it really doesn’t count.
As for me, well as work picked up again and I started to pull in some of the sort of work that I like doing the best, I’ve rediscovered a little bit of the passion for my career that got put on hold while I was on maternity leave and remembered just why it is that I like doing my job. And with that I think I’ve been able to let go of some of the working mummy guilt and just enjoy being good at what I do.
The truth is that being a full time working mum with a stay at home husband is definitely easier than being a part time working mum with a working husband, well probably any sort of working mum with a working spouse. Part of it is the practicalities; I’m writing this on the train home from a day trip to Manchester and the train has been delayed by (1) a local train physically sat in front of our train in the station, (2) something hitting a bridge and stopping all trains leaving Manchester and (3) electrical wiring problems between Wolverhampton and Birmingham. It’s not great and I’ll be home later than I’d like but I’m not fretting, I know that the children are home and fed and bathed and I should just make it in time for bedtime stories.
But more than that, when I was working part time I had a nagging feeling that I was doing two jobs badly. A good part of the extra time I had with the children was spent running around keeping the house ticking over in the never ending cycle of laundry and cooking and cleaning, I always had more ideas of what I wanted to do with them than ever quite happened, and at work there was always the (probably entirely irrational) fear of being put on the “mummy track”, not given the big interesting difficult work because I wasn’t always around, or more accurately, not being able to push my more ambitious ideas because I wasn’t there to follow them through.
The rational logical part of my brain knows that when I was working part time I gave everything my all – H says I only have two settings; off or on! – and I wouldn’t swap the time I did have with the children for the world, but this way round goes gentler on my subconscious.
The biggest thing that helps too is having a day working from home. It’s the highlight of my week; Kitty’s school run, the extra cuddles with Elma and Pip and the after lunch story before I head back to work – pure bliss!
I will never not miss the children, I love being their Mama and being together is my happy place. Last week I took Monday off to use up a spare day of holiday and helped H take the littlest two to playgroup and it was so much fun, I’d forgotten how much I missed both playgroup and just the day to day pottering around of Elma and Pip but there is a contentment in knowing that they are happy at home with their Daddy and that he is loving getting the chance to share in their childhood and to know them as inside and out as I know them.
Right now life is pretty good, being a full time working mum has become normal, and it’s possibly even edging into good.