The working mother?

Ever since I was 13 years old, excluding the last 7 months, I have worked. I started off working part time in a local florist and then at 16 worked in a clothes shop. When I left sixth form at 18, I started working in an office and have dabbled in many different careers since. At 23, I decided I wanted to teach and so I left my job and started my degree.

In September 13 I got my first proper teaching job, classes of my own, essays to mark; my dream job. In December, that same year, I fell pregnant. I was overjoyed and it was perfect timing as it meant that I could complete my first year of teaching and then have my baby in the summer.

On that last day of work, I felt a mixture of sadness and excitement. Sadness for the job I was leaving behind, the friends I had made, the students that I had worked hard to build rapport with and the routine I clearly knew and enjoyed. Then excitement and anticipation for the journey I was about to embark on: motherhood.

As someone who likes routine and to plan in advance, I knew full well that this was about to change. There is no routine and plans in parenting and you very much have to go with the mood of your baby. I remember telling a close friend, who knows me well, about the pregnancy and she laughed and said I was ‘screwed’ because she knows how I like to be in control.

When this tiny, squishy newborn arrived, earlier than expected, work went out of my mind and I focused all my energy and attention on caring for my son. It became my new full time job, literally morning, noon and night. There was no home time from this job, no lunch break, no weekend but that was fine and I cherish all my time with him. Work became my past, almost an alternative world, something I heard about, other people did it, complained about it and even my husband disappeared there every day.

However, a horrible, guilt filled, unspoken reality is that those first few weeks, once your partner has returned to work, can be very lonely and sometimes, dare I say, boring. Please don’t get me wrong, I was never bored by my son. I loved watching him do new things for the first time, however small. I took photos when he slept, when he pouted his lips differently, even of the back of his head (to remember his full head of hair).

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But every day was very similar: eat, sleep, poop, repeat. When he was too little to really play, my days were mostly filled with feeding him on demand or watching him sleep while daytime TV slowly dissolved my brain. I became trapped inside by my mummy responsibilities, too scared to venture out in case I needed to breastfeed him in public. So I remained at home with the baby, the cats and the TV.

As is usual, when a baby is born, I was initially inundated with visits from friends; some of which I hadn’t spoken to in a long time. One of my friends, a SAHM, said to me ‘I bet you never want to go back to work do you?’ When I replied that I actually missed work a little she was disgusted and shocked. The look on her face will stay with me for a while. I clearly had said the wrong thing. I was meant to gush about how much I loved spending all my time at home and that I was constantly enthralled and excited.

My problem was that I wasn’t mentally stimulated. I had gone from a busy, hectic career to dirty nappies and This Morning. My brain was becoming unused and bored and I started to miss work a little. Then the guilt set in, how could I possibly be feeling this way? Didn’t I love him enough? Was I doing it wrong? Was I a terrible mother? A terrible person?

No. I wasn’t. I just needed to adapt to change.

Even though J is only 6 months old, it’s hard to think back to those first couple of months. They were so different to now. Now, he laughs, giggles and smiles at me; the only smiles I got before were when he had wind. There used to be limited interaction from him to me but now we play together and his firsts are now are exciting for us both, the first time he rolled, had his first food and now, as I write this, I am watching him trying his hardest to sit up. When I cuddle him to sleep during the day and look in awe at this beautiful face, I wonder how I made him. I am far from bored. He is my little person. My world. My everything.

Yet, in just two weeks time, I will find myself in a very different situation. Instead of cuddling my baby and enjoying his laugh, I will be at work and someone else will be protecting my world and making him smile instead of me (the childminder).

I am understandably nervous about going to work, it is a new job (my last one was temporary) so not only do I have the fear of returning to work after maternity but also the worry of it all being new.

I am also going back to work earlier than originally planned. The job came up and I had to go for it. It was the perfect location, the perfect hours and just what I had been looking for. Fortunately, it is only 3 days a week but I will miss him like crazy.

The longest I have really left him through the day is about 2 or 3 hours. I am not sure how I will be apart from him from 7.30 till 4pm. I am sad to be leaving him and wonder why someone else gets to have the fun with him. No doubt, in time, I will miss out on some other firsts and the childminder will see them instead of me. I am facing that common dilemma many women have of how to balance being a mum and having a job.

I am left to feel guilty by some for going back to work early, and guiltier still by others for going back at all. The truth is, I need to go back for my own sanity and for some adult conversation. I may even get to have a hot cup of tea.

What scares me is, I have been a worker and I have been a mother, but I have never been both. Can I even be both? I feel like going back to work is almost denying his existence in some way as if I am returning to my previous life without him.

How will I manage when my days are not structured around nap times, bottle feeds, changing nappies and keeping him entertained? My life has a new focus: him. The purpose of my life now is not just to succeed in my job but as a mother too.

I hope that I am making the right decision in returning to work, many mothers do it and they all seem ok. I hope that J won’t be unhappy without me, but also that he won’t like the childminder more than me.

The Sunday night is going to be awful, full of sadness, guilt and tears. The Monday morning, when I drop him off with the childminder will probably be the hardest, most heart-wrenching thing I have done for a while. In fact, I am pretty much going to be leaving my heart there with him. I just need to focus on the Monday at 4pm when I see my boy after a day at work and hold him close to me and remember that he is mine, he hasn’t disappeared by me going back to work and I am the one that gets to take him home with me.

My life is different now. He is not just an addition to my life but he has made it so much better.

Weaning worries.

I was really looking forward to weaning, watching him eat food, trying new things, even seeing it smushed around his face.

Oh, I was a fool. Now the time has finally come and I haven’t a clue what I am doing. I desperately seek advice on Facebook groups, read online blogs and articles and buy weaning books to decorate my kitchen shelves with.

I keep being told that I can feed him anything other than honey, whole nuts and too much salt. This simply cannot be true. Surely I cannot feed him chocolate brownies, chicken curry, beef burgers, pizza…although, reading this list it is possible I need to reconsider my own diet.

I try to offer him finger food selections of fresh fruit and steamed veg. Surely he will be good at this as EVERYTHING goes in his mouth. Nope. He cannot pick up food from his highchair and put it in his mouth. It usually ends up on the floor, on his knee and around his mouth.

Also, I question how he can possibly eat food without choking if he has no teeth to break it down.

So I watch him, like a hawk, as he makes a successful attempt to bring food to mouth. Then I quietly squeal with joy as he manages to swallow some and continues to munch away.

I am sure that as my confidence builds with giving him food, so will his with actually eating it.

Everything is important with him. Everything matters greatly and weaning is just another parenting worry that eventually will be overcome. Hopefully.

Just a little longer

Via Facebook, I have been sent many links to blogs that inspire me to write my own. They focus on a mother’s  relationship with her baby and how time is fleeting. I’d like to have a go at getting my own feelings down, though doubt I can compare to the beautiful words I have read from others.

At almost six months old, time really is disappearing before my eyes. How was it six months ago that I woke up in the night after a ‘pop’ and went to the bathroom to realise my waters had broken almost three weeks ahead of my due date.

I love him more every day and while I feel like I need his love and closeness more and more, his need for me is already changing. Yes, he is very much still reliant on me for almost every part of his life, but he tries to be more independent. Small things such as holding his own bottle when he feeds, learning to move, cuddling other people and laughing at things they do. He shows clear choices for toys and people now and it is not always me he choses.

So, when he does need his mummy cuddles, I ignore those internet voices or my elders telling me to put him down, and I cuddle him in closer, savouring every single second. I feel his breath on me and watch his chest rise and fall. He cuddles into me and I keep him as my baby for a little longer.

There will come a time, probably not long from now, when he doesn’t want to be cuddled to sleep in the day and I will have done it for the last time without realising that that was it.

We rush them to grow up, always looking at the next step, next development they need to make, encouraging them along the way and sometimes forgetting to stop and enjoy the moment we are in. Enjoy the time when he wants to snuggle in with me, when he enjoys my songs and the little games we play together.

Very soon, I will be returning to work and, while it is only three days a week, this is the last time when it will just be the two of us through the day, five days a week. Nothing in our way, time to spend as we choose. Other people will have an influence on his life and the way he does things.

So I enjoy this time, our alone time, our cuddles, our giggles, our little routines. I hold him in close for his naps when perhaps I ‘should’ be putting him to bed.

When he wakes in my arms after his quick cat nap, I shush and try to cuddle him back to sleep and think to myself, just a little longer.

He moves.

4 days before he is 6 months old and he rolls. He has been so close for a while now and I was convinced that I was going to miss it. He managed to roll quite easily onto his side and as it looked like he might push himself all the way, he just threw himself backwards and seemed happy with himself for doing so. But, on Saturday evening, he finally did it. He got onto his side and wobbled side to side and I was desperate to go and give him a helping (interfering) nudge over, yet I didn’t need to. He did it all on his own.

Who knew I would be so proud watching someone roll over. I cheered and squealed praise at him and he just took it in his stride. Then it was like he couldn’t help himself, every time I put him on his back, he did it again, as if forced to.

Of course I filmed it, several times, so that we can watch the moment back later on.

That’s it now though, he can move. I definitely can no longer leave him on the sofa or the bed while I go get something. When I leave him on the floor and return, he is now face down, struggling, almost the opposite of a tortoise, stuck on his belly.

While he doesn’t realise quite what he has done, I smile, proudly, and also wonder what he has in store for us next.

11 things that I didn’t know…

There are lots of things I thought about when I imagined being a mum. I pictured these perfect scenarios cuddling my baby and going places with him but there are many things that I didn’t know I would feel or do for him:

  1. How much I would love him – it’s an enormous amount. It didn’t hit me instantly when he was born. Of course I loved him, from the moment we knew I was pregnant, but eventually this massive, overwhelming feeling of love hit me. Occasionally it  brings me to tears and I find myself crying because I love him too much.
  2. How protective I would be towards him – I will literally hurt people if they ever harm him – Mother lioness here!
  3. How much I would actually want to squish/bite him.
  4. How often I would smell him or his things – I fill my lungs with the scent from his head, especially after a bath with Johnsons’ Baby Bath. I smell his clothes and his mittens; they remind me of him when he’s in bed or somewhere else.  I also often find myself lifting him up to smell his bum to check his nappy and sometimes sniff his clothes to see if they smell like sick.
  5. That I would suck the snot out of his nose with some weird contraption – A weird device that I put to his nostrils and suck and listen as the snot drains from his nose. I also pull out bogeys without being too disgusted.
  6. That I would put my hand out to catch his sick – instead of dodging baby sick, as I would have done pre baby, I now try to catch it. It’s better than it going everywhere else.
  7. How much I would actually love my c-section scar – it’s my mummy mark and reminds me of his journey into this world. Plus I cannot begin to imagine how he ever fit through that space.
  8. How many photos I would take of him: sleeping, eating, smiling, bouncing, doing nothing at all even remotely interesting…but I can’t delete any of them.
  9. How amazing cuddling your sleeping baby is – yeah I know, I’m making a rod for my own back, he should be put down to sleep…blah blah blah…but one day he won’t want to cuddle me to sleep and I will never be able to get those days back. I’m happy to ‘have to’ cuddle him in my arms when he naps in the day. If he’s still doing this when he reaches Secondary school I may admit it was a mistake but for now it’s the best thing in the world.
  10. Just how much my heart would melt every time I watch my husband playing with him and when he makes him laugh, seriously my womb aches!
  11. That despite saying to the midwife, during labour, that she should never have children (she already had two and I asked her why she did it twice!) I can’t wait to have another!

Someone’s world.

Being a mum is a huge responsibility. You think about it before you have a baby and then while you’re pregnant but nothing can prepare you for how huge every decision feels when you are responsible for someone else’s life.

You go through life, trying to watch your weight, eating healthy when you remember and occasionally going walking as a token gesture to exercise. You’ve made it 30 years and managed to keep yourself alive. I’ve even managed to keep two cats alive so far. How hard can looking after a baby be?!

When he finally arrived, it didn’t seem that hard at all. He slept most of the time, woke up to be fed and cuddled to sleep and it was a lovely time. Even though I’d had a c-section we went out occasionally as a family, gentle walks, coffee shops, excessive visits to Mothercare and our world felt complete.

Then my husband went back to work. I was all alone with a tiny baby. One of the first days alone I changed his dirty nappy and he weed on me straight away, then threw up on himself. I didn’t know where to start and, while it all seems silly now, I had a moment of panic wondering how I could do this and I cried.

Things got a bit easier after that again for a while and I became braver and started venturing out of the house more.

Now, he is nearly six months old and responsibility is growing and I have to make choices, hopefully the right ones, much more often. When he is crying, even after I have changed, fed and cuddled, I question whether to give Calpol. Is he in pain? Is something wrong with him? I agonise over the decision and when I decide to give him the medicine, feel like a terrible parent ‘drugging my child’. I quickly Google the effects of giving too much Calpol and see horror stories about those that have overdosed babies on it, used it to get them to sleep or long term side effects of using it. However, he has stopped crying and at least, for now, it seems like I made the right choice for us.

Other decisions come in the shape of Feeding. Breast or bottle? Napping. Too much? Not enough? When to start weaning and then wondering if it was too soon.

You are suddenly faced with a variety of decisions and you just muddle through, hoping that along the way you have made the right one most of the time.

Guilt and worry are a large aspect of being a mum but it seems that this is just part of the deal.

However, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I cannot imagine my life without him now and all these choices and responsibility give me a gorgeous, mostly happy, little boy. He is gaining weight well, sleeps when he needs to, laughs and giggles and seems to be doing well, as far as babies go. I am doing alright so far.

No one can make him smile like me. He may smile at others but I have a special smile that he saves for mummy. I know which songs he likes and my heart fills when he laughs at my singing and actions. I cry for different reasons now; with the unbelievable amount of love I have for him. When he smiles at me and pulls me in to suck on my face, I could burst with love for him. All the worries, guilt and fears disappear. It is just me, and him and the love and bond we share. I am everything to him as he is to me.

I know that life will continue to bring us options and I will no doubt agonise over them, researching every possible choice but I will face each one as they come and try to feel like I have done my best for my boy.

Being someone’s world is huge but it is also the most amazing thing in the world.