So, I've technically been back at work two months now, and I think it's safe to say that this has been one of the hardest parenting challenges yet. Benjamin has been a pretty easy and chilled out baby, which meant that, although I was getting a little bored, the last few months of maternity leave were actually pretty relaxing and joyful for me. There were still moments, of course, but overall it did feel a bit like the holiday that every mother is keen to tell you that it's not (and I wouldn't pretend to speak for everyone, I'm just counting my own lucky stars!). I was keen to go back to work, and I felt like we were all ready for a change, but I was really not ready for the baptism of fire that would be working motherhood.
We've had an unsteady couple of months, which means I am very much ready for a bit more stability and routine going forwards. Benjamin has struggled to settle at nursery, we've all been unwell and there have been holidays and bank holidays to throw everything off on top of that. As such, I still feel a bit like we're in the transition phase, rather than the 'real life' phase, but as of this week, I'm expecting that to change, so it feels like a good time to reflect on making the change. It's an incredibly odd experience to go back to work after having a baby; everything in your world has changed, *you* have changed, and yet everything seems to have gone on as normal and a few days in, it's like you'd never left. It feels like everyone else should have had such a fundamental shift during your time off, but really, life goes on. And so, here we are...
I love my job, and I am very lucky that my company is incredibly flexible and caring towards me; I know that's not the case for everyone and I definitely don't take it for granted (although I wish it's something we could all take for granted!). As a result, whilst I'm actually at work, I am having a blast! I've taken on a new role, which has been challenging in a good way, and getting to flex my intellectual muscles more regularly is definitely good for me. I did not love being a full time stay at home mum, and actually being back at work has been as good as I imagined during those long days with a tiny baby.
Not only that, but there are some other, unexpected benefits. Reading on the bus or on my lunch break. Getting a chance to eat lunch at a leisurely pace and going to the bathroom whenever I like. Having a chance to run some errands in town without having to think about the pram-friendly nature of the shops I need to go into. Wearing my slightly nicer clothes without fear that they'll just get slobbered on and covered in baby snacks. Lunchtime pub visits with my work pals.
I expected the worst part to be the 'juggle' - getting us both up and dressed in the morning (Paul leave for work at stupid o'clock so I'm doing this one-handed at the moment), getting to nursery on time and then to work and then doing the reverse at home time. But, that's actually not the worst part.
The worst part has been the constant illness - both for Benjamin and for us. It feels like every time he goes to nursery, he contracts something new and after having pretty good health up until now, he had two rounds of antibiotics in as many weeks. And, of course, we then get it as well. It's a special kind of torture having to look after a baby when you're unwell yourself, let me tell you. Throw in the fact that he struggles to sleep whilst he's unwell, and you have a bit of a recipe for disaster.
I know I shouldn't really complain, as there are some babies who really do suffer with ill health far more than Benjamin. But, to go from good sleep to bad sleep just at the point of going back to work has left us all exhausted, run down and not all that happy. I cried almost as often in the first few weeks going back to work as I did in the first few weeks of his life, because it just seemed so hard. Luckily, we've had a little break and we're all now back to health, so hopefully it'll just be sporadic now rather than constant! Fingers crossed...
We also chose a bit of an awkward time to start the whole nursery thing; he goes Monday and Tuesday but between his illnesses, Easter and Bank Holidays, he's not been in for a 'full week' for months, so it's been hard to get into a routine. As such, although he's starting to settle at nursery, he's still not quite there, so there's definitely some low level guilt every time I drop him off (and pick him up - I did not expect hysterics at both times!). I'm hoping that with a clear run ahead of us in June and into July, we'll all be able to get into the swing of things a bit better going forwards.