Return to Work – The Fear

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I’m back to work soon, and I’m not sure I’m ready. Yes, sometimes I think of the nice aspects to it – getting to use my brain for non baby related things, having great chats and laughs with my colleagues and friends, getting to dress in clothes that won’t get covered in a range of bodily fluids, having a lunch break, Fridays that feel like Fridays again. I haven’t even used my own handbag for a year in favour of throwing everything into the changing bag because, well, what’s the point! And of course, getting paid at the end of the month. All excellent things and reasons to be glad about it.

But. There are a range of emotions that come with it. People often describe maternity leave as being ‘off work’. It’s not. It’s much much much more work than actual work. That’s fine, I love about 80% of it, I’m very grateful to have had the chance on both babies to take extended leave meaning I have been home with them for almost a year each time. The obvious worst part is having to leave them again, not seeing them in the mornings and having the fear of missing a ‘first’ while I’m at work. The cuddles, kisses and random cute things they say and do. Things they might say or do that I would find amazing, but to someone else might just be another ‘thing’ and not necessarily worthy of being reported to me. And I’ll miss it altogether… honestly just thinking of this makes me want to cry. I cannot explain just how much I am going to miss them. If I could just train them to reserve these things for when I’ll be there that would be perfect! They will be in excellent hands with our childminder, no doubts or worries there whatsoever. But I’m their mother. Part of me wonders should I be leaving them at this age? I won’t get into that now, it’s not like I have the choice. Mortgages and bills have to be paid and that’s that.

There is an element of anxiety looming. It’s a strange thing of being familiar with something and being unfamiliar with it all at once. It’s like starting a new job, but you know the people and the place. It’s been a year since I was there, and no doubt things will have changed. There’ll be in-jokes that will go over my head until I catch back up again. There will be new systems, new people, new things to learn. Even the things I already knew, I will have to learn again. That was a bit of a shock when I went back after my first maternity leave. I felt like all the things I had known up until that point on how to do my job got melted away with every night feed and sleepless night with a newborn. I remember sitting for a few minutes trying to remember how to do something I had previously been able to do with my eyes closed. Having to ask for help again for something I feel I should already know. And that shakes your confidence, or at least it does for me.

There’s a sense of paranoia. What if I’m not as good at my job anymore? Obviously, I have more on my mind now than I had the last time I was there, thinking about the boys and wondering are they missing me being there. Am I focusing enough on it, giving it my best? What if the person who was covering my maternity leave was better at my job than I am? I don’t mean that I feel like it’s a competition in any way, but it’s sort of odd, handing over your job and responsibilites to someone and then coming back to see how things are done, if they are done differently. It’s yours and yet it’s someone else’s at the same time.

You’re sort of expected to slot straight back in, as if you’ve only been off work for a weeks holiday. That routine Monday morning thing of ‘How was your week off?’ And the routine reply of ‘Ah you know yourself, just took it easy’. ‘How was your leave?’ ‘Well, I just grew and produced a whole person, didn’t sleep for about six months and managed to figure out how to keep them plus a toddler alive successfully, you know…just took it easy.’ ‘Great stuff, well done. Have you got that report?’

Maybe that’s my own expectation, or theirs, or both… I’m not sure. But it’s a big change, and I just don’t find it easy to slot straight back in. There are good aspects to it too – I feel like a different person now than when I left – well of course I am. I teach my children things every day, and they teach me things about myself right back in return. Things I used to get stressed about in work no longer stress me out at all. A ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ type of thing. I can multi-task like a champion. I can make decisions quickly and under pressure and not feel the fear as much as I did before doing these things. I can manage my time much more effectively. Really, the more I think about it, the more I reckon maternity leave should really count towards your annual review – the new skills you pick up are beneficial in so many ways! Not that I was bad at this stuff before, at least I hope not, but it gives you another type of confidence in your abilites, even if I can’t for the life of me even remember what my login password was!

Well anyway, whether I like it or not I’ll soon find out if I’m right. The return date is looming, no point ignoring it anymore. Now, if I could only remember where I left my puke-free handbag.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Nostalgia Factor

I’m sentimental, I always have been. I’m very nostalgic, I’ll listen to a lot of – let’s face it, cheesy music – purely because it will take me back to a time or a place that makes me feel happy.  I’m that type of person who ends up ruining the last couple of days of their holidays because I get so disappointed that they’re almost over and wishing I could go back in time and do it again. For the majority of decisions I make, my heart rules my head.

I take A LOT of photographs of the boys. One look at my Instagram, and you’ll have noticed that already. There aren’t any photos of latte art and nice rustic looking meals all perfectly arranged. It’s really not all that interesting unless you love looking at pictures of EXTREME CUTENESS, the two most adorable little boys I have ever set eyes on! Yawn you might think, don’t worry I get it, I get fairly bored looking at photos of other people’s kids too. But I take the photos for me, and I keep my favourites on Instagram as a sort of portable photo album for myself and I love looking back at the older ones.

There’s another reason I like doing this though. I’ve come to realise something probably already very obvious, but it only properly dawned on me the other day. Just how fast they are changing. Of course I know it already, I say it all the time. But I’m realising that as well as learning new things, getting taller, those sort of things, their whole personalities are completely changing. The person they are today is not necessarily the same person they will be tomorrow. Of course there’s an element of that in us all, but it’s much more amplified in kids.

This time last year, I used to have to ask people not to say the word ‘Banana’ around Rian, because he would almost explode with the excitement such was his love for bananas. Even hearing the word would make him hop up and down with excitement, and want one on the spot, and I couldn’t have him eating bananas all day and night. A few months later, the wonder of bananas had worn off, and his main purpose in life changed to eating ‘Gapes and Oburt’. That’s grapes and yoghurt to you and me. Gapes and Oburt even had their own song, that’s how much he loved them. He also used to get excited at the sight of the ‘Mote-Orto’, because seeing the Remote Control usually led to his other favourite thing in life, Thomas the Tank Engine. But even then, he only wanted to listen to the songs, so, I would spend my life watching this song, leaving it forever engrained on my brain, over and over.  ‘AGAIN MAMA!’, so we’d rewind it and watch it again. And again. On a journey indeed.

It’s a bit like when, with a baby, you might pull a face which makes them almost cry with laughter it’s that funny. About an hour later you do it again, and they sit looking at you like you’re the biggest parental embarrasment they’ve ever had to face. What could possibly have happened in one hour to turn something from side splittingly hilarious to absolutely pathetically sad?!

So when Rian comes in and suddently asks for ‘grapes and yoghurt’, pronouncing it perfectly, and says, ‘oh there you are remote control!’ in the hope that I will put on Thomas, my nostalgic self feels a bit sad for the little person they have left behind, and a bit sad that I won’t hear the cute way he mispronounces his words. These little examples and how I’ll miss them are probably part of the reason why I cried at the part of Toy Story 2 when Jessie’s owner outgrows her and she’s flung under the bed, or in Inside Out when (spoiler alert) the imaginary friend character sacrifices himself. I cried! Why? Beats the hell out of me. I never had an imaginary friend, so I’ve no idea why that particular part got to me but for some reason, I find it extremely hard to let things go, however unimportant they may seem. So what I wonder is, will this turn me into a clingy type of mother who wraps them up in cotton wool? I hope not, I don’t want that. Judging by how Rian seems so independent already, I don’t think so. But I know there are things about them growing up that I am going to find so hard. I already miss parts of his personality that he has grown out of. Little things he says or does. No doubt it will be exactly the same with Alex. I’m sure all parents are the same in that regard.

I suppose you could argue that being too nostalgic could be a bad thing – it’s important to embrace change and look to the future and all those wise words people say we should all do. I’m not one to embrace change easily, although I’m trying to get better at it. But the fact I cling to nostalgia so much is also good too I think. It makes me appreciate them for how they are now because I know, in the near future, maybe even as near as tomorrow, they will change again and I will miss the version they are of themselves today.

Sometimes, after one of those long  days when everyone is cranky and tantrumy and growing teeth and things, I’m wishing for bedtime, for peace and quiet. There’ll always be those days. When I’m not in the mood to watch another episode of Thomas again, that same episode again, because that’s his favourite one. To read that same book again for the 50th time in a row about Smartest Giants and Witches on Brooms and Gruffalos.

Instead, I recognise that tomorrow he might not want me to read to him at all anymore. Next week, he might not want to cuddle with me on the couch under his favourite blanket and watch Percy and Thomas cause ‘confusion and delay’. I know there’ll come a day when my nostalgic self will long for these days back again. I just wish they weren’t whizzing by so fast! And off I go again on my little nostalgic merry go round, dreading the changes instead of enjoying them while they’re happening right now.