So, this time next week, I won’t be still in my PJs mid-morning nor in my usual leggings/trainers/vest-top/floppy jumper combo. This time next week, I won’t be elbow deep in mashed-up food and washing-up. I won’t be changing nappies and trying to chase my crawling, naked butt baby around her room with a wipe in each hand. I won’t be attempting to wipe puke peppered with Weetabix from my new jumper (like I did this morning) – well, not unless something has gone seriously wrong. No, this time next week, I will be at work. Yes, you heard me right, I will be AT WORK *she says, shouting so the ones in the cheap seats can hear*.
I can’t really complain, I went on maternity leave on 14th January 2011. That’s a full 348 days ago, a full 8,352 hours, a full 501,120 minutes that I have been “out of the building”. By the time I go back, on the 3rd January 2012, I will have been “out of office” for 353 days. Wowzers.
I remember the feeling of leaving the office on the 14th Jan, it was amazing. The year stretching out in front of me like one long wahoooooo!!! I could barely contain myself with excitement. Of course I knew it wasn’t exactly going to be a year off, but it was a year away from commuting, a year away from stressing, a year away from clients and campaigns and general work-related crap. Don’t get me wrong, I actually do enjoy my job (for the most part), but let’s face it, with the prospect of a year away from all that, after having spent the best part of 12 years at a desk day in/day out, well it felt pretty bloody brilliant.
Aside from the whole business of having a baby, which of course was the reason I was having the year off, I had big plans. I remember as I went on maternity leave I began to make a mental list, which, on reflection, was actually properly mental, considering I was going to be giving birth and then looking after a baby imminently. I remember thinking it was a chance to do all those things I had never had the chance to do, never had the chance to fit in around work, things like: (1) read War & Peace; (2) print off photographs and get them framed to put around the house; (3) go to the dentist; (4) re-watch the full Sex & The City box-set back to back for days on end… you know, important stuff. It turned out that I actually did none of those things. But, what I did do, which was on my “mental” list, was start this blog and I’m rather proud of myself that with all the goings on of the past year, I have actually managed to keep on blogging.
If truth be told you see, I can be a bit faddish. Ask Richmond Daddy, he’ll tell you. There was the time I decided to take up knitting. I bought all the kit, signed up to a bitch ‘n’ stitch style group, but after about a month was frustrated that all I’d mastered was a few knit-one-pearl-ones that barely made a scarf. Really I was there more for the “bitchin’”, the stitchin’ kinda just got in the way, so I chucked it in. Then there was Bikram Yoga. I imagined myself going religiously each week, finding inner peace and sculpting my body into something Jennifer Anniston would be proud of. In reality, I went every day for 5 days, then burnt out and never went back. Hmmm… so you see, blogging, I didn’t necessarily think that I’d stick at it, but I’m really pleased that I have, because it’s given me such pleasure and as well as the fact that along the way I have met some fab new bloggy friends, who’ve become friends in real life not just cyber-life, I have also created a fantastic record to look back on and remember this very special year.
And what a very special year it has been. Richmond Baby came into our lives on the 21st February – not before time, she was 2 weeks overdue! – and our whole world changed, and for the better. She has brought us more joy, more fun, more excitement, than we ever thought possible and I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to have this time with her, one-on-one, for this past year.
But now, times are a-changing again. This morning as I was cuddling RB in bed, trying to persuade her that 6.15am was not the ideal time to get up and play with her new toys, I had a flashback to those early days, when I would be up around 1am, cuddling her in my arms as she enjoyed a feed. Her sleepy face, eyes shut, but still feeding happily, then I’d put her back in her moses basket and she would sleep contentedly beside me until the next feed. These days she’s a crawling, climbing, babbling, giggling, bundle of fun. No longer sleeping beside me (apart from those nights where she’s a bit troubled and I bundle her into bed with us for an easy life and because I love to have her snoozing close beside me) and becoming more and more independent with every passing day. She doesn’t even need me to give her her bottle these days, she just grabs it and pops it in her mouth, drinking it all down quite happily. Talk about feeling redundant! Of course she still needs mummy for cuddles, for kisses, for playtime, for singing, for dancing around the living room to Lady Gaga, and I’m more than happy to oblige. She is my world, it’s hard to put it into words just how much I love this little one. Her face, even with its current permanently snotty nose, makes me smile every single day. She makes my heart feel happy.
So now we embark on a new chapter. The mummy goes to work, baby goes to nursery chapter. I fully expect it to be challenging. I fully expect it to be heart-breaking when I drop her off each morning. I fully expect to feel cheated that I will only get to see her for probably an hour in the morning and a hour or two in the evening (we’ll have to push back her bedtime I think!) from Monday to Thursday. I just wish I could split myself in two and be at work and at home simultaneously. But, it ain’t gonna happen.
But, we will have Fridays and the weekends of course. It doesn’t sound like much, but those days – especially mummy and Allegra Fridays – those days are going to be special. They are going to be quality days. They are going to be days to remember. Fridays will be renamed Funtime Fridays in the Richmond household. Watch this space.
Going back to work after a year of being a SAHM is going to be tough, no question. But I’m willing to give it a shot and I hope that it works out for all of us involved. I know I’ll suffer from “the guilt” pretty much constantly, but I guess that’s to be expected. All I can do is try. So wish me luck, I’m off to enjoy my last 5 days of freedom.
How did you find going back to work? How do you juggle being at work with being a hands-on mummy? Have you managed to achieve the elusive work-life balance?