I haven’t been writing much about being a Mummy recently because I’ve been too busy being a Mummy instead. All of those changes I was dreading have come along and I’ve gone with the flow, embraced everything that came my way… and survived!
You may recall me pondering whether or not I could cope with going back to work and how scared I was of going to look around nurseries, and here I am on the other side finally admitting that it’s not so bad.
My wonderful cousin, who I should listen to more often, told me that although she would love to stay at home with her children she knew that she was giving them more by working, both in monetary terms and in giving them new experiences. She was right. I don’t feel at all as though I’m taking anything away from Ted.
I opted to take Ted for a series of taster sessions before I went back to work, whereby he would go twice a week for an hour, then two hours, and finally up to the four hour slots he actually attends now. I’m glad I did because it meant that I was nearby if anything went wrong but I didn’t have to try to concentrate on anything important, whereas if I’d been at work I would have had to continue to function like a proper person. The first couple of sessions involved me wandering around town in a zombie-like state, but then I started quite enjoying the time to myself. It was such a treat to go to the library and not sit on a chair that left my chin on my knees, or to be able to try something on without dragging a buggy into the changing rooms and finding that the curtain wouldn’t pull around us both. But then it dawned on me that while I was getting used to not being with Ted while I was on call it was going to be a completely different thing when I was back at work.
On the day itself walking out of the house without his buggy was harder than anything else I had to face. It was a strange feeling going back into an office I used to be a part of and finding someone else at my desk, but although I felt as though I didn’t have a clue what I was doing I did also feel as though I’d never been away. Working in education and going back to work in July meant that I’ve had some time to get myself together, and perhaps that’s helped with feeling so positive, but I haven’t – at any point – felt as though I’ve done anything wrong.
Taking a full year off was entirely the right thing for us, regardless of how hard it was at the end. But going back to work hasn’t been wrong for us either. Ted loves nursery and I love having pictures to put on my fridge; Ted learns to socialise with other children and I get to talk to grown-ups; Ted will grow up seeing that both his Mummy and Daddy work and that they both spend equal time looking after him; and we finally have enough money to pay the rent, buy nappies and go for the occasional day trip.
For some reason it’s become accepted “knowledge” that women feel guilty when they go to work and put their children in daycare, but that’s not at all what I’ve found. I feel many things when I go to work without Ted but guilt isn’t one of them, and I do wonder whether we’re told we should feel guilty because it’s still expected that we’ll give everything else up to be nothing but Mummy.
I can’t actually work out what there is to feel guilty about. I’m working because I need to pay the bills, because I need to take steps toward my career goal, and because it’s important for Ted to see that I do. Even if I was in a position to give up work now I don’t think I’d take Ted out of nursery because I can see how much good it’s doing him. I can’t feel guilty about something that is actually making our lives better.
So, H, it turns out you were right. Just don’t expect me to admit that very often.