(This post first appeared on www.meetothermums.com)
I take a deep breath, plaster a smile on my face and then cheerily proceed with the hello’s and how are you’s. However, I know it won’t take long. I can feel myself getting agitated before I hear a single one of those words. I’m waiting, thinking, ‘Go on then, say it!’
‘Not long ’til you go back to work is it?’
Boom. There it is, hitting me square between the eyes. Those ten little words. One dreaded phrase that is following me round from house to house. Wherever I go – hello, there it is – again.
WORK. WORK! Why would I want to talk about that?
The dreaded phrase is usually followed by my husbands laughter as he says, ‘You’ve gone and done it now, you’ve said that word, she’s absolutely seething now!’ I smile politely, as if to say, ‘No it’s fine’ – but really he’s absolutely right.
I’m honestly not sure how many times people feel the need to rub it in – sorry, remind me – that I’m returning to work and it is looming in the not to distant future. What is there to gain from such cruelty? Especially as I’m trying so hard to convince myself that I have ages to go. I mean three months is a quarter of a year after all, isn’t it? But no, they wont let me live inside my happy bubble, they must pop it. BANG – and it’s gone again. I’m positive that there a conspiracy to upset me and ruin my maternity leave completely. Why would people do this? The simple answer – because they can’t wait to get rid of me.
Lately, (well since my son was born) I’ve found that it is in fact very easy to feel like no one actually wants to know you anymore. You are merely a means to get access to the baby and as a result they will tolerate your presence. Those words, with the accompanying smug grins and the look of pure excitement combine to say what they really mean – get your arse back to work so I can have the baby. I don’t normally consider myself a violent person, but whenever I hear that phrase I have to quickly swallow down the urge to punch whoever said it square on the nose and remind myself that I am indeed related to them.
Is it really a conspiracy? No, probably not. (Although, yes in a small number of cases!) Do I have a handle on my emotions? Pre-baby, yes. Post-baby – not so much. The strongest of my ‘new’ emotions is ‘the primal protective urge’. It’s true, some people might say (even the pre-baby me), that this emotion is in complete irrational overdrive and kicks in over the smallest of things. But even if that’s true, I now trust no-one. And that is where my problem really lies. It is not so much the actual working – although that is a big problem in itself – but that it doesn’t matter to me if they’ve had children of their own, are a grandmother or even if they played a role in my upbringing – because they don’t know MY baby like I do and I don’t want to leave him.
However, is it really as simple as just ‘I don’t want to leave him’? No, because I do realise that even if I were to be a stay at home mum, at some point I’d have to leave him in someone else’s care. Having only left him for the grand total of an hour in his whole 15 weeks of life, that’s probably a hurdle I’ll have to jump way before returning to work. So why is returning to work filling me with such dread? Surely a bit more adult conversation will do me some good, won’t it?
Well, have I missed work? No, not one bit.
Am I work shy, wanting to stay inside my cosy little home and head out for a coffee morning or two with the baby in tow? No (well, maybe a tad!)
But that’s still not it.
It’s more about wishing work to be more on my own terms and wondering whether or not I will be able to cope with the changes ahead of me.
Can I cope with the 4am feed knowing my alarm will go off at 6am?
Can I cope with transitioning to combination feeding or will the fear of my milk drying up drive me to hide in the staff toilets expressing like some demented cow lady?
Can I cope with the fact that despite me insisting people follow my baby’s daily routine, I already know that they won’t?
Can I cope with the guilt of not wanting my baby to be upset being left with someone else – yet inappropriately and selfishly wanting him to miss me?
Is this what working mummy guilt feels like? I don’t know.
But what I do know, even if I find it hard to remember, is that I am lucky.
I’m lucky that I’m only working three days a week. I’m lucky that I have people around me to offer help and support when I need it. And I’m lucky that whilst I am working (when the dreaded time comes), my baby will be being looked after by people who love him dearly (even if they do want rid of me!)