(This post first appeared on www.meetothermums.com)
There’s much talk about the loneliness new mum’s can face in the first few days, weeks and months of parenting. Being stranded at home alone with a newborn can be a daunting and isolating prospect. However, for me, the loneliness eventually came when I ventured back to work.
There’s no denying that those first few weeks were definitely a shock to the system. Yes, I suffered the usual sleep deprived and hightened emotions (basically, I was a blubbering wreck at the drop of a hat) but I did manage to ‘get out’. It might have taken me a forever to actually leave my front door, but I made sure I did it. The play groups, the breastfeeding groups, the weighing clinics, baby massage, baby pilates and the likes. Everything I could, I did. I had settled into my new routine, I’d made my mummy friends and I loved it.
For me, becoming a ‘working‘ mummy, was as much of a shock to the system as becoming a mummy in the first place.
Before returning to work, I was absolutely dreading it. I cried many times about returning to work. The night before my first day back I cried. There were no emotions of relief at having a part of my pre-baby life back, no relief at some ‘adult-time’ (I’m a teacher, no such event occurs in my life). Not even the possibility of venturing to the toilet without an audience brought any positive vibes my way.
Initially, it was the mummy guilt that crippled me emotionally. I knew my baby wasn’t happy being left with people other than Mummy or Daddy. And even though we were leaving him with family members, we were still leaving him. In addition, he goes to four different carers over my working days and it made me feel even worse asking so much of my baby; expecting him to deal with so much change and inconsistency to his routine. Treating him like a pass the parcel. My feelings on this remain the same.
Yet at first, (ignoring the painful mummy guilt when leaving my baby) it didn’t seem so bad. In fact I even said, ‘It’s actually OK.’ That’s because being a teacher is a full on job, therefore it gives me absolutely no time to sit and ponder on what my baby is doing (thankfully). Is he happy? Is he upset? Has he taken his bottle ok? Will he forgive me for abandoning him?
As I settled into my new routine as a working mummy, and I realised that my baby can survive even when he’s not with me, a new more unexpected feeling began to dominate my mind – loneliness.
It began because I felt like a spare part at work. There were new staff, new faces, I didn’t know. My friends from work had moved on elsewhere. New groups had formed, none of which included me. I often found myself thinking, ‘I just don’t fit in here anymore’; as I ate my lunch whilst marking books, alone.
Don’t get me wrong, I speak to people. We chit-chat. We work together well for the kids. But we’re not organising the next pub outing or a take-away with a glass of wine. Initially, this upset me. Yet I’ve come to realise that it’s of my own choosing. You see, I actually don’t really care if I ‘fit in’. I couldn’t have expected to ‘fit back in’ when I’ve had no contact with my colleagues during my maternity leave. We are exactly that – colleagues, not friends. I have other friends. Mummy friends that I’m used to seeing multiple times a week with our babies, having fun.
I miss them.
Whilst I’m at work, I want to do my job well. But when the bell rings, I want to go home asap. My priority is my baby. Having an evening with him; being there for bath time and bedtime. That’s important to me.
The loneliness hits me most, ironically, when my phone beeps. It’s my mummy friends organising a play date at the park. It’s pictures of my son having fun at Grandma’s house. It’s where I want to be, with people I want to be with, but I can’t.
I’m lucky in the fact that I work part time. Three days a week. So yes, I have two week days, and the weekend, to be with those people I choose. My son, my family, my friends. But there’s the house to clean, the food shopping to do, the cat to take to the vets (don’t worry, I know so does everyone else)… The play dates are getting less and less. My mummy friends are slowly returning to work too (some part time, some full time) and we have all started passing like ships in the night.
I feel like a rubbish teacher because, in fact, I’d rather not be there.
I feel like a rubbish mummy because I can’t be there 24/7; and when I am there I have errands to do; I don’t have as many play dates to take him to as we’ve missed this weeks outing, because of me.
I feel like a rubbish friend because I never make the play dates. I’m not there to be a shoulder to lean on, an ear to listen, or someone to have a laugh with.
Now, I know that I’m by no means the only working mummy or the only mummy who feels a bit rubbish about being a working mummy. I’m not trying to be self-centred, it’s just that so much is always being said about how we should strive to be a ‘mum boss’; about how being part time is the best of both world; and that being a mummy shouldn’t stop you being ambitious – we should be loving the working mummy, #mumboss, status. Yet, I don’t.
I think it’s important to acknowledge that having the best of both world is actually really hard – and it can also be lonely. It’s one more plate to spin. It’s one more thing to feel guilty about. It’s one more thing to feel crap at.
I’m a mummy. I’m a working mummy. I work for myself. I work for my family. I work to provide for my child.
So do my mummy friends.
But it’s okay to not feel like a Mum Boss. It takes time to adjust to this new status, the working mummy. It’s okay to acknowledge those feelings of loneliness; I miss my friends, I’ve lost a tiny bit of my support group that was so crucial to helping me through my early days as a mummy and I miss my son.