Taking stock: my new life as a working mum

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This Thursday just gone, I will have been back at work 11 weeks. Friends and family ask me how it’s going, and I usually find myself shrugging at them and saying “it’s fine.”

It is.

And actually, I recognise that I’m very lucky. I’ve been fortunate to be able to go back part time to my old role as an editor. Ralphie spends two days a week at nursery and another day with my dad, and he seems to be loving it. Which means that two days a week we have mummy-baby time. We play around the house together, we head out for walks, we go to baby groups and we meet up with friends.

Weekends with Ryan at home pass us by in a flash. And then we’re doing it all over again. Back to the routine. Is this really it?

But rather than complain, I have started to try and do something about it. Just under a month ago I launched a new little venture I’ve been working on. It’s something I feel very passionate about – and I have to really because to fit it in between life, being a mum and everything else, I tend to work on it late into the evenings.

It’s called Small Baby and I got the idea for it from doing this blog. Basically, it’s an online magazine that shows off some of the best small businesses creating cool stuff for children. Some would say it’s a bit of an indulgence. And I suppose it is. I’m not even going to deny that my insta feed is a glorified wish list! But it has a greater purpose too. I want to give a voice to the brave people (who usually happen to be mums) who have taken the gamble and decided to set up their own business so they can be around for their children and provide for their family. To them, every purchase, every customer shows them that they’ve done the right thing. And I want to celebrate that.

If you fancy popping over and having a read, it would mean the world. It would also provide a welcome boost to my readership figures, which I’m desperately trying to grow!

I’m frustrated I haven’t been able to post on here as regularly as before. But I’m still writing. In fact, I’m writing more than ever! Every day and every night. Hopefully, one day those words will get me where I want to be, wherever that is!

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Lost in a moment

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Life has sped up again. It’s like someone has taken a remote control, pointed it at us, and fast forwarded at 30x speed. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.

It hasn’t been an easy few weeks. Managing the transition from maternity leave to work, from baby to toddler, not to mention the onslaught of bugs that has left us all snotty, bleary eyed, wheezing wrecks – it has, in all honesty, taken its toll. I don’t think any of us can quite remember what it’s like to feel well.

But we’re hanging on in there and in between the daily grind, we’re still having plenty of fun. And at least I’m not crying when I leave Ralphie anymore. The guilt lingers, but thankfully the tears have dried up!

Since Ralphie’s birthday, it has been all change again. I know I probably say it every time, but I think this is my favourite stage yet. He is so damn cheeky, and I love it. He knows exactly what I’m saying to him, and if it’s no (i.e. please don’t pull my hair or chuck your cup on the floor for the 100th time), he cocks his head to the side and gives me a little grin.

His language is coming on in leaps and bounds. He can say mama, dada, grandad, nana (much to my mum’s disappointment as she wants to be grandma), again, more, yes (he actually says “da”) and a whole load of other babble that we haven’t been able to translate yet.

Waving is his new favourite thing. He waves to get mine and his dad’s attention, he waves goodbye (usually when the person has turned their back and gone), and he waves at strangers in the street before giving them the cheesiest of grins. This boy loves attention and he knows how to get it!

Now at 13 months, it’s looking pretty unlikely that Ralphie’s going to be an early walker! But he is walking around as much as he can – he scales walls, doors, the washing machine, the sofa. It won’t be long, and I’m not rushing him. The fast breathing noises he makes as he crawls are too funny.

We use an app called Moment Garden to share photos of Ralphie with close friends and family. My photo sharing endeavour is endless, I know! One thing this app does is send a daily update with a moment from a year ago today. Ryan has turned into a broody mess as he reminisces about our tiny little squidge that used to placidly lie there and smile up at us. I miss those days too, but motherhood has taught me to appreciate the now. I was a rubbish planner before, and now I’m even worse. Because all I’m trying to do is enjoy today and remember it all. Time, you are a scary thing.

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Time for some adult conversation

 

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And so a new chapter has begun. September – the month I head back to work. The month Ralphie turns one.

A week in and I know we’re all going to be ok. But I already miss maternity leave dreadfully. I wasn’t prepared for it to be over so soon. Can we rewind the clock, please?

If you’re reading this and you happen to be on maternity leave or going on leave soon, my one word of advice is to enjoy the small things – a hot shower, afternoon cuddles, making it out of the house only half an hour late. Some days will be good, others will be great, and others you’ll want to curl up into a ball and cry. And that’s fine. If you didn’t manage to get dressed today, don’t worry.

It’s probably also worth knowing the following:

  • The washing and cleaning can wait. As long as you’re not festering, you’ll all be fine
  • Remember to go to the loo, don’t hold it in!
  • Snuggle that baby as much as you want. You won’t make him clingy in later life. Ralphie only fell asleep on us when he was tiny and now he falls asleep by himself in his cot. Those cuddles did no lasting damage. Phew!
  • Take plenty of pictures and videos, and make sure you’re in them too
  • It’s ok not to be a perfect mum, housewife, cook and partner at the same time – you can’t be all things to all people. Well, I can’t anyway
  • Sing – a good nursery rhyme fixes most things. I’m the mad lady singing ‘Pat-a-cake’ to Ralphie in his pram when we’re out and about
  •  Try not to compare yourself to other mums. By all means listen to their advice, but do what’s right for you and your baby. I’m yet to meet anyone who has taken the exact same approach on everything
  • You will sleep again, just maybe not tonight!
  • Statutory maternity pay is rubbish and if, like me, your work didn’t give you a decent package, things will feel a bit tight. You’ll learn to adapt, though. New clothes and fancy meals out can wait
  • Get creative! You won’t have loads of free time on your hands, but when that babe is asleep, you may just want to try out something new, or old. For me, it was writing and photography. I thought I wouldn’t mind a year off from writing, but I missed it. And I never expected to love taking photos as much as I do, but it’s definitely a new passion of mine.

Looking back on the last year, I have no regrets. I would like to experience it all again, though, just in case.

But, alas, it’s too late. I won’t be able to stay in my pyjamas until midday – not on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, anyway!

And most gutting of all, on those days there’ll be nobody around that gives me hugs and kisses on demand.

So it’s back to adult conversation and hot drinks. The thing is, I don’t even mind cold coffee anymore.

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Dear nursery…

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I’ve been given a form to fill out so that the folk at nursery can learn a little more about Ralphie and what he gets up to in a typical day. Nap times, favourite toys…you know the drill.

The thing is, it’s quite hard to encapsulate my boy’s habits and little quirks in a single form. Do I, for example, let them know about his new tendency to pucker up his face and look like a pig? Do they need to know that he enjoys pinching that soft bit of skin at the top of your arm? It hurts – a lot – by the way.

For his sake, and mine, I’ve omitted a few details. But just in case anyone’s reading, here is a more honest response…

Dear nursery,

Good luck looking after my gorgeous boy. Please look after him well. He’s the happiest baby I know. He never really cries, unless he’s super hungry or tired. And he loves to laugh and sing. However, he may look like a little angel, but he will certainly make sure I get my money’s worth. 

Here are a few reasons why…

Busy. If I had to describe him in one word, it would be busy. My little guy doesn’t like to miss a thing. He is into EVERYTHING. Even when you think he’s sound asleep at nap time, don’t be fooled. Put the magazine down. Because if you happen to peek and check on him, and catch your foot on a creaky floorboard, he will hear you and sit up immediately.

Don’t bother tidying. Ralphie has this thing with neat sideboards and stuff tidied safely away in boxes. He hates it. Turn your back and he will remedy the situation in no time. Turns out, toys, clothes, ornaments, magazines, you name it, all belong on the floor.

He loves pulling hair, and I’m sure that he actually says “hair” while he’s doing it. I’m so proud. But, unless you are willing to experience serious pain, do not let him go anywhere near your head. He has the grip of a grown man. And if you happen to be bald, he will lick your head instead.

He likes mouths too. Try not to open yours when his hand is close by. He will stick his fingers in and pull your teeth.

Ralphie is a great communicator. If he doesn’t like the food you’re trying to carefully spoon into his mouth at lunch, he will let you know. Without any warning he will whack the utensil out of your hands.

After his morning nap (or perhaps during), Ralphie will do a poo. It doesn’t smell of roses. 

Nine times out of ten, you will get peed on as you’re changing his nappy. He will also get pee on himself in the process – it will run all up his back and soak into his vest and top. That wipe I put over his nether regions does absolutely nothing.

Do not, I repeat, do not let him roll mid way through the nappy change. He flips in a split second and tries to do a runner. A pack of wipes usually does the trick and keeps him in place. 

You will get called “dad,” even though you are clearly not his dad. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Just so you know, he calls his Daddy “Ada.”

Ask him not to do something and he will turn around, look at you, and grin. He will then carry on doing whatever it was you didn’t want him to, such as grabbing your jewellery, trying to push the tv over, that kind of thing.

Once again, good luck. And if you’re not up to the job, please let me know. I miss him already.

Mum x

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Off to nursery we go

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This isn’t a post I’ve been looking forward to writing. After months of denial, it finally happened – I took Ralphie to his first settling in session at nursery. And do you know what…it was fine. Admittedly, I was there the whole time. Maybe I’ll be writing something entirely different next week!

The thing is, I’m pretty sure that Ralphie will take it all in his stride. He’s a sociable, happy little chap. Yes, he is a mummy’s boy, but sing him some songs, read him a book and he’s as happy as Larry (whoever he is.). It’s me I’m worried about. They mentioned bringing in some photos of us for him to look at during the day, and I welled up at the thought of it.

I deliberated over which nursery to send him to for a long long time. It took me even longer to fill in the form and register his place. And I’ve left it until as late as possible to book in his settling in sessions. I’ve always known I will be going back to work (albeit part-time), and I’m fine about the actual working bit; it’s the leaving Ralphie part I can’t get my head around.

But we’re not the first to go through this. I’ve taken great comfort hearing from friends about how they’ve got on. And I know it’s not easy, but you’re all coping. Plus, I’m sure the nursery I’ve picked is lovely. It’s not too big; it has more toys than Ralphie could possibly wish for; the other children seem sweet; and the staff took a real shining to him. He’ll be well looked after.

After almost a year of maternity leave bliss together, these next few weeks bring a lot of change. I don’t know if I’m ready for the next chapter, but it is almost here. Just whatever you do, don’t mention his birthday!

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