Back when I was first pregnant, I thought I might not have to go back to work once my maternity leave was over. I had a book deal on the horizon, and plenty of time off looming to spend writing (ah ha ha ha ha), so it seemed reasonable to assume I’d be able to kiss my day job goodbye in 2012 and combine baby wrangling with writing full-time.
Fast forward a few months and the ‘dead-certain’ book deal didn’t materialise (nixed by the Acquisitions team, who I sometimes think of as the Dementors of the publishing world). I also found that I’d contracted Baby Brain, and couldn’t concentrate on writing. Then I had a data stick related accident and lost what little writing I had been able to do (half a book, in case anyone wants to make sympathetic noises). Even so, by the time Tweetie Junior (as the baby is publicly known) arrived, I was still clinging on to the hope that I’d never have to face my colleagues across the desk again. Huh.
So it was with a heavy heart in June that I enrolled Tweetie Junior part time into a nursery and dug out my dull work clothes, because I couldn’t very well go into the office wearing my dressing gown. The night before my first morning back, I blended and puréed as though my life depended on it, to ensure that the baby had fresh food to eat during his incarceration. I packed his bag with every eventuality in mind, although the inclusion of sun cream was wildly optimistic. And in the morning, I left home with tears in my eyes to face the misery of earning a proper wage, like the rest of the working population.
By midday, I was ready to slit my wrists with a sharpened paperclip. I’d forgotten how to log in, how to use the phone system and pretty much what my job even was. Since I was still breastfeeding, it felt like my boobs were ready to explode. And I was pretty sure Tweetie Junior would hate his afternoon at nursery (despite the fact that he’d loved his induction visits). All in all, I was counting the seconds until I could escape back to my baby cocoon.
When the end of the day finally came around, I shot out the door and spent the journey home fretfully imagining the baby screaming inconsolably for his mummy. The reality was a bit different; bouncing in the Jumperoo (note for non-parents: this is a life-saving contraption which buys you enough time to drink a cup of lukewarm tea) when I arrived, he flashed a cheerful grin my way and carried on with the business of bouncing. His key worker told me he’d been relentlessly happy all afternoon. Which was a great relief, if not quite what my battered mummy ego needed to hear. The evening was spent catching up on cuddles, cooking for the next day and trying to suppress a sinking feeling, before I fell into an exhausted coma at 9.30pm.
It’s now three weeks since I went back and, while I can’t say I enjoy work, I’ve settled in more now that I know Tweetie Junior is happy enough without me for a few hours. I’m never going to love being there and am still dreaming of that new book deal (or lottery win) but I’m surviving. Knowing that Wednesday is the new Friday helps, although my colleagues look positively murderous when I mention it. Just don’t expect me to win Employee of the Year; because my heart simply isn’t in my job. How could it be, when I leave it with my baby each morning?