Yesterday was my first day back at work after an eight-month maternity leave. I’ve never blogged in my life but I have about 12.5 minutes until my train arrives into Waterloo and thought I’d share the whole surreal experience with other mums who might be on their way back to the office.
Please don’t troll me for it!
I just know I’m going to be an emotional disaster zone when it comes to leaving my gorgeous baby girl for the first time, so I wash my hair and choose my outfit the night before. I work for a glossy magazine, in the dark art of ad sales, and everyone on my team always looks effortlessly glamorous.
I’m embarrassed to admit it but I’ve spent the past month shopping for work clothes. Something that used to come so naturally to me, dressing for work, has suddenly become impossible. I decide to go for a grey Whistles dress – flattering and definitely not mumsy – and lay it out on the bed, ready to fling on in the morning.
We have the worst night. The baby, J, senses my bid for freedom and wakes me three times, coughing. I start panicking, not so much about the cough as I know she’s ok, but about the office, and as a result I don’t think I sleep for more than four hours. Unlike her bastard father, who remains fast asleep thoughout.
How I’ve aged over the past eight months, I think, as I peer at my pallid reflection in the bathroom mirror. No amount of make-up can conceal the haggard-mum-resting-face I seem to have acquired. I went for a facial last week in preparation for the office. Ha. What an enormous waste of money that was.
I hear Paula, our live in nanny, in the next-door room getting J dressed and a lump forms in my throat. Paula has been with us for a fortnight now but I still feel I barely know her. I find myself resenting the sound of her footsteps around our house, which is totally unreasonable of me, I know, and I really hope I can get over this because she’s lovely and J seems to like her.
My husband is leaving for work and we have an awkward hug in the bathroom. I don’t want to catch eyes with him but he holds my face and tells me I look great (which is such a bloody lie). I don’t feel at all comfortable in the grey dress. It’s too restricting. I don’t feel like me. Not that I really know who me is anymore.
Husband goes downstairs. I hear him joking with Paula and then humming as he walks up the street. I feel irrational rage that he is always so f’ing laid back about everything.
At breakfast I’m afraid to touch my own baby for fear of making her cry or getting Readybrek on my dress. So Paula feeds her and J just looks at me curiously as I load things into a Fendi handbag that I haven’t used since I went on maternity leave.
I say my goodbyes to Paula (afraid to start micromanaging her with instructions on the first day), give J a quick kiss and bolt for the door. And then that lump in my throat gets so painful that my neck feels as if it is about to explode, and I start to sob.
I know… get a grip, woman. Hot tears cascade down my face, I can’t stop them, and all that stupid make-up washes down my cheeks.
I glance in through the kitchen window and there is J, still eating her porridge, still perfectly happy.
I walk to the end of the street, turn left towards the Overground station, and decide to get a take out coffee in what happens to be a particularly unkidfriendly café. I haven’t been into since I stopped work yet the guy in there seems to remember me. Or he’s being polite.
I ignore my husband when he calls me, for fear of howling down the phone like a mad woman but the faintest hint of a spring is returning to my step as I walk down the street holding my coffee. All this freedom is quite, well, liberating.
I’m running out of time here so to cut a long story short, it’s a slow day in the office. I’ve literally got nothing to do and will therefore probably be made redundant by the end of the week but by lunchtime I know I’m going to be ok.
Paula, bless her, sends me about 10 videos of J grinning at various toys, eating her pasta at lunch, and kicking around on the changing mat before her nap.
I don’t have any profound wisdom to share with you as it’s only been one day but I can tell you this: it’s amazing how quickly the pain of leaving my child behind subsided. I feel bad writing that but it’s true.
Within 10 minutes of being on my own I’d remembered so many things about myself that I’d forgotten.
I’ve changed in a lot of ways and have learnt so many new things but I’m still that person I was before children, too. I still love my job (or at least quite like it). The people I work with are still dicks but they’re nice dicks.
When I get home J flaps and squeals at me so manically that I cry all over again. It is so wonderful to hug her squishy little body and to breathe in her gorgeous just-bathed baby smell. She spits up milk on my dress and I don’t care. I bet I never wear it again. Grey. Too tight. What was I thinking?
This morning I feed J her breakfast while Paula unloads the dishwasher and when she’s finished I cuddle and kiss her so hard she squeals (J, I mean, not Paula, although I wouldn’t rule that out for the future).
When I leave for work I feel happy. And today my make-up stays put.
- Read Char’s next post here