Guilt. Massive, crippling, womb-aching guilt. It’s what being a Mum is all about. That, and having to drag the Weetabix out of your hair and check you’ve remembered to put your knickers on before you tumble – invariably late – out of the door in the morning.
Scrap that. It’s the hallmark of a working Mum. Note the absence of the word ‘parent’ here. My husband somehow manages to rise gloriously late from a bed that I will then make, before gliding serenely through the junkyard of ‘the living room’ and off to work, amidst hails of “Bye bye Daddy!” “Kiss!” If one day I stick my head out of the parapet (I mean, Kitchen) to see fair, virginal maidens waving wistfully as he trots off into the distance on a white steed, I don’t think I would be surprised.
So, I may not be selling it to you, this whole women-can-have-it-all lark. But, to be fair, you probably already have this very same scenario to contend with. It is probably DOING YOUR HEAD IN! But guess what ladies? Going back to work is ace! Far from the madding crowd of maternity leave, there are pastures new (or old) where one is not required to babble inanely along to ‘Old MacDonald’. Alright, there may well be the inane small talk around the photocopier and the absurd office politics, but you don’t have to have wee on your leggings! Not until five o’clock anyway!
Ok, if I am brutally honest, I loved having that wee on my leggings. I would gladly have learned the three part harmony of ‘Old bloody Macdonald’, given half the chance to stay at home with my little man for more than the nine months I could afford. Sadly though, life has a way of creeping up on you, slapping you around your sleep-deprived face and dragging you out of the nurturing bubble you create around your family.
The thought of returning to my job as a secondary school teacher terrified me! I had never been away from Harry for more than a few hours and I felt as if someone was actually ripping off my right hand when they prised him out of my vice-like grasp. Luckily for me, I am surrounded by some amazingly talented and considerate people at work. Most of whom are young, beautiful career-driven single ladies. A recipe for disaster you may fear? I returned to work only to be taken back under the wing of an incredible team, who mothered the mummy (and cajoled, laughed and consoled me) through a time I had needlessly dreaded.
Finding my feet again was tough, don’t get me wrong. I distinctly remember the first meeting of my first day back. My line-manager could have been speaking Russian for all I knew. The mere act of listening for more than a few minutes to anything more intellectual than daytime TV was, to me, a feat of pure heroism. My ears were ringing and my mind was aching for bed as I walked out of the door, only to have to ramp it up again for nursery pick-up.
Now though, the week after Mother’s Day and I have just spent my first night away from The Boss (hen do – messy – enough said). I have just been given a permanent contract, doing a job I love at school, I have an exciting idea for a new business, which I can pursue alongside this, in addition to the extra tuition I do for looked-after children. I even have…wait for it…a social life! I can oft be observed at the theatre darling and, it must be said, having a glass of vino with my Mummy-friends on our Thursdays and Fridays off.
It is knackering. No doubt about it. At times it feels as if I only rest when I am actually asleep. I can’t moan though. Returning to work has given me a healthy amount of independence from family life, the confidence to believe in myself and my dreams and the chance to have a brew without microwaving it three times. Plus, best of all, when I walk in to nursery at four o’clock on a Wednesday, knowing I have two whole days with my little dude, I feel on top of the world.
Wait a minute, here he comes. He has the biggest smile on his gorgeous face because I have arrived. He holds his arms up, practically jumping out of his shoes for a cuddle. Now I know how Daddy feels! Where is my steed?
Work is great, but being a working Mum is pretty darn fabulous.