Hands off!

A few weeks ago I was reading through a Twitter storm that had seemed to add on to an original debate by Deanne Carson 2018 who advised that parents should introduce the idea of consent early in childhood.

I didn’t see too much of a problem with this if I’m honest. Whilst I appreciate the inclination to read it flippantly (my Toddler would never have his bum changed if I relied on a vehement acceptance of my request to proceed), I instinctively understood this idea of ‘consent’. For me, it was about ‘awareness’. I have always given signals to my boy about when I was going to bathe him and change him. I love to cuddle him and tickle him to giggling, but I do ask rather than just pounce for kisses. Touch is such an important and integral part of Mommy-baby bond but should we always take for granted that our child is obligated to receive it just because we like to stroke their skin…? It’s a dodgy one to negotiate.

The Fiancé wasn’t so sure about the ‘expert advice’ around contact. Until yesterday when he watched my face storm as a waitress tickled The Toddler whilst we waited for our meal.

The waitress had approached the table to ask if we were ready for the main course. The Toddler was day in his high chair and she was behind him. Without any verbal signal to him, greeting or care for my consent – she proceeded to tickle the back of his neck. Initially The Toddler laughed. He thought it was me. When she repeated the action and he turned to see that there was a stranger standing beside him, he signalled his ‘shy’ face and moved away from her. She went to do it again. But this time asked if he liked to be tickled. I said ‘no’ in what I gather was a very stern voice based upon her hasty retreat. And the Fiancé’s chuckle: “your face!” He said.

My face is right! How bloody dare she! My blood boiled as soon as she first laid a finger on The Toddler. I don’t know whether it was shock or an innate sense of social decorum that prevented me from rudely demanding that she not touch my child, but I was slow to react initially. And then I was annoyed at myself.

Why hadn’t I declared quicker that her actions were out of order? Would they even be deemed out of order?

Since having a child I’ve become aware of how liberal people’s attitudes are toward the judgement of a child’s aesthetics, behaviours, parentage: people have stuck their faces in the pram, fingers under chins, judgemental eyes toward me on almost a weekly occurrence. I’ve always quickly manipulated The Toddler out of the way of contact. I’ve ended conversations abruptly. I’ve refused to hand him over for ‘snuggles’ to people I don’t like. I’ve never felt that I was wrong to do so.

Why is it that people ignore the unspoken societal contract about touch toward a child? I’m sure that the waitress wouldn’t have stood and tickled my fiancé without permission from me. Or from him for that matter. So why do so to my child? His wishes shouldn’t matter less because he cannot explicitly verbalise that he doesn’t want to be touched, albeit in a friendly manner, by a stranger. I may be considered ridiculous – she just tickled him. He laughed. I’m putting my own control and insecurities on to my child. But I watched him react negatively upon identifying who was tickling. I watched him feel confused. And I don’t think that’s right. He doesn’t understand societal boundaries around personal space and contact or consent yet. Imagine if Mommy tried to teach him about ‘stranger danger’ in a year or so but allowed a random person to tickle him every so often in a restaurant or supermarket? He wouldn’t have a clue about a consistent message.

And so whilst he cannot verbalise it, I must. Because he does not need to grow up thinking that he has no personal space or autonomy about his body and boundaries around contact. He does not need to think that a stranger can tickle, hug, kiss him against his will. He doesn’t need to be forced to give out kisses and cuddles as standard goodbyes – he may well meet another little person (or big one for that matter) that doesn’t like their physical space absorbed – but can choose to dole out physical affection on his own terms. He’s quite sure already when he’d rather have a fruit winder than a kiss from me in the morning! So why shouldn’t he choose who else bestows physical attention upon him?

The ‘consent’ argument is likely to divide opinion. That’s fine. I’m not sure the lines in my own house will be clearly drawn when there are sibling relationships and a very cuddly daddy… but in a society where malicious acts against children are ever increasing, it makes sense to me that my child is aware that there are no blurred lines: physical attention doesn’t have to be received if it isn’t welcome nor should it be given just because it’s considered ‘polite’.

So next time a tickly stranger approaches, I will make sure it’s more than just “your face” that makes my feelings clear. Not to be rude, just to save someone else from being.

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What an hour of circus training taught me…

On Saturday I ran off and joined the circus…

Well, I was dropped off outside the circus. Which actually sounds like I was abandoned. I wasn’t! I’d signed up for training in a moment of madness. Sat outside the doors, I was suddenly apprehensive.

I’ve a big ‘thing’ about being a Mommy. And being 32. I use them both to dictate what I should be doing, wearing, looking like. After a few tense evenings at the beginning of the Christmas break negotiating a mental unwind after a difficult few months at work, I was tasked with trying to find more time for myself in 2019; to break from Mommy and teacher and be ‘Cat’.

I’ve taken the advice. Reluctantly.

I found circus classes. But thought I might be too ‘mature’ to be swinging from silks and trapezes. I was talked in to signing up for the aerial fitness with @aerial_jack. I’ve also decided I’m taking part in #gymshark66. So the circus fitness class seemed the perfect start to a health and well-being journey that I’m determined to make stick. 2019 is the year of Meommy. Not just Mommy (it’s taken much negotiation of guilt to write this mindset)!

I loved my first hour. Obviously, I’m writing in hindsight. Because honestly: I didn’t enjoy some of the time I spent learning to ascend a suspended hoop. But just the first hour has taught me much:

A) Being the new girl in class still sucks. Even at 32. It said ‘beginners’ on the advert. I thought there might have been more beginners than me. There wasn’t. I had no one to talk to…

B) I’m more self-conscious than I remember being. Even at 32. Even after having a baby. I’m lucky to have the figure I do. I suffer with massive anxiety. I spent my early twenties absorbed by an eating disorder. I spent my late twenties using exercise as a weapon. I had a good body when I went to Paris and got engaged and made a baby… I was ‘G’. I didn’t give a F. Now my body isn’t so bad. But standing there apart from my toddler (who has become more of a comfort blanket than I realised), I felt a little bit vulnerable and a bit out of my depth. Then there was a dancy-yogary-warmupy bit. In front of a mirror. Bam: the backing dancer dreams floated back and off I went. I may well have looked ridiculous. But I was only doing the same as everyone else so…

C) It’s easy to want to give up when something is physically hard. Even after having spent 27 hours in labour. Or maybe because I once spent 27 hours in labour. And I’m now always so goddam tired… I really struggled to haul my ass up in to suspended pikes. I struggled to pull myself up on to the hoop and then in to a sitting position. My poor coordination still couldn’t get my hands and legs the right way round even at the end of the class. After the fifth attempt at trying to throw my legs from standing to being hooked around the hoop, I was quite sure that circus training wasn’t for me. I wanted to go home. I felt like a clown. Albeit an amateur and inept one. I’m not sure I’d have given up so easily three years ago. But I felt silly. I hate not being able to do something. And whilst exhausted and baring flesh and surrounded by very competent people, the feeling of inadequacy was an easy one to give in to.

Then Jack noticed that I was short and ordered over an extra (thicker) mat and one of the girls held the hoop still. I was up…

D) Circus training hurts. Even though I’ve given birth. The bruising is real. I always trot out ‘I’ve given birth!’ in response to any question of pain. I was adamant I was doing childbirth pain free. I think I’m Wonder Woman. I’m not. I bruise easier than a strawberry. And my body now feels every clambering second of that hoop training two days on. I have bruises all over my legs. A full inhale is uncomfortable. I’ve even dug around for the Arnica that I took after said childbirth. It’s bad.

E) Doing something for yourself, something new and out of your comfort zone, away from motherhood commitments, feels amazing. Even though I love my baby. I was proud of myself for being able to pull off the move captured in the photo at the top of the blog. It doesn’t look like much. In fact, on another glance, it looks as though I’ve decided I’m going to have a nap. I need to work on my ‘performance’ no doubt. But I will. Next week. Because a girl can swing from hoops wearing crop tops for an hour a week and forget that they Mommy, clean, cook, teach, mark, plan, stress… Even at 32.

An open letter to Nanny (and Grandad)…

Mom,

I always thought I didn’t really mind that you lived in Ireland. Let’s be honest: the Irish Sea between us has likely been close enough sometimes. Especially for those times when we haven’t gotten on…

Sometimes I’ve missed having my home close. But mostly I think I’d just gotten used to you being in a different place. I only really started to realise the value of a bond with you when I became pregnant. When I had my little boy I was overwhelmed by your support. And I realised how much you had gone through too, for me.

It’s been hard for you to be so far away as your little man grows. Every time you see him there’s a whole leap forward in appearance, milestones… I take for granted my every day perhaps and never think of how distant you both might feel. I moan when you video call late in the evening and turn The Toddler in to a performing dog while he regales you with his latest dance moves, belly showings and animal noises. Those few moments must be so precious to you.

Sometimes when you’ve arrived here, or we have arrived there, The Toddler has been shy and clingy. He’s taken a while to warm up to Dad, not really knowing men at all apart from his own Daddy. And so big gruff Grandad with his noise and his high shoulders has always been a bit daunting.

Every time you visit, I run around the house the days before tidying and cleaning and shouting at Dan to move his crap because I’d hate to disappoint you and make you think I’m not coping or have a house you’d call messy. I try to pretend I’ve not much work to do so I can spend some time with you in the evening (though Dan and I always joke at how much of a social butterfly you are – there’s always an English face to reconnect with). I needn’t bother: you clean anyway and Dad leaves spots of takeaway on my best Ikea chair…

This week was the first time we had seen you since August. You crashed in to our routine on a Monday and vomited out on Wednesday and I realise how lucky I am (and luckier I would be if we lived closer) that you’re Josiah’s Nanny and Grandad; that you’re my Mom and Dad. It was great to share some of my happy Momday with you and watch you bounce and laugh. It was lovely to sit and see Josiah be enjoyed by more than just me with his little comedian routine at lunchtime. And despite Grandad’s rough Irish love, it was lovely to watch two of my important men feeding the ducks with pub lunch bread.

Suitcases were emptied of stuff to no doubt make up for every day visits. The Toddler was looked after in or near our home all day on Tuesday and I got home to a chicken dinner without having to lift a finger after a tough first day back at work. You’d worked your normal enviable magic around my house and this time I didn’t even moan. I know it’s just your way of being ‘Mom’.

The house was quiet on Wednesday. The Toddler had bounded in to find you and seemed to miss the rocket Grandad had spun him on before bed for the last two nights. This time he’d been friends with his Grandad straight away and I watched him running between you both in the evening, enjoying his extra attentive audience, with a little weight in my heart…

Without the luxury of grandparents I’ve probably been quite insular in my care of The Toddler. He’s never spent a day without me in it and you think I’m a ridiculous control freak I bet. His favourite word is ‘Mommy’ and being so close to him sometimes makes me wish I were closer to you, geographically as well as emotionally. We became the bestest friends when I was pregnant but we sometimes drift apart a bit… I still call you up when I’m low though and you always know when something is wrong. Mom’s just know that stuff.

I don’t always tell you I miss you. I don’t tell you I wish we were closer even though I probably do. I go mad that you disrupt routine. But I miss you and I love you and I hope I make you proud. Being a Mom is full of challenges and tests and smiles and the craziest fiercest pride. I know I don’t always get it right and I’ve a lifetime of it to go yet… we fought because you didn’t either but I’m the test run as the eldest and I realise now that there isn’t a manual for how this works – you just feel and go.

Being a Mom is the hardest, loveliest job. Thank you for being mine.

xx

The baby hath murdered sleep and Mommy will sleep no more…!

The Toddler won’t sleep through the night. Not consistently anyway. And by consistently I mean for more than two nights in a row. We are currently in such a regressive sleep point that I’m up as often as I was when he was six months old (yep – he didn’t sleep through even then)… but now, I’m back at work and have tried to make a new ‘year’ resolution to find some me time in amidst the workload I love to heap around myself once things get going. And The Toddler is a giant compared to his six month old self so a subtle co-sleeping cuddle in mommy’s bed to get a few extra hours is becoming quite the joke.

I know what the thoughts are on co-sleeping; I’m aware that my desperate need for sleep will compromise some people’s beliefs about sleep time safety or even just prompt a comment about how I will have been making a rod for my own back and now I’m paying for it (trust me: I am well aware that I probably am). I also know that parenting is a personal thing. I’ve read books and blogs and the helpful hints that are delivered to my inbox weekly but they don’t all fit my boy. Or my parenting mode.

We’ve always had a problem with the sleep. The Fiancé told me that baby just loved his Momma and wanted extra snuggles. The health visitor told me that breastfeeding babies take longer to go through the night. My Mother assured me that breastfeeding would create a problem. My Nan told me my breastmilk wasn’t filling him enough. My Dad: he was spoilt. You can imagine the failure I felt. I persisted with the breastfeeding anyway and all of the ‘on-demand’ schedules that it created for me. But I did subscribe to the routine around bedtime in the hope that calm would perpetuate through his sleeping and coerce a longer, deeper sleep.

At four months a growth spurt hit. It was one of the hardest periods of Mommyhood so far. The excuses changed: once the food hit baby would for sure go through. He was likely just hungry. So he was weaned and then fed, milked, bathed, swathed in Jonson’s ‘purple magic’, dressed, snuggled and milked again to sleep. Soundly he went. For four hours.

People knew nothing.

My boy was booking every trend, breaking every rule. But then has it just been that this mother is too weak-willed and first time to have really tried to get a consistent full night’s sleep out of the baby…?

I’ve tried immediate soothing. I’ve tried withholding boob and just using the other bedtime cues to resettle. I’ve tried just shushing. I’ve tried dream feeding. I’ve tried bottling. I’ve bought night lights. I’ve used white noise. I’ve left music playing. I’ve put something I’ve worn in with him. I’ve tried sleeping bags. I’ve bought him in to the big bed. I’ve made sure he’s stayed in his own bed. I’ve lain next to him. I’ve sent The Fiancé in and tried to stay away so as not to provoke a milk rage. The rage has ensued anyway. Even when he has cried himself back off, he’s woken up a few hours later.

Obviously, I’ve not done all of those things at once. A variable has been exhausted until it’s put aside. On the ten nights that he has slept through, I cannot think what I’ve done differently to the other hundred and something… and yet I must have. The lack of sleep has me feeling like a failure. I worry that it will have a detrimental effect on The Toddler. I reach out to blogs and books to see what I could do better. I even raised my failure with a professional at the twelve month check up. The health visitor asked me if I’d tried a few options. They had fancy titles and pictograph explanations. I said yes to all but one: I won’t try controlled crying. Cue the look…

So here I am. 17 months after a 29 hour labour and a full night’s sleep still eludes me. I remember thinking during those first hours that I was so tired, that I’d lost a whole day of sleep and wondered when I might make a bit of it up. Oh how I laugh at my newly ‘mothered’ self now; how much I had to learn!

The Fiancé and my Mother have now just taken to telling me he will get there in his own time. They blame teething, settling in at The Childminder, having been on holiday, afternoon naps, car naps, belly ache when the sleep doesn’t come.

Other people look at me like I’m ridiculous when I say my twelve-month-plus boy doesn’t sleep through the night. Some look sympathetically. I mostly look tired. And for coffee.

Maybe I will find the magic way of getting him to go through the night. Maybe he will just do it one night and think it’s great and so do it again and again and again… And so as I sit at my desk on a Tuesday wondering how the hell I will get through my working week on three hours sleep a night I call upon the skills those blissful three hours teach me:

1. Patience – because mommy life is sent to try us and reward us bountifully if we just relax past the paranoia and see we aren’t doing so bad really;

2. Organisation – else I’d still be picking my clothes! Get everything ready pre-tired because you sure as hell won’t want to make a fashion / food / lesson plan decision at 6am having only slept from 3am…

3. Humour – there’s always some to be had. Usually at your own expense. I stopped, or tried to stop, taking myself so seriously a while ago. This motherhood malarkey is hard and there’s no perfect way, no matter what the books say. Grilling yourself for the little wrong things make the big problems seem terrifying.

4. How to make a good coffee. When the patience and the humour fail, when the make up won’t cover the lines and the shadows; the coffee always works. At least, maybe, the second one does…

The sleeplessness won’t last forever. I know that. The tiredness might last a while after the full night’s sleep returns, I know that too. It’s easy to feel like a failure as a Mommy but if The Toddler wakes up everyday boundless and curious and happy then hopefully my rookie error isn’t causing too much of an issue and in our own time, we will find our way.

(If anyone has had a similar experience or has any ‘magic’ to share, then I’d be happy to read about it – please leave me a comment. Thank you)

Working Mommy Woes; the guilt is real

As a teacher, results day always signalled that it’s time to stop making lists about the work I’ve got to do and actually do some work. This year, the looming return to work brought with it an overwhelming feeling of guilt and sadness – one that hit me in Sainsbury’s in Oxford, cradling a sleeping Toddler.

Before being a Mommy my career was my life; I lived to work and was often criticised for it. I had the luxury of time that only a non-parent can have and I threw it all in to the classroom. Whilst pregnant, people assured me that it would all change. I imagined I’d return to work happily, straight back in to my old five inch work heels as if I’d never been away.

That naivety was shattered when I returned to work earlier this year. Suddenly the job I had such a passion for felt like a foreign country. I was ridiculously anxious about my identity, I lacked confidence in confrontation, I didn’t seem to have the energy or time to keep up with my old self. Planning took longer, marking took longer, delivery was shabby, my clothes were covered in whatever breakfast baby had thrown at me, I didn’t have time to eat. I welcomed the six week break because I needed a rest. But mostly: I missed my baby.

Now I’m faced with a return to a new academic year. I have spent six undiluted weeks as Mommy and it feels like I’ve been on maternity leave all over again. I stood in Sainsbury’s holding a boy more than half my length as he dozed. I’d kept him out of the stroller to keep him awake so he could sleep instead of scream on the long drive home but he’d snuggled in to my neck as he used to when little. I’d been asked to put him down but refused; the extra cuddle time was precious anyway – the boy has more battery in him than a Duracell bunny and snuggle time is limited to as long as I can tickle him for (unless I fall asleep as I’m putting him down for the night in an exhausted slump on his bed) – but as I inhaled his lovely smell, I thought: only one more week of this.

I was broken. Had I not been carrying him, my fiancé may have had to carry me! The sadness was quickly swept aside by guilt. I hated myself for having to go back to work. And it is a having to. I’ve tried to think of several ways that I could not. Back to work means less time with my child. Less opportunity to develop his little foibles; to watch him giggle and dance and hear his cute, posh voice get its tongue around the new words he has learnt. Back to work means fewer pyjama mornings with Duggee and dancing. Back to work means no more spontaneous Ikea lunches mastering hand-with-spoon-to-mouth control.

Back to work means a rushed dinner-time with a regimented routine through to a too-soon bedtime; my mind already escaping to the pile of marking I’ve got waiting downstairs and the exercise I will never get round to so that what if I forget to kiss his little mouth goodnight? Back to work means daycare. And I loathe the thought of leaving my adorable little man with someone else. I fear that she will replace me in his affection, that he will see me as the one that leaves him and turn to someone who never does. Over the next few weeks I will come to resent this of my fiancé too – why do I have to be the one that faces the tears and the clinging arms and the sadness? Because I want to. I want the extra driving minutes that will afford me nursery rhyme time and car dancing that The Toddler has honed to perfection in the last few weeks. I want to be the last face he sees before the childminder takes him to play with his new friends. I want to torment myself all day if he cries because I feel I deserve it…

I know I have to work. Financially it isn’t viable for me not to and what principles would I be teaching my son if I didn’t? What part of me would I lose if I stayed out of the classroom? There’s a dignity to working, a sense of independent ‘earn’ that would be missed if I didn’t. And yet, I suspect I will hate it, every day. I am a full-time, full-on Mommy and hate the idea that as well as part-time teacher I would be a part-time parent by virtue of not being with my child 24/7.

As ‘Tuesday’ ticks closer, the guilt will overwhelm me. I will cry more, I will try to cuddle my boy more, I will find myself whispering that I love him just to make sure he knows. But then I will get up with the alarm. I will run around to catch and dress him and bungle us both in to the car and sing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ while he moves like Jagger in the back seat. I will kiss him (if he will let me) and tell him I will see him soon while he calls his new favourite “bye” to me from the doorstep. I will cry on the lonely drive to school and wish we were at home, swimming, anywhere but separated. And then I will pack my guilt and my makeup in to my bag and return to working Mommy.

Just the two of us…

It’s been longer than The Toddler is old since The Fiancé and I went out for a ‘date’. We haven’t the fortune of family living close by so finding a babysitter can be hard. Add to that my ridiculous levels of control-freak neuroses about The Toddler being looked after by anyone who isn’t me and it’s been difficult for us to break out of ‘Mommy and Daddy’ and just be Cat and Dan. The strain on the relationship has sometimes been telling.

In spite of much anxiety, I took advice from an @honestmum blog and kept a booked settling in day The Toddler had with his childminder so we could have a ‘day date’. He needed to be reacquainted with the routine and the person before next week’s return to normality and the time for ‘us’ might be nice…

I’m not going to lie: I thought about changing my mind. Several times. I also thought of using the time to do the food shop and clean out my wardrobe. But The Fiancé had other plans (this in itself is a rare phenomenon!)…

The Toddler was clingy at drop off. I was quietly glad. That makes me odd, I get. But I wouldn’t have liked him to rush in and forget me. Some of my ‘issues’ around The Toddler are based on the idea that I’m quite sure he’s on the lookout for a better person than me – that I’m not good enough for my boy. Crazy. Yes. Perhaps. So when he gave me an extra cuddle this morning some relief balmed my heart – he didn’t think The Childminder was his Mom!

Begrudgingly I drove away from the house and toward ‘breakfast’. I started to loosen up after a coffee. The man across from me is cute, funny, clever and so kind and kissable; I started to enjoy his company without any distractions other than Sue’s four attempts to take our order (I talk too much).

The breakfast was amazing. I completely undid the little green heart option next to my smashed avacado choice with a request for a bacon topper and a cheeky steal of hash brown from the other plate. I didn’t have to offer my food to anyone else having mashed it, chopped it, chewed or blown it first. I didn’t get any food thrown at me or the floor. The clothes I’d chosen to put on were, in fact, still clean six hours later! A novelty.

The plan was simple: breakfast; books; gallery; cake. I went with it. I’m not a massive foodie. But I was inspired by a F&B breakfast (and a loose pinafore) and the loveliness of my man who detoured to buy me some clothes from a shop I don’t visit anymore in case it isn’t ‘Mommy’.

I also haven’t spent so long in a bookshop for months. And months. I love books. I have lots of them. Over two hundred. There’s an embarrassing amount of those that are unread, having been purchased since I developed the talent of being so tired as to be able to fall asleep standing. Give me lines and lines of text and it’s a veritable white noise for the eyes. But today I didn’t care that I wouldn’t walk out of the bookshop without even purchasing one. It was just nice to browse. I’d forgotten the verb ‘browsing’ even existed… it was then that I realised some me time isn’t such a bad thing.

We spent the afternoon chatting, holding hands, chatting… The Fiancé is so used to my conversation having only two topics. I’m used to my conversation only having two topics. Unless my Mother calls. Or the man next door starts shouting at the dogs. Or the cats meow at a ridiculous volume as soon as I’ve put The Toddler to bed. But aside from moaning, The Toddler and work, I rarely mention anything else. I think even I forget who I am from time to time outside of the labels ‘Mommy’ and ‘Teacher’.

The Edwardian tea rooms in Birmingham’s Art Gallery was the perfect setting for the end of our date (aspirational wedding venue) but the relaxed and loved-up vibes continued in to the rest of the day. I’d, of course, sent messages to The Childminder to see how The Toddler was and of course: he was fine. His clingy mood had abated as soon as I’d turned my back. I should probably take a leaf out of his book – just carry on with what’s ahead of you; calm down. The Toddler is safe with his childminder. I vetted her carefully, I trust her care and education of him, what exactly is my problem?

We played outside and had lots of chuckles and cuddles. I missed him. And I will miss him next week. But I’ve also missed the man I fell in love with, who proposed to me in Paris two years ago. The world didn’t end whilst The Fiancé and I were out alone for a few hours, in fact: the world was a pretty lovely place.

Why some ‘time’ might do you (two) good:

1. (In his words:) ‘we are more compatible than we remember.’ There’s plenty of fizz left in us and lots and lots of love. We knew that. But it sometimes gets buried underneath rants and moans and piles of ironing and teatime schedules and unscheduled extra meetings. A reconnect before back to work has been ooh so yummy.

2. I got a treat. I ate without rushing. I drank five hot – yes, hot! – drinks. I sniffed books. The Fiancé even snook in a hair appointment for me. I felt almost half as attractive as he thinks I am. It’s not a bad feeling…

3. It’s chilled me out! This is a big deal. Whilst Mommy-guilt and separation anxiety will always kick in when I’m away (eventually I might get over this. But there’s like 29 years before he’s moving out so plenty of time yet), the attachment issues are calming down. I even mentioned doing it again. Write that down someone.

4. The Toddler wasn’t really all that bothered. He likes playing with his little friends. It’s good for him. And he knew his Mommy instinctively and has been the cuddliest and giggliest boy for the rest of the afternoon. And I’ve smiled lots. I’m not a big smiler. I hate my teeth.

5. The ‘Love’ has continued. As I write, The Fiancé is making coffee. We are putting a film on. We have bought a planner to get our shit together and make time for a whole raft of hobbies, intellectual bits and kissing that we want to do. I can’t wait.

Just don’t tell My Mother she was right. She’d never let it go!

Back to Work Like a Boss

Are you heading back to work after maternity leave? Does the end of the six weeks spell out a return to the classroom for Mommy (or Daddy) too?

I dreaded returning to work earlier this year and am not really looking forward to getting back in to the classroom in a week either – I love being at home with The Toddler. Maternity leave is a beautiful period with your little one and the end of it can be an upsetting upheaval that leaves us questioning whether we are really doing the best for our baby by leaving them behind with a family member, a childminder or in a nursery for hours while we disappear from their immediate consciousness.

The guilt of leaving can be overwhelming. But work is inevitable for most of us so whilst we are there we might as well Boss it. Here are a few things I learnt during my return (that I’m hoping to revise myself in the next week) and write them here to help you smash the working Mommy facade.

1. Don’t compare yourself to yourself.

This is key. I ignored it when I first returned to work. I won’t be ignoring it this year. I was almost super-human in my commitment to work BC (Before Child). I’d take on extra and work at home and get to work early. I loved it. When I went back, I found I was in a constant battle against that old standard. It doesn’t exist. Whether you’re starting a new job or returning to your previous one, it’s important that you go back with a ‘new normal’. Don’t over-stretch yourself; know your new limits – going back to work doesn’t add any extra hours in to the day! It doesn’t mean you’re weaker, less capable, less anything. You’re just a Mommy now. For me, this was massive. I would guiltily go through all I couldn’t do any more before going to bed and feeling like a bad Mommy and a bad Teacher. I’m not either. Think about what is a realistic standard of badass and be that.

2. Plan for micro goals. It’s all about the marginal gain

You might be returning to a job that doesn’t have big goals and long term plans. That’s a happy place to be! As Mommies, we know that anything can happen during any given hour to change a whole planned afternoon. The same will happen when you factor a job in to the mix, in fact: it may intensify the likelihood of everything going tits up. So: if you get through the morning rush without breakfast on your clothes then you’re ace. If you get your make-up on as well before leaving the house then you’re already smashing it. Don’t be afraid to reschedule, ask for extensions or call in sick when baby is ill. Be proud of being a working Mommy at all; it’s a massive achievement.

3. Make time in your day to breathe and chat

Time away from work could have caused some distance in working relationships. Days and weeks and months alone at home with a baby will no doubt have made you feel like your IQ has lessened to that of the pet hamster. It’s important to have some time in your work day to reconnect with acquaintances and your work persona or with yourself having rushed around like a whirlwind to get everything ready for yourself and baby before having left the house. Use ten minutes of your lunch break to sit and eat and have a chat. When I get in to work I make me a cup of coffee and eat some breakfast. Sometimes it’s the only, or quietest, ‘meal’ of my day. I switch my laptop on, fiddle with some stuff on my desk and make sure I’ve drunk my coffee before I start work or let the horde of students in that are gathering before the bell. I don’t feel bad for those ten minutes of calm; I need them and so will you!

4. Dress to impress yourself!

I quite like my work wardrobe. Most times in a month, it’s the most dressed up I get! Take time to make sure the clothes you’re in for work help you feel good about you. You spend a lot of time in work and so it’s important to feel empowered and confident during that time. The right clothes can make you walk a little taller, smile at your own reflection; feel like you’ve got a handle on things. For me, it’s heels. Most of the students I teach are taller than me – the heels are completely psychological. But my collection of quirky four inch heels have become an identity point for me at work and help me make the switch to ‘Miss’ from ‘Mama’. If you are in a job that has uniform restrictions then get a matching set on (I love the power of underwear), pucker up with some luscious lipstick or see that your nails are done. Dress to show the working world you’re rocking this working Mommy-hood – they’ll never know any different.

5. It’s ok to ‘forget’ baby whilst you’re busy. 

My childminder told me she didn’t mind me texting her to see if The Toddler was ok. I guarantee she regrets that! However as my familiarity with working started to develop, or as I became busy, I’d find I’d gotten to break time without texting. Sometimes I’d not even mentioned him either. At first I was annoyed at myself. I accused myself of forgetting about my baby. What an idiot!

I can be a pretty neurotic Mommy. Most days, the messages in response to mine would be the same. Why? Because he was fine! It’s not forgetting, it’s just getting on with things. And work has to be gotten on with. In the hours I do ‘forget’ I’m much more productive, cheerful and organised. The busier the day, the quicker the time passes and Mommy or not – the end of the work day is always welcome!

I hope your return to work is supported and successful. Surround yourself with positive people at work. You may find that you’re less tolerant of time wasters but that’s ok; it’s less to get in your way. You’re a busy person with another shift to start when you get home; lots of luck!