My three-year-old son goes to nursery for the first time tomorrow. I have been wishing for this day to come for the past three, maybe six, months. The challenge has been tougher than I had expected. And yet now that Nursery Eve is here, I’m wishing for just a little more time to have him close.
Truthfully it is time. It’s been time for a wee while now. My treasure hunts, art activities, mammoth reading sessions, days out, play dates and baking aren’t quite enough for him now and finally, after three and a half years, it’s not quite enough for me.Yet for all I have craved for an inch of the flat to call my own, and the “Why’s?” have made my bones itch with frustration, I am going to miss him. I’m going to miss us.
When I embarked upon my maternity leave back in February 2013, I never expected to be my son’s full-time carer for three and a half years. The original plan was for me to return to work for my then employer after five months’ maternity leave. We visited a nursery when he was just a fortnight old with the intentions of him going there. However, by the time he was six weeks old, I’d discovered that the role of looking after my baby was not the dreary existence I thought it would be pre-labour. The myths that I had wholeheartedly consumed for my entire life were not true. I could look after my child for a while and then return to the workplace. And I was going to try my hardest to achieve it.
I hadn’t lost my skills or contacts or professional ambition, and I felt that taking a few years out of the office to care for my son would not kill my career. Whilst postnatal anxiety took a hold, I also felt that I could accomplish anything I wanted. I threw myself fully and passionately into making life as fun as possible for both of us. I invented a timetable of activities to wile away the hours – Music Monday, Fingers Thursday and Fruitbowl Friday to name but a few.
I cried. And cried. And cried. I grieved for my old life, my old friends, my skirts and heels, my freedom. Many of the people who wanted to know me when I was CEO, turned their backs now I was M.A.M. I learnt a lot. It turns out I am a person who loves to be quiet, and I hadn’t realised how much time I had spent on my own in the years leading up to motherhood. Now my life was filled with constant gurgling, talking, singing, crying and shouting. Dear Lord, the shouting. And for the first 18 – 24 months of my darling boy’s life, he would not nap anywhere but on me. So there were huge chunks of silence where I couldn’t do anything except to sit and dream, think, research potential clients and learn about maternity discrimination. Oh, and master the art of bladder control as he dozed on me for four hours at a time.
Until recently I felt that the past three and a half years felt like three and a half years, but with the realisation that nursery is just around the corner, I now feel that it has sped by. I’m having flashbacks of things that I had completely forgotten – the happy times and the low. Bawling my eyes out whilst singing “If You’re Happy and You Know It” was probably a low point, as was threatening to put him in the kitchen bin if he wouldn’t stop crying.
It’s difficult to say which half of this incredible period in my life has been the hardest. Any parent will testify that as certain things improve, new challenges appear to rock your confidence and bite you on the arse. The past eighteen months has been joyous in that we can have real conversations, and he dances with me, and he makes me laugh deep belly laughs which can sometimes end in tears because I am just so happy to be his Mam. It’s been tough too. Caring for my son whilst running my own business has been a massive challenge. I work at night and weekends and for the past seven months I’ve worked six hours whilst he went to playgroup.
And now here we are. Let’s be real Emma, he’s not going to boarding school in far off lands. He’s attending pre-school nursery for three hours each day. We’ll still have mornings and late afternoons. He’ll make new friends, I can work during daylight hours. We’ll both be refreshed and not so grumpy with each other.
I feel so blessed to have had this experience, and now we’re through it, I wouldn’t change a single thing. There’s certainly been some sacrifice, not least financial, and I AM truly looking forward to
watching Real Housewives in my pyjamas growing my business, exercising and spending some time with my parents without the constant soundtrack of a toddler in the background.
As I walk home from the nursery drop-off tomorrow, I will breathe a sigh of gratitude. This part has passed now, but there’s exciting unknown times ahead. And besides, we’ll be feeding the ducks come half past three.