In no particular order, here are some things I’ve learned this year since becoming a ‘working Mum’*:
- Getting out of bed at 5.35am means that I’ve slept in, and am already running late.
- Separation anxiety peaks around 10-15months of age. I found this out, of course, only after we had started barely-10-months-old Angus in daycare. It’s taken a little while for him to settle in, but his carers tell me that Angus is now ‘one of the happiest kids in the room’. But there are still mornings where parting is not-even-remotely-sweet sorrow, and Angus continues to wail with despair as I leave him behind. Those are the days when ‘Mum guilt’ rides high on my shoulders, and I am haunted by Angus’s cries.
- One of the benefits of daycare is that it provides your child with opportunities which they may not otherwise have during a day home with you. For example, I’ve been a bit reluctant to do too much finger painting with Angus. Partly due to the mess, mainly because of his appetite for eating paint. But daycare staff have much more experience managing both, and so in their care Angus’s natural talents are blossoming. It turns out that my son is a brilliant artist and I look forward to a future life of luxury funded by the proceeds from his masterpieces:
- The world is full of cars. This fact has been brought to my attention by Angus. Because every afternoon when we leave daycare, and I carry him across the 20m between the front door and where I’ve parked, his arm is windmilling wildly to point out every “Car! CAR! CAAAAR!” (Alternative theory: Angus does a great impression of a crow…)
- My son is a thief. Some mornings, when we arrive at daycare other children are still eating their breakfast. Despite having already smashed some Weetbix at home not even an hour earlier, Angus will make his way over to the table and start pilfering from the plates. It’s gotten to the point where the staff now actually have a packet of Weetbix biscuits ready to distract Angus, just so that he will ‘leave them kids alone!’
- Once I’d made the decision to go part-time, some people tried to comfort me by saying that working part-time improves your efficiency. I’m calling bullshit on that one – all I’m learning to do is multi-task during lunch.
- Angus gives the best cuddles. The Best. All of the daycare staff have said so, and they should know, because during those early weeks and months when he would get particularly upset, everyone had to take a turn giving him cuddles to comfort him. So everyone knows that when Angus cuddles, he snuggles in and holds on tight like a little koala joey.
- Accordingly, one of the best parts now of my working day, is the reunion cuddle with Angus when I arrive to pick him up from daycare. Seriously, Best Cuddles.
- Working habits and career ambitions have to change. Or, at least, adapt. It is the exception and not the norm that you can step away from the workforce to spit out a baby, and then slide back in seamlessly and carry on working the way you used to. You are not the same person you used to be, no matter how much at times you may wish you were. And while Work may expect you to perform, your baby literally depends on it.
- My boss has, however, assured me that motherhood will equip me with great skills for leadership and management. Such as, “you’ll develop the ability to negotiate with people who have unrealistic expectations”. This may be my mantra for the next 5 years.
- And finally, when you open a door at daycare, do it slowly and look down. There is probably a small child on the other side of the door, just waiting to be squashed.
* For the record, ‘working Mum’ is a tautology – when you’re a Mum, you are already working bloody hard.