I’m writing this the evening before I go back to work. It’s only for one day, but it’s the start of my preparations for going back properly next month. I’m not going to lie, it doesn’t feel right to be getting ready to go back.
F feels too young. He will be nine months when I officially become a working mum and he joins the ranks at nursery. I know that nine months is quite a typical age for babies to start childcare what with it coinciding with the end of the paid portion of statutory maternity pay.
I also know that, for many women, being able to stay at home with their baby until they are nine months old is a luxury they can’t afford. But I had always hoped that I would get to spend a full year off with him like I did with my daughter.
But it wasn’t to be.
I’m living a completely different life this time round. Last time I was ready to get back. I was obviously still sad and anxious to leave my daughter, but it felt like the right time. I wasn’t cut out to be a stay-at-home mum and, at one, she was becoming more independent, more confident, more girl than baby. I felt relatively little guilt about leaving her in the care of the lovely nursery I’d chosen. But F still feels like a baby. He is still a baby. And I don’t want to leave him.
Maybe it’s because this is yet another decision I feel I’ve been forced to make now I’m a single mum, or maybe it’s because F is likely to be my last child and I wanted to savour him as a baby a little more. Whatever the reason for the guilt and sadness that is accompanying my return to work this time round, there is nothing I can do about it. The decision has been made and I will suck it up and deal with it like I have everything else that’s been thrown my way in the last year.
And I know that this time next year, this soon-to-be new routine will feel old hat; that, in 18 years’ time, F won’t feel and resentment towards me for not being able to spend an extra three months with him and that I’m doing what’s best in the long run for my little family.
But, right now, on the eve of the beginning of the end of my maternity leave, I can’t help but feel sad that yet another part of mine and my children’s life won’t be playing out as I planned.