I started blogging because I was so anxious about returning to work after my maternity leave. Writing down how I felt and connecting with parents who had been through the same thing was a massive help and got me through those pretty awful first few weeks.
So for all those parents now going through the same thing I thought I would share our experience of nursery so far to reassure you that everything that you are thinking, feeling and doing is totally normal and to give you a heads up about things that are about to come your way.
You will feel guilt. It’s unavoidable but then I think you wouldn’t be much cop as a parent if you didn’t. You feel guilty for leaving them, guilty if you arrive to pick them up and they are the last child there, guilty if you forget that it’s the day they needed to bring a teddy bear in for the teddy bear’s bloody picnic… The guilt will get easier but will never go away. I think if you accept the guilt (and it’s self imposed guilt, NOT guilt imposed by your mother in law, health visitor or smug rich yummy mummy ‘friend’ who doesn’t need to work ) then things get much easier. Remember you are entitled to go back to work and pick up your career if you want to. If you’re like me you will have worked damn hard to get where you are. You had a baby, not a lobotomy.
Your child will probably cry. You will definitely cry. For me the first week was the worst. After spending every day together for nine months it was such a wrench not to see Willow all the time and I was constantly wondering what she was doing and if I was missing any of her milestones. Cue lots of tears in the car or toilets at work. The great thing is that her nursery provide me with a diary of her activities every day – what she eats, when she naps (that bit is often blank), even the contents of her nappy. They also send me pictures so I feel like I know what she’s been doing and can comment or ask questions if I need to. Tip: Don’t call nursery to see if your child is ok because you are guaranteed to call the second they have just started crying which will set you off again.
You will never be well again. Once your child sets foot in nursery they become instant germ carriers and will pass on particularly virulent strains of sickness, flu and a million other unidentifiable viruses. Also establish and be prepared to activate an emergency childcare plan at any moment because depending on nursery policy sometimes children are not allowed back into nursery for 7 days after being ill. 7 days!
You won’t just pay your nursery fees, oh no. There will always be extras. Some weekly activity that will cost you more dollar. Nursery photographs that come in bundles where there aren’t enough photos to go round the relatives so you have to buy two bundles then end up with spares (grrrr…) Nursery branded sweatshirts and t-shirts seems a great idea but you need to buy at least three of each item unless you want to wash them every night because your child will come home caked in mud, play dough, baked beans, paint, glitter (oh the glitter) every day.
Your child’s development
They will come on in leaps and bounds. We were astonished at how much Willow’s development accelerated after she went to nursery. Her speech,movement and interaction with people just blossomed and every day now she comes home and can say or do something new. Not that we left her to rock in front of the TV before but the amount of activities and stimulation nursery can provide is so much more than we could ever do in a day (and they give us inspiration for activities we can do at home).
I suspect we still have loads of nursery milestones to reach yet: head lice, biting ‘incidents’, the politics of birthday party invites. Life is a journey isn’t it?
I hope this helps. My overriding message is that it is all going to be ok. After a few weeks Willow couldn’t wait to get into nursery and start playing. Little miss independent waves me off before she even has her coat off (which pulls at the heart strings – see I told you would definitely cry). You will adjust to your new routine and the time that you spend with them becomes so precious that you really start to make every moment count and appreciate it all the more. If you are going through the return to work ‘thing’ at the moment and would like some support or reassurance please do leave a comment below.