When you spend a lot of time overthinking things you can find yourself getting into a bit of a muddle: and I’ve been thinking an awful lot lately. So often this blog has acted as a form of writing therapy, and yes, this is one of ‘those’ posts. It’s amazing how externalising your worries can help you to reframe them and give you some perspective. What started off as a half-jokey post about ‘mum guilt’ evolved into something much deeper as I started to examine what it is I’ve been feeling lately and as I realised that mum guilt is only a small part of it. Through the writing process (and via two very long chats with my wonderful husband) I feel like I’ve gained some much-needed perspective. This may not be a post for everyone, but if you are going through a process of change, or find yourself at a crossroads in your life, it may be of interest and worth reading on.
Since starting back at work after a year of maternity leave I’ve been feeling a bit like someone has pulled my plug and all of my energy – all of what makes me ‘me’ – has drained out. I’m like a bottle of tonic that’s been left in the fridge that little bit too long with it’s lid not quite screwed on properly: where once I fizzed and proved excellent with gin, now I’m just flat and best kept away from alcohol.
I’d originally chalked up this lack of effervescence to mum guilt. And yes, that plays a role. It’s such a pervasive and negative feeling. Like a little worm constantly squirming in your tummy, making you question all of your decisions and your use of time to the nth degree. It feeds on the most trivial things: making me feel guilty for letting my daughter wait while I empty the dishwasher just after having picked her up from nursery, and for leaving her at nursery an extra 15 minutes to allow me to do some housework and prepare our evening meal. For clock-watching at work so I can get back to pick her up, as well as for getting absorbed in a work task and losing track of time. For running my commute, which takes 20 minutes longer than getting the train, thus delaying my pickup time, and at the same time for not doing any yoga so I can do bath-time instead. For leaving her with her dad while I see my friends, and for not seeing enough of my friends or giving them my full attention and focus. In fact I feel so guilty about so many things pretty much all of the time it’s laughable!
But the guilt isn’t the only thing eating away at me.
I’ve also been really struggling with the transition back to work.
I realise that while I’d prepared for the transition into parenthood like I was prepping for the apocalypse (stockpiling supplies, batch-cooking meals, expecting the worst), I think I naively thought that going back to work would be a lot easier. Successful KIT days, a part-time schedule and reduced hours for the first few weeks made me think I had nothing to worry about. I loved my job pre-parenthood and loved the idea of getting back into it, not to mention the prospect of reading my book quietly on the commute, eating my lunch slowly and drinking tea while it was still hot.
But while work remains unchanged, I’m not the person I was 12 months ago. And like a relationship with a high school sweetheart, which was once so fun and fulfilling, it has somehow lost its lustre now that I’ve graduated into motherhood. I miss my daughter like crazy when I’m away from her, even though I know that she is being well-looked after and that the transition into nursery is a positive one for her development. Worse still, every time someone asks me how work is going or if I’m enjoying being back in the office I just well up and have to suppress tears. And on a prosaic note: my salary doesn’t even come close to covering nursery fees and a mortgage, so I’m essentially paying to work.
Where once I had focus and direction, now I feel I’m fumbling in the dark.
Uncertainty about my career is tempered by the question of whether we will want more children and because 1. I’m no spring chicken and 2. because our two-bedroom, one bathroom flat is already at capacity, that also raises the question of whether we need to move house. And with moving their are costs and questions of where, how and why…
So while I thought that becoming a mum was the big question mark hanging over my head, now it seems to be the only certainty.