Childcare. I was dreading the day I had to put Tom into childcare. It was imminent. I’d had a year off work, we had just moved to a new town where I knew nobody and my maternity leave was over. Also, I’m a pretty damn good nurse and I don’t want to give it up. I like working. And having adult conversations. There’s only so many times you can sing “Do The Propeller” by The Wiggles before committing yourself into an institution.
Like most mums (I imagine), I was absolutely dreading it. Tom has made it quite clear in his short life that no one but Mummy will do. Mummy has the boobs. Tom likes the boobs. (Yes. “Still.” Don’t make me get hardcore lactavist on you. I’ll do it.) He is a baby of the velcro kind, constantly wanting physical contact with his mother. ALL THE FUCKING TIME. While dad is usually fine and he gets the occasional delights from his grandparents/aunties/uncles, it’s really only mum’s hair he wants to pull and her face he wants to slap painfully with affection. So you can imagine my apprehension about leaving him with a roomful of strangers.
It’s important to note here that in the lead up to his first day, Tom had been a fucking nightmare. Not his fault, we’d rudely disrupted his schedule multiple times by shifting him from Townsville, Sydney, Brisbane, NZ, Narnia. You name it, we went there. He was clearly bewildered, frustrated and had upgraded his Velcro Baby status to Industrial Superglue baby. Sleep, while looking promising in the 3 weeks before we moved house, had quite definitely returned to its non-existent pattern of the 9 months previous. He could whine for Australia and was also teething. Lots happening for Master Q.
Leaving him without free access to the milk makers for half a day scared me shitless. I imagined the worst. Tears, screaming, yelling, the infamous flappy hands. And that was just from me. And of course the steaming hot pile of guilt that accompanies just about every decision I make in life now. Not to mention everyone and their mother warned me how horrific it is to leave your child in daycare; how sad and painful it is when they cry and scream because they don’t understand why you are leaving them; and the overwhelming guilt that you feel will make you feel like the shittest person in the world but don’t even worry about it, he’ll be fine Jen. Even though you feel like scum.
I needn’t have worried. He couldn’t have give 2 shits whether I was there or not. One look of apprehension around the room before his eyes widened after spotting a ball and then tried to physically leap out of my arms to play with it and never looked back. I walked out of the centre with my sunglasses on to hide my tears; holding back sobs until I got to my car and then loudly and unflatteringly cried all the way home.
I was sort of prepared for it. I expected to feel sick leaving him there. I expected to feel guilty and awful about the fact that I couldn’t look after him everyday anymore because I had to go back to work. And sure I guess I felt those things. But mostly I just felt so thankful that I didn’t have to look after him that day. I sobbed my heart out all the way home because I was relieved.
I WAS SO FUCKING RELIEVED. I felt free. This was pretty much the most time I had ever spent away from him. As my job hadn’t started yet I had a day where I COULD DO WHATEVER I WANTED. I can’t even begin to tell you how momentous that was. I could enjoy a hot shower for as long as I wanted – BY MYSELF! I could drink HOT coffee. I could paint my nails, straighten my hair, read a book, listen to MY music. I could sit in silence. I could cook whatever I wanted, go clothes shopping… I COULD FUCKING SLEEP!!!!!! The only guilt I felt was at how happy I was that I finally had a day to myself. He was safe, I’d expressed milk, it was only really half a day, he likes playing with other kids. Win-win.
In reality, I unpacked the rest of the boxes in our house whilst listening to podcasts, but I did it without a tiny human attached to me and it was the fucking best. I don’t even care that I sound heartless and probably a bit like I don’t love my child. Of course I do. He is the sun, moon and stars. He’s also a giant pain in the arse. Having a few hours to breathe and not have to sing nursery rhymes, change nappies, breastfeed and prepare meals all day felt like all my Christmases had come at once. You don’t appreciate that time before you have a baby and I know now to never take that time for granted again.
When I picked him up that afternoon, he was happily playing with some other children, babbling away. My heart swelled with love when I saw him. The ladies gushed over what a wonderful day he’d had. He’d napped, drank out of a bottle (a repeated battle in the past), played happily (apart from when he was bitten on the chin by a little girl who didn’t appreciate him pulling her hair for some reason. Go figure.) I was proud as punch and feeling good about this being a regular occurrence. It was then that he caught my eye and stopped everything, hurriedly crawling towards me before kneeling at my feet and began flapping his hands and screeching.
I narrowed my eyes. I’m wise to your tricks mister. Trying to make me feel guilty AF for leaving you here all day when I know you’ve had a perfectly nice time?
Well it worked. I scooped that kid up and smothered him in kisses while he gleefully wrapped his arms around my neck. Because God I love that baby.