Five things I’ve learnt from maternity leave

With exactly a week to go before I return to the daily grind, the Final Countdown is on. Here are the top five things I’ve learnt from my year off…

1. There’s no such thing as boredom.

I asked DH before my maternity leave was due to start, “shall I do a Master’s degree? To pass the time?” After having DS1 during my undergraduate degree, I thought it would be perfect timing to have a year off work, look after a baby and gain another qualification. Young fresh-faced me may have stood up to that challenge – the slight older more worn me eventually decided I probably could do with a break. And you know, spend more time with the baby.

2. I’m not as introverted as I thought.

I felt enlightened after reading Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution and watching her TED Talk. She and Myers & Briggs had me down to a T. But I found myself signing up to all sorts; baby yoga, Baby Sensory, Peas’n’Pods, the PTA for the older one at school. What’s more, I found I thrived around people and actually enjoyed small talk – yeah I know, right?

3. Yes, I can do it all over again.

A year ago I was gearing up to send my eldest off to school at the same time as welcoming a new baby to our family. I was past night feeds, controlled crying and potty training, not to mention shunting trucks and hauling freight. I was ready for homework, show and tell, and tales of who pushed who in the playground. What if I forgot how to do something vital? I found myself plunged in a world of nappies and clock watching for the next feed, Googling the odd bit to fill in the gaps. Within a few weeks, I was in the full swing of being mummy to a little once again and it turns out, it wasn’t that difficult after a routine was in place.

4. Change is scary.

There’s a real sense of panic when I think too much about going back to work. It’s not that I don’t want to work; if DH ever suggested I could be a SAHM, I think I’d be quite sad at that prospect. I felt a similar fear a few weeks leading up to maternity leave. It’s the new era, change, how our routine will be turned upside down. The lack of control I have over the situation is probably more overwhelming than the change itself. I absolutely love how interesting my job is and if I think about the job in itself without all the baggage, I’m actually quite excited.

5. I bloody hate cleaning.

Gone are the days of SAHMs scrubbing the floors and wiping down the windows. DH finds it hilarious when I say my week has been so busy, I haven’t found the time to pick up the Hoover. I can’t wait until I can legitimately ask DH to do his fair share.

The Bigger Picture.

So it’s Valentine’s Day, hurrah. An occasion marked by Clintons where you are required to purchase some kind of gift for your loved one. Over lavishing is frowned upon as wasteful but arriving home present-less leaves you in the doghouse. I have always said presents are pointless for Valentines, extravagance is completely unnecessary; I am more for the gesture and effort behind it.

I am usually pretty awful when it comes to Valentines and, admittedly, expect more than I give. This year however, I decided to change my ways and pull out all the stops. Don’t get overexcited or anything – It’s not that amazing; it’s fairly good, I’ll give myself that.

So the idea originated from Not on the High Street; a photo frame with three separate maps in a shape of a heart of where you and your partner met, married and lived. I also did some digging and found a blogger who had a very successful attempt at it. I thought it was very cute and such a personal gift, but unwilling to part with £78, I took it upon myself to get creative.

I bought the wooden frame from Amazon, the map secondhand from Amazon and used plain white A4 paper I had home.

I used autoshape on MS Word for the heart template, adjusted it to fit the A5 frame, printed it and then cut it out. Placing the template on top of the towns where we met, married and lived, I drew carefully around the heart with a pencil.

 After a few rubbings out and redrawing, I cut out the heart shapes on the map.

Once they had all been cut out, I rubbed out the pencil marks that were left around the heart. Using the A4 paper, I halved it into A5 size so it would fit the frame and stuck the heart in the middle. This sounds easier than it actually was; it took quite some time to centre the heart and ensure the space was consistent in all three frames.

After a lot of fiddling about with scissors and glue, whilst trying to keep DS preoccupied, I can proudly say I have actually made something that actually isn’t too bad.

Happy Valentines Day DH :)

Time for closure.

Last week was DH’s graduation, marking the end of his degree and our life in Canterbury. We were very excited for the excuse to visit the city we once knew and still love, basking in memories of cobbled streets and Sunday mornings in a coffee shop. Of course we were celebrating the future as well as harking back, after all, DH did achieve a First in his degree and win the International Relations Prize, whilst juggling his role as a stay-at-home-dad. DS and I are amazingly proud of him!

It is crazy how time flies, as the same day a year ago was my graduation. I love how DS is present in both our graduation pictures; whilst our faces remain the same with a difference of one year (or so I hope), DS has almost doubled in size. To my surprise, with a few adjustments to the elastic, DS’ trousers and waistcoat from a year ago still fit him.

Oh how my boys have grown!

A Fresh Start.

As you are probably aware, DS has had a tough time at nursery in the past couple of months. He struggled to settle in and there were ongoing issues with the lack of food they were giving him. The communication was poor and I was left not knowing what my baby boy was getting up to for large chunks of the day. Yes he survived the day each time, but considering the amount we pay for childcare, we should receive a little more than the bare essentials; even then he would regularly come home crying for water.

But enough with the bitching, I am happy to section that part of DS’ life away to a dark corner and move forward. After an erratic week of finishing one nursery and having settling-in sessions at another, DS been exceedingly good at his new nursery today. I was doubtful at first, as he would kick and scream at the drop offs for settling-in sessions. But today he walked in calmly and did not shed a tear. My boy did me proud.

I have high hopes for this nursery, they are very confident in the way they conduct themselves and how they communicate with parents. I was a little annoyed that they did not apply Sudo cream because I had not signed a form (even though I gave them verbal authorisation), but I guess it is good to be strict with rules. I had a little spy on DS on the nursery cam and he seemed pretty happy running about with the other children. They only allow fifteen minutes a day per parent to view, which is good as we all need that little bit of reassurance, but we also need to get on with the reasons why they are there in the first place.

Here's what you could have won - What we gave to DS' first nursery when we left.

Where is that flux capacitor when you need it..

As the weeks/months/years go by, lessons are learnt and we as parents grow with our children. Amongst the advice and tips we receive, always pack a spare set of clothes and make sure you wrap him up warm, no one ever says you will never fully be alone. Mostly because this does not appear to be helpful, but it is realistic nevertheless.

We received advice which broached on the subject, such as make the most of your time together now, because when the baby comes… At the time, you nod smiling, then make your way to the pub for a night of sobriety, watching your other half enjoy a slightly intoxicating beverage. I feel like someone should have urged me to take that extra five minutes in the shower, read as many books possible and actually go for that run. Not that I would have listened, I am not a great receiver of advice, but I still would have heard.

Of course I cherish every minute I have with DS, especially now we are apart for a good chunk of the week. I would not trade those moments for anything in the world. But when he screams hourly for no apparent reason throughout the night, or insists he sits on the bathroom floor and play with his ducks whilst I am showering, it gets a little suffocating. A thread I found on Mumsnet lists four pages worth of mothers who share my pain.

Afternoon naps have become my golden hour, where I am able to sit in silence and write. The evenings we crave and often get as a reward from DS. On occasion he would punish us by not going to bed at 7 o’clock, insist on sprawling across us on the sofa whilst we eat dinner and in no way are we allowed to have a conversation he’s not in.

The long days and sleepless nights are forgiven when I hear DS’ laughter. He is worth all my time each and every day, however someone should have advised me to invest more time at Westfield, prior to DS’ birth. I have only been twice.

The Politics of Buying Presents.

We are hurtling through the months and with each day we are nearing to Christmas. Yes I said it, CHRISTMAS. Some will fully embrace Christmas in all its glory, some will roll their eyes at such a mention in September.

I stand apathetically in the middle, knowing full well the presents need to be bought in advance to ensure enough time has been given for research, yet also realising it would be a little premature to add All I want for Christmas is You to my playlist. Readers do not fret, I have not become overly joyous at the prospect of celebrating a made up day (yes, even if you do consider Jesus’ birth), I am still my skeptical self.

I wrote my Christmas list over the weekend, including a column of potential gifts/ideas and one for gifts I had already purchased for particular people. I like to be super ready for the following year by purchasing gifts, wrapping paper and cards in the January sale; not just Christmas cards, but I mentally(!) add up all the birthdays over the year and buy the most fitting cards. I like to think coupling my OCD organisation skills with my love for shopping means I am onto a winner.

My list has become slightly biased with DS’ column vastly overpopulated, whilst others are looking, well, a little bare. Of course by Christmas day everyone on the list will have a present, just some family members require a little more thought. There are always considerations to be made; whether the person will actually like the gift, the financial set back, how the gift will bode with their siblings. And with children, there is the difficulty of remembering their age. My cousins are now in their teens, but for some unknown reason, they are still below the age of ten in my head. I need to keep reminding myself that Barbies are not appropriate.

But of course before all that, you need to get back to basics; who is on the list? In my family we only buy for the children and my Grandma. I use to be the one who received gifts, but since the arrival of DS I have become present-less in some kind of hierarchal pass down. This does not bother me, my baby boy can have it all. We have since adopted the same approach to present buying, only including ourselves, children and grandparents on the list. Adults can purchase anything they wish all year round, children are the ones who must wait for treats on special occasions. However, it is always nice to give a little something from DS to certain people, like grandparents. DH and I also tend to buy each other gifts from DS, as well as presents to one another.

Although we have our own ideas for gifts and who to buy them for, there is always the politics of the reciprocator’s own rules to buying presents. Some buy for all regardless, some expect more from you and some will expect nothing at all.

Where’s Dee-Da Gone?

*I am not sure if I have mentioned in previous posts, but DS’ name for Daddy is Dee Da (obviously Daddy reversed!).

I am swarmed with mixed feelings when DS asks where either of us are – His cuteness makes me smile; I become very proud of my little boy and his ability to string three words together at 21 months, but then I become overwhelmed with guilt and sorrow. When I call my mother from work and DS speaks on the phone, he repeatedly says ‘Mummy gone, Dee Da* gone‘ and it is incredibly heartbreaking. I wish he could understand, see the bigger picture, imagine how much better off we will be in a few years. But I know he only lives in the present and when something sad happens it is the end of the world for him.