The emotional rollercoaster that is being a working Mama Bear (only 2 weeks in)

Well I’ve been back at work now for two and a half weeks and what an emotional rollercoaster ride it has been.

I’m not going to lie, I was feeling very apprehensive about returning after being off for a little over 11 months. All I had been was: Mummy. Job description: look after one small human life and try not to mess it up. Learner parent indeed!! But suddenly just as I felt I was getting into the swing of things my maternity leave came to an end. As anxious as I was, I was also glad to go back to a place where I wasn’t just ‘Mummy’.

However, when I returned to the chalk face I honestly felt like I had regressed back to being an newly qualified teacher (NQT), hell who am I kidding even a trainee teacher, again. I hated feeling like I didn’t know how to plan a lesson – let’s say it’s like riding a bike you don’t really forget. But you still feel like an incompetent baboon when you’re trying to string together a coherent instruction for Year 10 to follow. It felt like I was trying to cup sand in my hands – the words just kept escaping me and their faces looked at me as if to say who is this moron?! My colleague assured me that probably wasn’t the case but it sure felt like it.

All the while Little Bear was merrily having a wonderful time at nursery and would happily be handed to his key worker for a hug as I left – is it wrong or selfish of me to have wanted him to have not been quite so ok with this? Picking him up in the evening and he would cry at the sight of me – way to make me feel loved son – but actually he just wanted to be on me for snuggly cuddles: that’s more like it Little Bear. Now that’s not to say that I want him to be upset there (not in the slightest and I would feel terrible if he did feel that way), in fact I’m thrilled that he has settled in so quickly into life at nursery which makes me feel a real sense of pride that I’ve managed to raise a baby/toddler/child who it seemed only two months ago to be deep in the throes of separation anxiety, will now quite happy to play independently and with other babies. From very early on lots of people said to me: ‘let him cry it out’, ‘he’ll have you wrapped around your finger’, ‘you’ve got to put him down’, or to him ‘Mummy can’t always hold you’ – for fear of what?! That he’d become clingy?! Err… just look at him. He is beautifully independent and feels secure all because I have always been there and hugged him each time he’s called out for me. No training. No coercion. Just me responding to exactly what he needs. I’m incredibly proud of him.

But his time at nursery hasn’t been completely plain sailing – nope – so far he’s not managed a full week there (I’m hoping this week changes all that). Only two and a half days into starting full time he came down with a terrible stomach viral infection (later to become a viral chest infection) which led to him being off for a week and a half. This presented a rather difficult hurdle for us which was further compounded by the fact that little Bear decided that during this illness he’d reject the bottle meaning the only fluids I could get into him was breastmilk – a tricky thing when you’ve just gone back full time at work. It was hard and harder still on no more than 2 hours sleep through the most challenging nights of his illness. To say this was an emotionally challenging time would be an understatement. I was torn between knowing that I should be back in work and doing everything I could to reintegrate and get back into the swing of things, and at the same time knowing that my little Bear needed his mother. The only person who could feed him. Give him strength. Give him comfort. Give him a chance at a speedy recovery. But I couldn’t: it broke my heart leaving him and even more so when I had to discuss why I had been away from work as I had always prided myself on being a professional. Suddenly I felt as though my integrity was being questioned. Once more I wondered who I was. The anxiety about being back at work returned. The worries about could I do both the job and being a mother came back. The thing that got me through this though was the support I had from my husband, family and friends. But importantly my colleagues, those that had been where I had been before: they advised me, helped me, they got me through it – thank you to you all.

Then just as things seem to settle, today I make a basic error – always remember to check folders and lessons carefully Mama Bear – don’t rely in the fact that just because you would do something one way that that means everyone else will. That’ll teach me to think that things are calming down.

So to say it’s been difficult would be an understated. But why am I writing this? Essentially I find writing a cathartic process and helps with my own personal healing. But also, if you’re reading this and have just gone back to work and feel like I did, just know it won’t be long until you get back in the swing of things – despite today’s lapse in judgment – and like me you know that you are doing the best you possibly can. Your little one may still wake (several times even) in the night but you’re coping and getting through. You may find that you cry at 3am willing them to be better but they’ll be better before you know it – even though it seems like an eternity. But importantly I’m writing to talk, to share, to lighten the load and let you know that Mama Bears you’re doing an amazing job.

Mama Bear x

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