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    Blogs — parenting

    The nursery drop off blues - How do you feel when your baby starts nursery?

    The nursery drop off blues - How do you feel when your baby starts nursery?

    I have once again started preparing my two and a half year old son for time without Mummy, Daddy or Grandma and Grandpa. Recently he moved from a class of small, mostly mute, doe-eyed one to two year olds into the more mature and progressive in potty training three year old nursery class where words are spoken in broken sentences and teaching staff are less about cuddles and more about beginning the development of toddler maturity that will see a once crying infant leave the nursery doors as a young child ready to make its way through the education system. The move has not been a good one and in fact, I am again faced with the traumatising dramatics that is the nursery school 'drop off'. We battled this at the start of the nursery initiation for a prolonged period and here we are again. The look of utter distress when he realises that I am leaving him with these people, again! The sudden tightening of his small hand in mine and the scream that seems to come from the depths of his very being. Separation anxiety has once again reared its ugly head.

    As soon as I strap my two babes into their car seats and begin the journey to school, I deliver a commentary that mostly consists of primary and nursery school positives. Focusing on the latter, I talk of the scrumptious breakfast cereals (cornflakes and weetabix) the other two to three year olds who are desperately waiting to hold his hand and do painting, colouring and reading and the teachers who simply cannot wait to help him with a multitude of fun-filled activities. This carefully delivered verbal massage is my way of preparing the youngest for his new nursery class – same nursery, but new class.  The move up a year has revived his feelings of fear and abandonment, it is noticeable as soon we step up to the nursery front door.

    My first son seemed to ease into the these transitions with such carefree nonchalance, that I recall wondering at the time if he had any sort of feelings for me at all. Just my luck to have two children on the opposite ends of the attachment spectrum.

    My prep work fails miserably every time and nevertheless, I walk away from the nursery feeling a little put out, but to be honest, not greatly distressed. Do I shed a tear as I head off? I don't think so. My boy is in safe hands, he gets to interact with other children of his own age and more importantly, I get to be a person in my own right. I work three days a week and I am determined to take these recent episodes of obvious stress with a pinch of salt. The fact is and remains that even with the tears and sadness I must remain focused on the prize that is my own mental, spiritual and financial emotional stability and this comes with having the best of both - a career and two wonderful children to nurture and develop. Both of my roles are part-time, mother and employee, and at times child and career must pay the price for neither receive my full and undivided attention. There are challenges for parents and guardians across the spectrum of care arrangements. You can never really ‘win’ but I do know that my current set up is the healthiest option for me. My little one may scream at the drop off, but our time together is precious and purposeful, need I say more.

    Reflection on maternity leave

    Reflection on maternity leave

    So at the start it's all batch cooking, house cleaning and lunch with friends - then the baby arrives! 

    After the initial few weeks the visitors decline and you're left with a special few- your real support, your real friends and your valued family. 

    Some 'friends' won't even show an interest- will never send a card or see your baby; even friends that you really helped and supported through their maternity leave. 

    Then you'll find some friends are angels - texts just when you need it, offers of a meet up with cakes and cuddles. These friends are often not the ones you expect it from - but really appreciate. 

    And of course there's your new 'mummy friends' - the ones you can compare with; night wake ups, nappies, weaning, funny stories - people you didn't know before but now have the most wonderful thing in common with. These mummy friends are amazing - your lifeline in the middle of the night- the most amazing find. 

    You will think it's all naps, cake with friends and baby cuddles but it's really not the 'holiday' your other half teases about. Each day involves several loads of washing, lots of changes of clothing for you and baby ( a reflux baby doubles this), stinky nappies, episodes or crying for no apparent reason (both you and baby!) and desperately chasing your tail trying to keep the house clean! 

    You will do things you say you wouldn't - you'll co-sleep occasionally due to exhaustion, let your baby watch tv (just to grab a cup of tea), drop your regular workouts, stop eating salad and not respond to texts and calls for a week or so! 

    The leisurely coffee and cake with friends - it'll happen more at the start but then you'll realise (a) coffee and cake is expensive - especially as your maternity pay dwindles and dwindles; (b) making a catch up longer than an hour is impossible with an irritable baby or your friends active toddler; (c) finding a diary date is hard between yours and your friends baby groups, other appointments and returns to work. 

    Tiredness is extreme but it gets so mental that your 'normal' is just tired zombie! You will wash your hair once a week with the support of dry shampoo, you won't remember the last time you shaved your legs and will never paint your toenails! I thought I'd always paint my nails (something I can't do when at work as I'm a nurse) but nine months later and I have not done it once. 

    Your baby will have everything and you'll forget yourself (and others sometimes). You won't mind the self neglect but will often feel bad for the lack of attention your partner and the dog gets. 

    You will return to your pre-baby weight and size. I did after three months but the consistency will never be the same; a strange wrinkly belly, inside out belly button and wonky boobs (from breastfeeding). You both won't care and will care massively about this dependant on how you're feeling that day! This week, I've decided I need to make an effort with skincare and makeup but still don't even brush my hair much! 

    I'm sorry if I've made it all sound negative, it's not. I have the most wonderful little thing in my life! She's always happy to see me in the morning (and the middle of the night), always accepts a cuddle, is happy to tag along on a shopping trip, accepts any food I make with excitement, listens intently to everything I say or sing. We have the most wonderful days together (if somewhat monotonous), have taken in a full range of baby groups, spent days snuggling, sunny carrier walks, special family day trips and a number of family holidays. 

    To be honest I'm both dreading and looking forward to my return to work. Being a mummy is the most rewarding but tiring thing and a day at work means I can be me - feel like a have a brain and feel valued. However, I will never have this time again - never get so much time to see her change and grow hour to hour, day to day- I will miss new skills and milestones - and I hate that. 

    See you maternity leave- you've been amazing! 

    I spy mince pies... What would you like for Christmas?

    I spy mince pies... What would you like for Christmas?

    I actually first saw mince pies in my local Co-op at the end of September, and almost cried. But I pulled myself together, clutched a box of Claudi and Fin ice lollies, and repeated the phrase ‘Indian summer’ to myself until I left the shop.

    Whether we like it or not, Christmas really is just around the corner. And, horror of horrors, we’ve actually uttered the following words to our three year old daughter.

    ‘What would you like for Christmas?’

    For a girl who suddenly really gets the concept of presents, this was like offering her a lifetime supply of Yo-Yos and Bear Paws. Her face lit up, and she danced around laughing, calling out various things. And ever since, every now and again when there’s something she wants that we don’t have, she will pause and state matter-of-factly, ‘Don’t worry mum, Santa will bring it’. And my heart stops a little because I can already see that we’ll have to start introducing some boundaries so that she knows what to expect and can enjoy the day. But, what are the right boundaries to introduce? And in what way?

    In the past, we’ve used Christmas as a way to replace things like pyjamas, socks and jumpers. We’ve also stocked up on new books, and art supplies, and started a few rituals to make the run up to the day special. It was about having something for our daughter to open, more than anything else.  What was inside didn’t really matter to her. I think that ship has sailed…

    Last year my husband and I decided to try out the ‘Four gift rule’ of buying each other something you ‘want, need, wear and read’. This worked perfectly for us, and we will be repeating it again this year. But when it comes to the girls, this feels a little over their heads. Especially our youngest, who will be just over one year.

    So I’m curious – for those of you who celebrate, what do you do? Do you focus on traditions? Do you use Christmas as an excuse to spoil your gorgeous little ones once a year? Do you moderate, and encourage them to think more about others than about themselves? Is it an opportunity to do a clear-out and toy donation? I’ve even heard of some families volunteering together in the run up to Christmas, to shift some of the focus away from presents. I think it’s a lovely idea, and one I’d like to introduce when the girls are a bit older. But in the meantime, how do I make this a holiday that is as much about the important stuff as it is about Santa? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!