It’s just over a year since I went on mat leave. Just over a year since I walked out of my company’s office in Central London and did a little dance, elated at the prospect of a whole lovely, wholesome year spent nurturing my as-yet-unborn child.
Ok so *real talk* I was shitting myself about the nurturing the child part and probably literally pissed myself a bit when I did the little dance – an occurrence that was pretty chronic when I was eight months pregnant – but I was genuinely excited about taking a year off work. I enjoyed setting my out-of-office message to “on leave, returning March 2017”; it felt hilariously indulgent and ridiculous. Besides, I could no longer think about work when I was this fat and knackered, and editing fashion trend reports when I resembled a hippo in a pop sock felt hypocritical.
If you’d have told me when I started that job in July 2013, aged 26, that I’d end up leaving to have a baby, I’d have called bullshit; just as I would a year ago if you’d told me I’d never go back. But on Friday I handed in my notice and, as of 17th March, I’m officially unemployed. Now, I’m trying not to dwell too much on that word since it’s not one of my favourites. I’ve been unemployed before and it doesn’t exactly bring out the best in me. Of course, technically, I am employed. I have become a ‘full-time mummy’*, which means I don’t have time to sit on my arse sobbing uncontrollably with Lana Del Rey on repeat like I did the last time I was unemployed.
I am sad though. Not because I was particularly excited about returning to work – I wasn’t. Not because I feel the need to get away from Bab – I don’t, the majority of the time. But having to give up work altogether because it’s that or put my one-year-old in full-time care feels a bit brutal.
Work rejected my request for part-time working and I think my boss genuinely expected me to go back full-time, which is hysterical given that nursery costs around £75 a day in North London and I was on about a fiver more than that. This is the first time in my working life that I’ve been vaguely grateful that I earn a shitty wage. It means that I barely had to entertain the idea of leaving my tiny infant daughter with someone else for 40 hours a week, because there is absolutely zero point. Were I on three times my salary I’d be seriously considering it, and I don’t by any means judge anyone who goes through with it. Honestly, since having a baby I don’t judge anyone else at all for anything**.
In hindsight I was probably being a bit naive when I assumed my career would seamlessly align with Bab’s childcare and I’d spend my two non-weekend days off hanging out with mummy friends who were on the exact same schedule, musing about what a great life/work balance we all had. It never occurred to me that work might say no to flexible working, that childcare might cost more than our rent, or that I might get so attached to my baby that sometimes I actually miss her when she’s in bed.
So aside from the odd pang of anxiety about the aimless abyss that lies ahead, I’m fairly content in the knowledge that there is absolutely feck all I can do about any of this, and at the very least I’m lucky that I get to spend these precious, mostly wonderful, occasionally dreadful, early months at home with my daughter, even if it means we have to move to the shit side of town and I occasionally wish I was dead a bit.
* As an aside, I don’t buy into this FTM bollocks. Every parent is a full-time one, regardless of whether or not they also happen to have an actual job, be it part-time, full-time, home-based or toilet-based. But that’s another rant for another day…
** I was totally unaware of how rife parental judgement was until I became a parent myself. Today I was judged by seven separate strangers because Bab had removed her sock.
Bab reads What Do Grown-ups Do All Day? by Virginie Morgand from Eeny Meeny