Yesterday was a momentous day in our household: the dreaded return to work. No, not me, silly. It was Heather who went back to work after 13 months of maternity leave, dating back to pre-Christmas 2009. (How long ago that seems!)
It’s a change which has impacted all of us in different ways – some major, others relatively minor – and no doubt there are some knock-on effects we’re not fully aware of yet. Anyhow, 36 hours and two working days on, here are a few observations on how it has affected each of us.
The biggest change of all has been for Heather, who has returned three days a week (as she did after Isaac). Not only is she back in the daily grind of nine-to-five – which is mentally tiring enough – but she has changed jobs, returning to a technical role rather than a client-facing project leadership one. It’s quite a significant adjustment professionally, and of course going back three days a week means that time during her working week is very much at a premium.
Outside of work, her mornings are consequently more rigid – everyone has to be presentably dressed and ready to go at 7.45 now – and her evenings are also truncated. Now that Toby is in nursery on work days, she has effectively lost almost half the time she used to spend with him. So that magical hour between getting home and bedtime now takes on greater prominence than ever. (Mind you, not having to cook and feed dinner on the days the boys are in nursery is a bonus!)
Toby (age 12 months)
It’s a brave new world for Toby. Having been pretty much joined at the hip to his mother for the first 12 months of his life, he now has to get accustomed to spending up to ten hours a day three days a week dealing with a new set of peers and routines at nursery.
There were tears yesterday when Heather dropped him off for his first full day, but apparently he wasn’t too bad after that. Although there have been nascent signs of separation anxiety, it is far less acute than we experienced with Isaac, and it helps that he is a less fussy sleeper and generally less high-maintenance than his brother was at that age.
He came back yesterday exhausted but having settled in pretty well, and today he was better still. So, despite having his universe turned upside down, the youngest member of the family seems to be taking everything in his stride. Well, in his crawl, anyway. Good lad.
Isaac (age 3)
On the face of it, Zac is relatively unaffected. He still goes to nursery Tuesdays to Thursdays, and still spends Mondays and Fridays with Heather and Toby. But he was decidedly unsettled going to nursery yesterday. Maybe he sensed he was no longer the sole focus of attention getting ready to go in the morning.
Morning drop-offs and evening pick-ups used to be exclusively Zac-time, where he would talk (or sing) constantly on the way out, and then tell us all about his day on the way back. Now the trip to and from nursery is about both boys, and that will change even more as Toby’s communication skills pick up. Given that they are in different rooms all day at nursery, I wonder if they will start to talk to each other about their days?
It’s really just the continuation of a gradual process for Zac, as he realises he can no longer hog the limelight at particular times of the day, and that he will have to share airtime with Toby more and more over the coming months. Given that the two of them already get on very well together, hopefully we won’t have too much sibling rivalry.
In most ways, I am the least affected of all. I wake up. I go to work. I try to be home in time to spend a little time with the boys before embarking on the bath-and-bed routine. I go to sleep. Repeat until the weekend, then start all over again.
Most of the changes to my daily routine so far are tiny ones. I help out a bit more with the boys in the morning, so that Heather has time to get herself ready to whisk the boys out of the door at 7.45. And as the night owl of the household – in an average week, I will be up beyond 1am on three nights blogging or doing other exciting stuff like my tax return – I make a point of spending a few extra minutes tidying up and making sure we’re ready to hit the ground running the following morning. Like I said, most of the changes are small ones. I’m sure more will creep in over time, but it’s all minor stuff really.
It’ s not so much my routine which has changed – it’s me. In honesty, Heather’s first day came and went yesterday and had negligible impact on me. But today I worked at home and suddenly it really hit me that the house was empty. No Zac clumping around downstairs dancing to Rihanna songs. No Toby cackling with laughter. No chatter or clinking of mugs as Heather entertains fellow mums.
I can’t remember the last time I spent more than two or three hours on my own, let alone a whole day. It was almost certainly before Toby was born, so it’s at least a year.
Now I’ve always been a solitary person by nature, happy in my own company and craving peace and quiet so I can be at my most efficient. But do you know what? I miss the background – sometimes not so background – noise that is part and parcel of having a family. I had almost forgotten what it was like to be alone.
And do you know what? I miss the noise. I wasn’t expecting to – quite the opposite, in fact – but I do. How odd is that?