Returning to work with a capital W

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

I think every new mum expects MAT leave to last a lifetime. A whole year off, no interruptions. But when that back to work feeling looms over you the night before your first day, imagine every Sunday mushed together into one and those huge, ugly butterflies aching in the pit of your stomach. That isn't to say that I wasn't looking forward to going back, becoming a whole adult person once again, but there was a number of emotions overshadowing my initial response. 

The interview: I was thrilled. I was on MAT leave from a current position, but during my time off I had applied for one other role that I desperately wanted. I interviewed for the job and was offered it all in the same day. I spent the rest of the hours left of that said day, crying with happiness. I knew that I would be leaving my son each day to go to a place of work that made a difference, that gave back to the world rather than being a pen pusher in an office. I loved my old job and the people that worked there but it just wasn't a puzzle piece that fit right for our new family jigsaw!

The weeks leading up to work: emotional. I will admit quite openly that I cried a lot. More so at how lucky I was to have been at home with my son every day since the day he was born, watching him grow and change, experiencing all his firsts and teaching him the world. Isn't it funny that an impending change can make you actually start to appreciate the things that you may lose? Not lose in my case but a reduction in hours lets say. Like I'm being made redundant from being a full-time mum!! There is a quote out there. somewhere in the atmosphere, suggesting that every morning we should think about those in the world going through hard times as it will make us live a better and more full life. Don't want for things you don't have, but be grateful for the things you do have. And I must say, those weeks leading up to my start date I definitely made the most of my time with Theo. Every bath time was a blessing, meal times were spent at the table, breakfast lunch and dinner, story time was that much longer and hugs were that much harder.
I also found the lead up to my first day challenging because we were booked to go to Florida for two weeks. I spent these amazing two weeks away with my family in a gorgeous, hot country and then the day after I got back I was thrown into two weeks, full time training, nine to five! It was like some sort of satirical irony.

The eve of: calm. And I was calm. Still to this day, I'm not sure whether it was a facade but I didn't shed a single tear nor think a negative thought. I just got my stuff ironed and organised Theo's clothes/food for my Dad for the next day. Kindly, my Dad agreed to be Theo's minder while I'm away which is working wonderfully for us so far. They adore each other so it does make it a lot easier to leave him. Although I'm sure my Dad has now sprouted a few more gray hairs!

7 weeks on: happy... most of the time. I have very mixed feelings about it at the moment. I absolutely love my job, wholeheartedly I look forward to going in every shift but I often find it challenging when leaving Theo. Initially, he barely bat an eyelid when I left. But as the weeks started to pass I noticed a slight change. Now whether this is because I've gone back to work or just because he's getting older and wiser, who knows. But he's started to play favourites. In one breath, he will be sobbing for me, standing at my feet, vying for my attention then in the next he'll be pushing off me, fighting tooth and nail to get to his Daddy. I find it the hardest when I come back from a shift and he refuses to come to me; I know what everyone will say, because they've said it, he still loves me (I know) and it's no measure on what I've done for him as a mother (I know...) but god damn, it's like a dagger to the heart! I now understand why parents use that old cliched line: "you wait until you have your own children" because it is so true. Children make you question yourself like no one else. I would like to think I am strong in nature but Theo does something to me that no other soul has done before and I often struggle. I don't know many mum's that openly talk about this, whether it be that it doesn't happen to them or whether it's one of those things that they like to keep locked away at home, for no one to see, as if their life is 2 point 4. But I'm here for the good, the bad and the ugly. My life isn't a highlight reel and as family, we do have our down moments!

Welcome to behind the scenes people.

Up, Up and Away: Are you insane?

Friday, 16 January 2015

Our first family holiday this year was a biggun. We booked a trip to Miami, Florida three days after Theo's first birthday. Nine and a half hours on a plane, with a toddler. You must be mad, I hear you say... and in hindsight, I must be. Two weeks solid? Long haul flight? With a toddler?

Rather than bore you with the fine details, let me pass on some of the experience based advice I have. It's not about what room you get, whether you've arranged your rental car or if you've packed all your travel documents. Those things come with the territory.. This is about keeping your kid as happy as they can possibly be! Welcome to the highs and the lows of travelling with a one year old!

1. Packing: whether it be baby or toddler, packing is crucial. Simple, once you think about it, but crucial. I went through a usual day with Theo at home, and tried to mimic that for the holiday. You want to make sure that they have enough 'essentials' for the first few days so that you're not trying to find a convenience store/shopping mall the minute you arrive. Forget about how many t-shirts, shorts or trousers,  by essentials I mean things you cannot live without. Milk, nappies and snacks. I used the Tommee Tippee Storage Pots and decanted the formula for each individual feed.The pots fit into the bottles thus saving space. I heart them, a lot and it gave me a few days to relax before I needed to work out what American formula is similar to Aptamil... gah!
If your child is drinking cows milk instead, obviously it will need to be purchased fresh.

Aren't they beautiful?
2. I packed home comforts for Theo as well. Muslins, blankets, dummies and most importantly his 'bedtime usuals'. His Koo-di Pop Up Cot and his Elephant Slumber Buddy. I highly, highly recommend purchasing a pop-up cot! It's continuity for your baby/toddler, they go to bed in the same spot every night despite a possible change in hotel/apartment, giving them reassurance and hopefully a better night's sleep for all. Theo adores his and I don't know what we would have done without it! His Slumber Buddy is something that reminds him of home too, it plays running water noises and helps him drift off. The two weeks we were out there, we never had an issue at night!

Koo-Di Pop Up Cot (review coming soon)
Slumber Buddy
3. Airport: Bring food, food and more food. And toys. And a third arm. And a bed. Stroller. Nanny. Their entire wardrobe. Nappies. Wet Wipes. Medicine. The lady at the local shop that always makes him laugh. In other words, be prepared. Make sure you can heal every possible tantrum and with Theo it requires all of the above. I made sure to pack something that entertains him, to comfort and soothe, to feed him and keep him clean and dry! You feel like you're carrying everything plus the kitchen sink but it is totally worth it. 

4. Plane: if you can afford it, and your child is at an age where they move around without your help, I would suggest that you buy an extra seat. Or barter for one at check. Beg if you have to. Say it's for the good of the passengers, otherwise they'll be looking for the nearest exit at 90,000 feet. We didn't actually purchase one ourselves (hindsight is a wonderful thing) but thankfully had a lovely check in lady who assigned us seats with a gap in the middle. It just gave Theo somewhere to sit and play with his toys, somewhere for you to put them while you eat/drink/go to the loo. However, on the way home we didn't! The only reason it wasn't an issue is because it was a night flight so he slept on me the whole way. Again it requires mass planning, don't pay extra costs unless you absolutely have to. 

5. Bring more food for this leg of the journey too. And toys that your child has never seen before! It doesn't matter if it's a plastic spoon for the £1 shop, the point is it's new and interesting and may buy you some time until the next meltdown. I also bought a travel blanket and pillow combo which was a godsend as airlines are not the best at catering for little ones. 

6. I would think about where you are travelling to and the time difference. We knew that Theo needed to adjust to a five hour time change (Florida is behind) so in the week leading up to the holiday we put him to bed a little bit later each night. For us, this worked tremendously and really seemed to help with the jetlag. We let him nap sporadically on the plane despite it being his bed time and once we arrived in Florida, he slept from 11pm until 5am! We definitely kicked jetlag's butt.

7. Jetlag on arrival: it's not fun with a toddler but they are remarkably flexible. As long as you create the same ambiance while you are away that you would do at home, they tend to adjust quite quickly. Well, some do! And Theo was one of those toddlers. In fact Theo forced us to adjust, otherwise we would have been lounging around until late afternoon no doubt!
We made sure that he had his breakfast at the same time, similar snacks, nap times and his bedtime ritual was practically identical... just in different locations.

8. I'm telling you that routine is essential, but in the same breath I'm telling you not to get hung up on it either! Do the things that always keep your baby happy, but don't panic if you have to try something different too. We often had Theo in bed with us if the apartment we stayed in wasn't appropriate for his pop-up cot. We let him stay up late, get up early, eat (some) sugary treats and nap when he needed to. 

9. Do all the things you would usually do, but with your child. We visited all the places we wanted to visit despite the fact that we had a one year old. Being sensible and all, we weren't up for partying until 1am but we did want to visit Disney, do some sight-seeing in the Bahamas, eat ourselves to death at the Cheesecake Factory, go shopping at Belz Mall. We actually managed to fit it all in with very little drama because we planned what we'd need for the day and made sure Theo was accustomed to the odd snooze in his stroller!

10. Most importantly, have fun and stay relaxed. The more chilled you are, the better your baby/toddler will feel. Have you ever had a day where you feel like rubbish and to add to it, your bubba is miserable too? The likelihood is they're absorbing your vibes so try and keep those vibes as upbeat as possible.

Wherever you end up going, or whatever you end up doing... Enjoy! Lack of sleep is really a minor problem to have in the grand scheme of things!


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