I went into work yesterday. I'm not due to return until mid January, but it was one of my 10 'KIT' (Keeping In Touch) days. I have another 11 weeks at home, but the time seems to be just whizzing by. Life is in a permanent state of fast-forward. He is only 15 weeks old, but where has my newborn baby gone?
So the work visit was painful in all sorts of ways. I was there for three hours and was overwhelmed by the level of stress and workload; most people were too busy to stop and talk (the bells, the bells: I work in a school) and after a recent OFSTED inspection pressures have been piled on.
It was not an attractive picture, and I had to pretend that I really cared about this stuff when all I could think about was my husband, at home with both children for maybe only the third time. What scenes would I come home to? Had I expressed enough milk for Gilby? Would the cat have been fed?
I am so not ready to go back. After Gertie, I took eight months off, and by the end of that time I was perfectly prepared to return. I found being at home incredibly frustrating at times, couldn't cope with analysing my day and realising that the chief achievement had been managing to iron three work-shirts for my husband. I remember phoning him at work one day and making him come home because the baby was crying and I didn't know what else to do. I couldn't bear the general, overwhelming responsibility for another tiny human being twenty-four hours a day.
I wanted to generate some sort of normality and get the old 'me' back in any way I could, and the obvious way was to go back out to work and even being in a high-pressure job seemed so much easier than being at home all day.
Worse was going out to any number of activities - baby massage, baby yoga, baby music, baby swimming, baby poker (I have made this last one up, but you get the idea). The level of competition between mums was frightening and off-putting. This time round we still do many of those things, but it is the ones that I enjoy as opposed to the ones that I think I ought to be doing, and we don't really care what anyone else thinks!
But this time round something else has happened too. I have embraced the role. Gertie is (mostly) so much more fun to be with now that she is a proper little person who does funny stuff, and being at home with two really tests my skills of organisation and patience. Ironing a few shirts is easy; I can do it whilst singing nursery rhymes to Gertie and nursing Gilby in the sling and cooking supper. Ok, so meltdown is also still a regular feature (last Sunday, for instance), but it is all worthwhile.
So, for once, I am not looking forward to the new year when it will all end.