Both myself and my daughter have had a fairly seismic shift this week, as we go from 10 weeks locked down together and not really seeing anyone or doing much of anything, to suddenly the kid being at nursery, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and me going back to work.

So far it has been good. The kid settled in really well back at nursery, much faster than I anticipated, and we have been building it up slowly, so on Monday I took her in at 10am, stayed with her for half an hour before leaving and collected her at 3pm, then Tuesday she did 9am – 3.30pm, and Wed 9am – 4.30pm, and Thursday and Friday she did 9am-5pm, which will be her new normal Monday through Friday for the next few months at least.

She’s been knackered when we get home, and is still not quite sleeping through the night though I hope this will change soon (I think she’s going through the 2-year sleep regression, and is growing, plus all these big changes in our routine etc). So after not seeing her all day by the time she comes home she is so tired she can’t really talk to me in sentences and just grunts or shrieks at me. I’m also thinking I’ll need to bring her bedtime forward a bit earlier as she’s just so tired.

As for me, getting back to work has been great – I’ve got my new home office all rearranged so I’m really comfy and have a really good space for work, and have slowly caught up on some key issues and projects and strategic objectives that I need to know about. After 11 months on adoption leave, I had forgotten literally everything I do, and what everyone else does, but one particular recap meeting with my boss felt like one of those movies where someone has amnesia, and can’t remember anything, and then they smell something or see something and suddenly it all comes flooding back instantly! So I feel pretty well caught up, and I am already taking up leadership of a big project that has just started and is already behind schedule so I’ve had a surprisingly busy week reviewing documents, sending feedback and trying to adjust the project plan to get everything back on track again. I do love a bit of project management!

One thing I am relieved about is that I’m working from home during this transition period back to work. It makes it easier while I get the kid settled at nursery and it also means I can still get the laundry on or hang it out when I stop for a break or a cup of tea. So it’s helping me to keep on top of the domestic chores like washing up, laundry and cleaning the bathrooms which I would otherwise have to spend my evenings and weekends doing. Although that said I’m finding more and more often already this week I’m forgetting to wash up straight after meals like I normally do, and then later I’ll walk into the kitchen and remember there’s a mound of dishes to be done….

One morning I managed to drop her off early and zip to the supermarket, (thank god there was no queue!) whip round and do a weekly shop and get home by 9.10am, which felt like a huge achievement! 

I also already feel a little like I’ve lost a limb. While I’m excited about actually using my brain again for grown-up stuff, and it’s nice to have such a long break from the toddler after all these excruciating weeks together, I’ve gotten so used to her always being just a few feet from me. Every now and then I look up from my computer in a panic and think “Oh shit where is she?” before remembering she’s not in the house.

It feels weird that she’s not here, and I miss her, as crazy as that sounds. 

I also already feel guilty about how little I’ll be seeing of her now. I always knew being a single mum would mean juggling a work-life balance and so on, but in the morning we are mostly in a rush to get up and dressed and breakfasted and out the door by 8.30am (after 11 months of not being in a particular rush to go anywhere in the mornings!), then she gets home by 5pm knackered and incoherent, so it’s a case of getting her dinner made as fast as I can, and then straight into the bath and a bit of staring blankly at the tv before bed. I used to just eat dinner with her around 5,30pm, but I can see now that I won’t have time to cook something for her and something for me before she melts down from hunger and tiredness. So now I’m going to have to feed her whatever is fastest to make and cook my own dinner after she’s gone to bed. It makes me sad to think we can’t do something as basic as eat dinner together for a while. And in fact I’ve been feeding her breakfast while I sort out the morning nappies and get her bag packed for nursery, having a cup of tea and some toast when I get back after dropping her off so we don’t even have breakfast together! I’m sure it will settle down as I figure out the routine and how to do it all by myself, but it feels like we don’t see each other at all suddenly, and I’m going to have to make a lot more effort to do lovely fun things at weekends to make up for it I think.

Funnily enough the feeling of forgetting where she is, or of suddenly coming out of a deep work-related thought and thinking “oh fuck where’s the kid!” is compounded partly by her hiding from me last week when I raced around the house in a panic looking for her, and also from a recurring dream I used to have. Long before I had a child of my own, literally ever since I was about 20, I’ve had this occasional recurring dream that I had a baby, and then would just forget that I had a baby, and leave it somewhere. I’d be shopping, or visiting friends, and someone would suddenly ask “Where’s the baby?” and I would panic and scream “Oh my god! I can’t remember where I left it!”. I presume these kind of anxiety dreams are about some subconscious fears about being a good parent, or just about how scatterbrained I can be sometimes if I don’t make a to-do list or write what I’m doing that day on the fridge. I haven’t had one of these dreams since having a child, and I also haven’t yet forgotten her anywhere (phew!) but this week since she’s been gone I’ve had repeated moments of thinking suddenly “Oh god where is she?” with the same flash of total panic, before I remember she is safe and well being looked after by professionals that she likes. 

I suspect the guilt is inevitable to some degree, but it will also just become our new normal over time so we will both adjust to it. Better go and crack on with that washing up now so it’s not still sitting there staring at me in the morning when I’m in a rush…

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