Being 31 weeks’ pregnant (it still doesn’t seem real – even when it’s there in black and white) work should be something I’m thinking about winding down rather than starting afresh. But a few things recently have made me cast my mind back to when I started again post-mat leave just over two years ago. I had a difficult time back then, partly down to issues that I hope I don’t ever have to face again. And that’s without factoring in missing your little one, parental guilt etc. etc.
But there are definitely also positive learnings to be made from my experiences and if I could help my younger self to cope and can also remind myself for next time, here’s what I’d say. Continue reading →
Like a lot of people, I’ve gone through phases of gym-going over the years – namely when I lived about 30 seconds away from one and passed it every day, so had no real excuse not to. Then again when I first met my now husband and we went together as a kind of healthy date in the early days (which meant me quietly ditching the baggy jogging bottoms and investing in Sweaty Betty’s finest drapey jersey). But I cut up my last membership card long ago.
We also used to enjoy playing tennis every now and again on the local courts – which was fun (if a little too competitive) and a good way to have a work out in the great outdoors. But my favourite exercise has always been walking. Not just popping up the road but going for lovely long walks at the weekend and walking into work (which took a good hour and a half) at least once a week with my sister.
Then, when I was on maternity leave and had finally mastered the art of leaving the house with absolutely everything I needed crammed into a changing bag, I would go for long walks with Scrip safely muffled and tucked up in her pushchair. This was one of my favourite times – I made sure I had a purpose (not hard – there was always another tube of metanium that needed buying) and I’d set off at a briskish pace.
I’ll admit, long before baby or even bump, when people used to talk about their ‘mummy friends’, it set my teeth on edge. It’s all a bit too cosy and smug – not to mention the fact it brings to mind a group of women who can only talk about their children, incessantly (I know I’m blogging about my family life here but at least people can choose to read or not).
Whilst the dreaded ‘m f’ phrase hasn’t yet entered my vocabulary – and it probably never will – I’ve been lucky enough to have made some really good friends since having Scrip. I hoped NCT would teach my husband and me a few basics about having a baby (and give us a chance to practise changing a nappy on an inanimate object before we tackled the real thing), and I hoped we’d meet a few nice people along the way. I didn’t realise we were in fact meeting a lovely new group of friends on that freezing weekend last January.
And it’s not just through NCT – I’ve met friends through my hospital ante and post-natal classes, through other new friends and even through buggy fit (or more specifically, during the much-needed coffees afterwards). We have our babies in common and it’s brilliant, in fact, essential, to have a network to call on to talk about weaning worries, teething troubles and every little problem in between. But they’re also new and interesting people I’d go for lunch with or even – gasp – a drink.
I think I was at the stage where I felt comfortable with the friends I had and, outside of changing jobs, probably wouldn’t have gone out of my way to meet new people. So I count myself lucky to have found a whole new group of people through Scrip – and rather than needing to define them, I think I’ll stick to just ‘friends’.
I’ve become much more of a ‘local’ since being on mat leave. Not in the sense of engraved tankard and the usual down pub (although I did find out pubs in the daytime can be great places to take babies – lots of room, not so crowded, good changing facilities etc.) No, I mean I’ve really enjoyed discovering – and rediscovering – local life. Something I never thought I’d say in London.
I’ve always been a fan of our local corner shop, but the last nine months have actually meant I’ve had time to stop and chat to the nice owners rather than dashing in and out on a milk run just before the 7pm closing. My postman and I now know each other well, which is lucky because he’s seen me at my worst; in my dressing gown, hair everywhere, balancing a small baby mid-change. And as for the Amazon delivery man – he’s almost on the Christmas card list.
Then there are my local shops and cafes in the Askewniverse (aka Askew Road) and Chiswick, run by some lovely people who always ask after Scrip. The mat leave coffee drinking does come with the territory – but in my defence socialising with other mums is really important when you’re struggling with a new baby, and strong caffeine is an essential. So, after careful ‘research’, here are my top five places to be a west-London local:
With my return to work looming, I’ve been thinking back over my maternity leave. Never before in my life have I had such an eventful nine months. From uncomfortable attempts to ‘walk (or limp) the baby out’ (she was 10 days overdue) to being admitted after a routine examination without my hospital bag but full of nervous excitement. Then the euphoria on 2nd March, introducing Scrip to her loving family, nervously driving her home for the first time in the dark then a series of firsts, mostly good but some scary: first smile, chuckle, weekend away, trip to A&E, spoonful of baby rice etc.
It sounds like a cliche (or a bad country song) but we’ve come so far. I clearly remember how terrified I was after those foggy few weeks of paternity leave when I realised it was now time to do it all, every day, on my own. A teary goodbye to my husband at 8am one morning and that was it – Scrip and I were going it alone. My poor sister even had to take some time off work to make sure I didn’t implode. And now, just a few months later, I think nothing of slinging a bag full of nappies in the boot, popping the baby in the car and heading off into the great unknown (aka Kent, to see the in-laws).