Quite out of the blue it dawned on me that this is it. This was my year of maternity leave, most likely the last one. Where did it go? Flying by is an understatement. It is odd how different I feel about returning to work this time around. How different I feel about leaving my children with caregivers. I hardly recognise myself, my feelings have changed so much.
In some fairy dream land, my imaginary plan had been to have my kids in Germany, where you get 3 years of (partly) unpaid leave each (which you can take any time and split between parents and take in chunks etc pp). Oh the luxury, to spend the early years with your children and still have a job to come back to.
Of course, life never works quite according to plan and I have only myself to blame for not following it through, one reason being that I actually quite like Scotland. And my job.
Still, as I count the hours before I'll leave my kids with competent caregivers who are still "only" that, caregivers, I wish I'd have more time. The older already nags me with complaints that she doesn't want to go back to nursery and rather spend time with me. The younger, oblivious to everything, gives me smiles and demands nursing as if there was no tomorrow.
Ahead of me is also the juggling of work and childcare demands, time slipping away and every minor traffic hiccups translating to having to catch up on work in the evenings, or not being able to take breaks. As a user of a council nursery (and I know that's as lucky as winning the lottery) there are also in service days and holiday weeks to consider, time off work that I simply don't have (did I find a babysitter recently? She'll be getting more work it seems). It's back to the rat race - just this time not for the money but for the sake of juggling what is often more than wrongly referred to as work life balance (there is no such thing if ever someone asks. If you work and have kids, the balance goes out of the window first).
The nagging question is that of "Is it worth it?" The constant rush, stress, all for a negligible bit of extra money. Is it really worth it?
My answer now, 4 1/2 years into motherhood, is quite different to what it was 4 years ago when Cubling started childcare. I'm no longer sure at all. The resounding yes is almost gone. And if it wasn't for the kind of job I have, the satisfaction I get out of it, the team I work with, the organisation that is more supportive of their employees than most, the answer may well tip towards the "no".
Transitions are never easy and I know from experience that a new rhythm will emerge, that things will settle down, that I will settle down. For now though, I'm in inner turmoil and reluctant to hand over my kids. It is me who has separation anxiety.
I once read someone label the start of school as institutionalisation of a child. At the time, I chuckled as it seemed over the top and a bit funny. I'd no longer chuckle now. I know what she meant. And aren't we all institutionalised and following the rhythm of what that institution imposes on us? The 9-5 rhythm of work, the in service days of schools, the nap routines of nurseries. Be wary child if you don't fit in, if you'd rather not have your mum leave you alone, if you are a nurseling at 10 months.
It is the way things are and I accept them as it is beyond me to change them so I try and make the best out of it. But I cannot be made to like it.