I’ve just finished my second week back at full time work since Seth was born nearly two years ago. So far, it has been awful. Forget all that pie-in-the-sky talk about how I will work to support us while Tim will stay at home caring for our son and it will all be fine and dandy. Turns out it’s not that rosy when it comes time to actually swap roles and responsibilities.
The first day of work was the worst. For a pretty unemotional person, I was almost in tears leaving home at 8am, kissing my son goodbye and knowing I was no longer his primary care giver.
Are all working mothers evil and insane?, I thought. Because that’s what I felt like.
When I got to work it was horrible. That terrible feeling of being bombarded with not quite enough information to get a complete picture of how things work, but more than enough to make you utterly confused and exhausted. I muddled through until the end of the day and unleashed all my insecurities on my darling husband as soon as I got home. Second day: repeat.
Meanwhile in stay-at-home-parent land, Tim was despairing at his own predicament. Dropping Seth off at day care, his leg being clutched tightly as he tried to back out the door, he wrestled with his own doubts about whether going to university now was the right thing to do.
By the fourth day we were starting to mellow, and I had to laugh as Tim asked ME what I wanted for dinner and I mumbled something like “I don’t know, whatever you want”, as I rushed out the door and into the car. Tim has been making lunches, packing bags, bathing the baby and doing washing. In fairness, he did all those things before, but usually only after I asked him to. In the past I was always the one reminding, nagging, thinking ahead.
Now, in a life-swap phenomenon rarely seen outside reality TV shows, I have subconsciously fallen so deep into my new role that I have ceased taking notice of the housework and daily chores.
I stepped over the same pile of clean washing in the hallway for a week, didn’t sweep the floor once and didn’t clean the bathroom even though it looked like an amenity block in a camping ground. It was as though my work outside the home had blinded my eyes to the jobs that keep our house running comfortably.
When the weekend finally arrived, all the things I had wanted to do got sidelined by an insurmountable urge to do nothing except have ridiculously long breakfasts and then potter around in the garden with my dressing gown on. What was happening to me?
If I am this upset going back to work after enjoying 20 months of being at home with my son, imagine what it must be like for women who return to full-time work much sooner. Take Ms Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, who returned to work after only TWO WEEKS of maternity leave. Oh, that’s right, she took her son to work with her and put him in the next office. Perfectly normal.
Thankfully, the second week has been better. Work is less confusing and some of my clean clothes have made it back into the wardrobe. I’m still adjusting to being the working parent who feels guilty at taking a sick day, even though my head is pounding, my joints ache and my throat is rough as sandpaper. I’m still adjusting to feeling guilty about actually enjoying my sick day because it means I can play with Seth all day and be there to ignore his tantrum when he spills his smoothie on the driveway. Oh, did I say ignore? I meant soothe, of course. It’s been a long week.