When Harry was a newborn I barely gave a thought to going back to work. It seemed so far in the distant future that it didn’t really cross my mind. I was blissfully lost in the newborn haze of love, cuddles and an endless stream of dirty nappies. Being awake most hours, the days and nights seemed to merge into one and I rarely knew what day of the week it was, never mind how much longer I had left at home with my beautiful baby boy.
Faster than I’d hoped the months slipped away and the realisation that I would have to return to work soon crept into my mind. I love my job. I always have. The selfish part of me was looking forward to an opportunity to be me again and embrace skills other than being able to change a dirty nappy with a screaming and wriggling baby in record time, being a human bottle and being able to walk around a supermarket with a screaming baby whilst still remembering everything I went in for. I wanted to rediscover skills that I had before I became Mummy and hoped I had stored safely away ready to bring out again when the time came. Although part of me looked forward to returning to work, a bigger part of me was filled with absolute dread. How could I cope spending so much time away from my baby? How could I work on so little sleep? Would Harry be safe and well cared for without me?
My husband and I are lucky. My mum is amazing. She looks after Harry one day a week for us and has spent a lot of time with him since he was born so they have an amazing relationship. She gave up her day off to support us by looking after our son, saving us money and easing my anxiety about leaving him. If Harry can’t be with Mummy or Daddy I love that he gets to be with Nanna. The woman who gave me the best childhood a girl could wish for. Now he’s older Harry stays over night at Nanna and Grumps’ house every other Friday. He loves chasing the dog around, being spoiled rotten and causing mischief and we love having a night to relax as a couple.
Although my mum could have Harry one day a week we still needed to look for childcare for the other days I was working. At the time I was a supply teacher so needed something flexible that would fit around the days I was working (which could change every week). Reluctantly, I started booking in to have a look around our local nurseries. I’ll always remember the churning feeling in my stomach as I turned up to look around the first nursery. Surely my baby wasn’t ready for this? I walked through the door with a lump in my throat and a million and one questions ready to ask. The first thing I noticed was that the lady who showed us around smelt very strongly of cigarette smoke. She seemed in a rush and like she had been burdened with the task of showing us around. I had Harry in the baby carrier, cuddled close as if to show on the outside how desperately I wanted to keep him close, but not a single member of staff acknowledged him or asked anything about him. I swiftly stashed my list of questions before asking a single one, politely looked around and left. On the walk home I was making a new list in my mind, of all the reasons I wouldn’t be able to go back to work and how Alistair would just have to take on an extra job or two to make up for it.
I was feeling deflated after that first visit but pushed myself to carry on looking. The right childcare had to be out there somewhere. I viewed a few other nurseries but didn’t feel like any of them were ‘the one’. (Maybe I’m just extremely picky!) The last nursery we viewed was Kids Allowed. A large, purpose built nursery a 5 minute walk from our house. I don’t know why, but in my head I didn’t want to like it. I didn’t like the idea that it was a chain nursery and had a preconceived idea of what I thought that meant. From the second we called to arrange to look around though something felt different. The staff were so friendly and they were flexible and amenable, saying we could pop in anytime we wanted to have a look around. We turned up, still sceptical, to be shown around and from the moment we walked through the door I felt at ease. Every member of staff we saw was welcoming and friendly towards Harry and I. They all seemed happy to be there and I could tell they had amazing relationships with the children straight away. The children in the nursery all seemed so happy and engaged in the fantastic activities the staff were providing in every single room and the whole place just seemed calm and happy. The more we looked around, the more I could see my son spending his days here. The nursery offered everything we were looking for. Fantastic staff and facilities, flexible hours that would fit around my unpredictable work schedule and that warm, fuzzy feeling I had hoped to get from a nursery. As I walked out of the nursery that day I felt like a weight had been lifted: I’d finally found a nursery I felt confident sending my son to.
Harry had two settling in sessions at Kids Allowed before he started his regular days. He enjoyed himself so much that he hardly noticed I had gone. He has always been a confident, independent little soul but secretly I think I had wanted him to miss me. Soon enough the time came for me to return to work and Harry to start at nursery. As happy as I was with the nursery I was still extremely emotional leaving him on the first day. It felt different to leaving him with my mum. So much harder. Harry didn’t cry when I handed him over to the lovely lady in the baby room but I did. I was so embarrassed but the nursery staff were so reassuring and supportive, they handed me a tissue and told me not to worry and I could call as often as I wanted. I sat in the car with my free nursery coffee for 5 minutes before leaving. I must have looked like a big, snotty, emotional mess to the other parents and the children happily skipping in to see their friends.
Once I got to work I relaxed. I stayed busy and soon got back into the swing of things. At lunchtime I called to check on Harry and, as expected, he was fine. I wanted to badly to give him a cuddle – for me more than for him. After work I rushed straight to nursery to be reunited with Harry. I still remember now, peeking through the window to his room and seeing him playing. He was so content, as if he didn’t realise what an enormous deal his first day at nursery was. From that day on it became easier and easier to leave Harry. He adores nursery and now waves his arms and claps excitedly when I say we are going there. He even put his backpack on and started banging on the door the other day, wanting to go and see his friends. His little face actually looked disappointed when I told him it wasn’t a nursery day!
Balancing work and being a mum is hard but I’m so lucky to be able to do a job that I love part time and spend more time at home with Harry. I may not get to spend all day every day with him but that’s ok. I’m starting to realise that we both benefit from the days that I’m in work and we are so fortunate to have as much time together as we do. I’m starting a new job next week so I will be learning to rebalance work and family life all over again but I’m excited and I know that with my mum and a fantastic nursery looking after Harry, everything will be just fine.
We love Harry’s nursery and would recommend them to anyone who has a Kids Allowed near them. They currently have a competition running to win free childcare for a year at their Knutsford nursery. It’s definitely worth entering!