It’s the end of January which means that my period of transition between maternity leave and full time working is almost at an end.
How do I feel about that? Guilty. Proud. Ashamed. Relieved. Like a bad mum. Like a good mum.
‘Confused’ probably sums it up nicely.
I’ve used January as a way to ease myself back into work, into normal life, a routine, or, as my husband put it, reality.
Maternity leave was the most incredible, special and amazing thing. It was like a little bubble of awesomeness! But all bubbles burst in the end.
This is real life. And it’s bloody confusing.
I have chosen to return to work full time and, as of February 1st, that’s exactly what I am doing. My month of easing myself into work is over and I am back, full throttle, foot on the gas, raring to go etc. etc. And you know what? I cannot wait.
My career has always been important to me. Not so important that I put off having children, mind you; it’s 2017 for goodness sake, why shouldn’t I work full time and be an amazing Mummy? Who says that isn’t possible?
I have worked hard to get where I am. I am lucky to work in a great company with fantastic colleagues and a supportive boss. To go to work everyday and do something I enjoy; how many people can say that? And why would I choose to give that up?
But it’s tough.
Felix is still attending all his classes, just not with me. He sees his friends, just not with me. He learns new words and moves around for the first time, just not for me.
I struggled with this at first. Picking him up and hearing about how he had been unsettled at a group he used to love. Hearing how he’d learnt a new sound or developed a new facial expression. It broke my heart.
But then I learnt to treasure every moment we have together. We go out at weekends. We paint, play with animals and go for walks. We read books, play with toys and see his friends. We take hundreds of photos capturing the good moments and the not so good ones.
I was there the first time he said Mama and Dada. I’m there for him when he wakes in the night from a bad dream. I saw him sit up and play in the bath for the first time. I witnessed his first (albeit heavily aided) steps with the walker.
I’m still his Mummy and he still loves me. I know that.
Going back to work isn’t for everyone and I understand that. In fact, I take my hat off to those people who stay at home with their children. But it’s just not me.
I want a piece of me back, and I love it.
I have my own identity. Being a Mummy to Felix is my motivation. It pushes me to be the very best that I can be and it has taught me and changed me so much already. But being a mummy does not define who I am. Neither does being a wife.
I am Mummy, Mrs and Me. In that order.
Do I feel guilty about that? Sure I do. Is it selfish that I still want a part of my old self? Yeah, maybe. Am I ashamed of looking forward to returning to work? Definitely.
But, am I proud of the person I am? Of the Mummy I am to Felix and the wife I am to Darryl? You bet I am.
I’m not the best, but I am giving it my everything. I have good days and bad days. Most days I am just winging it as I go along. But I am loving every second of this new reality.
In September 2013 I got engaged at the top of the Empire State Building. Magical. Within a month of returning home, a date had been set, venue booked and dress purchased.
I got married in December 2014 and whilst planning my wedding, I learnt many things…
Pinterest is the wedding Bible.
It wasn’t that I didn’t get Pinterest, I just never saw the purpose of it until I got engaged. Then, as if I had been taken over by some sort of digital scrapbooking demon, I was obsessed. And I mean obsessed. Secret boards for wedding dresses, more cake inspiration than my dieting tummy could handle, not to mention wedding favour heaven! I honestly don’t know how people planned a wedding before Pinterest came along! I can only assume that brides spent £zillions on glossy bridal magazines which, after browsing quite a few of them, I realise are full of over-priced designer gowns that no mere mortal could ever wish to pay for. Unless of course Daddy has a money tree in the garden, and mine does not.
Boutiques aren’t everything.
Every bride dreams about ringing that bell in the secret bridal boutique and walking in to the store welcomed by the sweet smell of happiness, Champagne bubbling away and the walls glistening with oodles of gorgeous gowns. I’m no different, but I do like a good bargain so I thought, what happens to ex-catwalk dresses, to old displays gowns? Well I found a hidden gem in Leicestershire that has the answer. Rows upon rows of amazing gowns, no pressure to buy (although no bubbles either!). I tried on thirteen dresses that day and found The One – I even made another bridal party cry (cue inner-gloating). Oh, and did I mention that it only set me back £400? Not bad when the retail price was £1,500…
Wedding fayres are full of lots of lovely things to get your heart racing. Stunning bouquets, make-up artists promising to make you look like a Hollywood star, fashion shows, photographers… the list goes on. But one thing they are AMAZING for is food. My local wedding fayre is spread across six venues all within walking distance. This means one thing – six lots of food. And I’m not just talking about cake (although there was lots of that, too!). No, I am talking canapés at the first stop followed closely by a roast beef dinner (yes, it did have all the trimmings), sweet cart, hog roast and eton mess for dessert! So if you fancy some free and rather yummy food, get down to your next wedding fayre!
More free food.
That’s right, the free food doesn’t stop there. It’s trial time. A week or so before we were set to visit the hotel for menu tasting, we had to whittle the prospective list down to three for each course. That in itself was pretty tough. So the day comes, we’re meeting her at 2pm and are faced with the dilemma – do we eat beforehand or not? We went for the latter which turned out to be a good choice. Who knew that we would get to try three full size portions of our chosen starters, mains and desserts?! Oh, and “would you like to try the potential wines as well, madam” was just the cherry on the top!
Crafting isn’t for everyone.
Point number one taught me this. Pinterest makes everything look so darn easy! Team that up with the Hobbycraft website and suddenly two of the most artistically challenged people in the world decide they’re craftsman. We went full on, too. Everything from handmade invitations to favours. Luckily I had talented bridesmaids on hand to bake and decorate the wedding cake, design the place settings and table names. But still, we added what we’re calling ‘the personal touch’ to the day and, OK the finished pieces wouldn’t win any awards, but they weren’t awful by any stretch and they added a little charm to the day!
Hen parties don’t have to be about getting drunk.
This was my mantra the whole way through planning my special weekend. I wanted a weekend to remember, to come up with activities we would all enjoy but that didn’t revolve around going to a big city and seeing who shamed themselves the most on the Jäger train. So we rented a house in London for three days, booked theatre tickets and an experience on The Eye. Only then Friday came, we sat on the train and the Prosecco got uncorked. And that, ladies and gentleman, was the beginning of the end. I’d love to be able to tell you more about this night, but I don’t remember it. The moral of the story is, however much you try, your hen party WILL revolve around alcohol. And it will be fantastic.
Musical theatre is amazing.
I already knew this, but not all of my hens did. In fact, one thought it was decidedly lame. That was until we went to see Mamma Mia in the West End on my hen party. OK, so perhaps this isn’t strictly wedding related, but I felt the world needed reminding that this is in fact the greatest stage musical ever. It’s a chance to embrace your inner Dancing Queen (we’ve all got one), put on some glittery spandex and smile non-stop for two hours! If you haven’t been to see the show before, you really must. It was enough to convert my musical theatre hating hen into a full on thespian!
The internet is King.
I mentioned already that I love a bargain, but what I love even more, is a bargain that I can get from the comfort of my sofa. Internet shopping is fantastic, especially for wedding bargains! My experience of boutique shopping for bridal accessories taught me two things. 1) Everything is overpriced. 2) Sales assistants can be very snotty and patronising (how do you know I can’t afford that?!). It was all very Pretty Woman, you know the scene… The internet doesn’t do this. I sourced my tiara, customised veil, personalised cake topper (adorable to see myself, husband and kittens in clay!), invitation materials, wedding cake icing, rings, bridal party gifts and more online. And it was cheaper without losing quality. Boom!
It’s OK to be a diva.
This is one of the most important lessons I learnt. A bride on her wedding day can get away with quite literally anything. Who dares cross a bride on her big day?! No one, that’s who. I got ready for my wedding in the penthouse room of the hotel, which meant that every time I had a diva fit and asked (not demanded, asked) the staff for something, it was quite a long trip! I requested “higher chairs” so the hairdresser and make-up artist didn’t have to bend down as far; and straws to I could drink my Champagne and Red Bull (no, not together) without smudging my lipstick. Embracing my inner-diva, just for one day, was quite fun!
None of it even matters.
This is the most important lesson. As brides we spend months, sometimes years, meticulously planning our big days, trying to make sure that no stone is left unturned, that every single guest is happy and that nothing will go wrong. But you know what? You will forget something, someone will cancel on you last minute, and yes, if you have a summer wedding, it probably will rain, but it doesn’t matter. All that matters to you that morning is getting down that aisle to marry the person that you love. So relax, take it all in, and just enjoy it, because it’s all over in a blink of an eye.