This started off as a bit of a brain dump into how I was feeling, but as I was writing I realised there must be so many of us mums and dads going through these exact feelings right now.
Today is my first born's last day of nursery. Not a big deal to many people whose children have grown up and got the t-shirt, but I didn't realise how emotional it would make me feel until after I dropped him off this morning.
George is my first baby. He's a very shy boy, and what I would describe as pretty sensitive, but so much fun to be around and as happy as larry in familiar situations. I was very fortunate to have been able to stay at home for 2 years looking after him before heading back to work, which meant he started nursery when he was nearly 2. This is quite late in comparison to a lot of working families but I guess also quite early to others that choose to start at 3, when help with funding kicks in for many. But I always knew his shyness might get the better of him. I was painfully shy growing up (honestly!) and still find certain situations very daunting.
I remember his first day like it was yesterday... he clung to me like a monkey. They had to peel him off me, he grabbed my hair as a last ditched attempt to stay attached. He was screaming my name as I left, I could hear his screams from outside and I left in floods of tears. This was a regular occurrence for many months, I guess whilst he got used to leaving me. I would rock up at work, seemingly "late" to many of my colleagues but actually on time, feeling like I had done a full days work already. Trying to get into work mode with so many emotions flooding around me... mum guilt. I would ring the nursery by 9.15 (I had to stop myself doing it as soon as I got to work!) and without fail he would be settled and happy, thank goodness, which would give me the go ahead to get my head into work mode and crack on. I became so proud of him as he started to enjoy going more and more, and of the day he finally let me go without any tears. This wasn't the end though, as many parents know, emotional days will hit you out of the blue, normally on the days you are late(!) and they will not want to be left. It could be that Monday morning feeling, general tiredness, or them just wanting a last cuddle.
Many people talk about mum guilt and it really is an impossible situation. You don't feel you're doing enough as a mum and not enough in your day job. There really is no denying that it can eat you up, day in day out. But one of the ways I tried to think about dealing with it was to realise that the guilt lies with you... no one else is judging. No one else is saying you're a bad parent for being late to pick up, these things happen. Just because you don't have time to chat in the mornings to fellow mums and dads, doesn't mean you're a bad parent. You are providing for your family at the end of the day. You are at the important meetings when you can be, and if you're not then so what... did anyone die because you weren't there? Exactly. You get your job done, sometimes in the evenings if you have had to duck home early, but the work gets done.
I have the biggest emotional challenge of my life coming up, I believe. My second, Darcy, is only 10 months and will be starting nursery and George will be starting school. We all know how just the mention of your first starting school can stir up so many mixed feelings, butterflies, excitement, sickness and pride. I will be starting back at work after a year of maternity so Darcy will be starting nursery - all after lockdown... I have a new way of working to adapt to, as does Darcy. Lockdown has been a time where she has not been able to grow up around other babies, be looked after by family or friends, so I imagine the shock to her is going to be as bad for her as it is for me, dropping off my little koala who is currently attached to me 24/7. And then I shall be returning to an empty, quiet house. A quiet house that I have at times longed for, but I know the emptiness is going to be heartbreaking. No one asking to make cookies or get the Play-Doh out!
However, before all of these big changes, we have a family holiday in Cornwall to look forward to which is making me smile through my teary eyes. I promise to soak up the memories and the last of the summer sun, before coming home to face these new beginnings for our family, and taking my own advice on mum guilt.
Us parents are superheroes... we should never forget it.