When Mummies Work…

After yesterday’s post, I started thinking about the reality of returning to work but also the reality of when my fellow Mummy friends start returning to work.

I am incredibly lucky and by the time I return to work I will have been off for 15 months. I am 9 months into this and the time has flown by! I have a lot of Mummy friends who aren’t as lucky and are having to return to work after 6 or 9 months.

My closest Mummy friend , AW’s Mummy who I mentioned in a previous post, is due to go back to work in June. She will have had 9 months off on maternity leave and is returning to her previous job part time, 4 days a week. LP and I see her and AW two to three times a week and have got used to these walks, lunches, teas and chats filling up an otherwise sparse week.

I realised after writing my last post that when my Mummy friend goes back to work LP and I will have a huge gap in our ‘working’ week. LP won’t be able to see her best friend whenever she feels like it, and I won’t be able to see my Mummy friend whenever I feel like it either!

It is strange how your life can change so quickly. A year ago I hadn’t even met this Mummy friend. Our paths had never crossed and I didn’t even feel that I had a hole in my life for her or any other new friends. I was working full time, was 5 months pregnant and had a great group of friends. Then, on 27th July 2011 I went to an antenatal class and met my new friend – although I didn’t know then how big a part of my life she would become.

We met up twice in between the antenatal class and having our daughters, and then only got around to meeting up after they were born when they were about 6 weeks old. But as the weeks have gone by and as our babies have blossomed we have both felt disillusioned by our groups of pre-baby friends, we have been let down and generally just felt as if our old friends no longer understand the way our lives are now.

It is great to have another Mummy that understands everything that I am going through and respects the decisions I am making with my Daughter. She texts me most mornings to see how our night has been and most evenings to catch up on the day’s events. It is lovely seeing our babies blossom into perfect little people, to watch them interact with each other and to watch our own friendship grow. AW and her Mummy are such a big and important part of my life now that it is very odd to think that they weren’t even in it not so long ago.

So when June comes LP and I will have a gap to fill. We will be looking for new play dates, signing up to baby classes and going to baby groups. We’ll be going on walks and trips into town and finding things to fill the days before I have to return to work in October. Each day with a baby is so important that I don’t want to waste that time, but it will be strange having so many days to fill again. I have got complacent, knowing that a couple of days a week we will see AW and her Mummy, so there has been no need to find other things to do on those days.

More effort needs to be made on my part over the next couple of months to lay the foundations so that LP can continue to socialise and interact with other babies when she doesn’t see AW as often. I will also need to make sure that we still get out of the house as often and continue to have a busy calendar!

To work or not to work?

Every Mother, on maternity leave, at some point has to weigh up the pros and cons of going back to work. This is never an easy decision to make, and quite often you can feel completely different about the prospect of returning to work when you are faced with it – a year earlier when maternity leave is only just starting and you haven’t yet held your baby in your arms everything can seem a lot clearer – having a baby definitely makes decisions a lot harder to make!

Firstly you have to look at your financial situation with and without going back to work. Would you have enough money to have a lifestyle that you could happily live with if you didn’t return to work? Would you be eligible for any benefits? Does the amount you earn cover the extra childcare costs?

So the next thing is childcare. Nursery, Nanny, Childminder, Family? There are so many options and they all have their own individual pros and cons.

I went to visit my work colleagues today, and they loved seeing LP. I try to drop in every couple of months to keep in touch. My Line Manager doesn’t work at the same place so my visits are very informal. I am due back to work at the end of August but I then have my annual leave and bank holidays for the year to take, so I will realistically have to go back in October.

Ideally, I would love to be a stay at home Mum – who better to look after my child then it’s Mother? But financially, I, like many other Mothers, need to work. I could stay at home, but we would have no ‘extra’ cash for clothes, haircuts, contact lenses… Not even the big things like holidays and meals out – I can live without those, but when you have just enough money for a very basic food shop and a tank of petrol a month things can get quite tough. It would also mean if I didn’t go back to work that whenever we next decide to have another baby we wouldn’t be eligible for any maternity pay – there are enough things to worry about when you have a new baby without having to worry about money too.

So I’ll be going back to work.

In order to go back to my previous job role – that I love and that was with people I really got on with and most importantly was close to where I live – I need to go back full-time.

The next issue is childcare. Hubby works shifts and not on a regular shift pattern – every day is different. But this means that he is at home a lot during the standard working week. This means that if we were to put LP into a nursery we would have to put her in full-time – to cover my working hours, and yet on average half of the week Hubby would be at home to look after her. Also, the cheapest full-time nursery place where we live is £1200 a month. Paying this amount for childcare would mean that there is no point me working – we would barely be breaking even!

The other option we are looking at is a childminder. However, most childminders, understandably, like to know what days and hours they are having the child and for it to be the same each week – This doesn’t fit in with Hubby’s working ‘pattern’. I found a great website www.childcare.co.uk where you can advertise what services you need and then childminders/nurseries/nannies can respond with what they can offer to help your situation. From this website I have had at least a dozen responses from childminders able to cover just the hours that Hubby and I both work – on average 75 hours a month. I would pay them for 75 hours a month and if I use more hours I would pay them an hourly rate and I would let them know which hours a month in advance. this would be approximately half the cost of a nursery!

I honestly didn’t think that there would be any way that we would find a childcare option that would work around our jobs and lifestyle. This is as far as I have got in my return to work – I am organising a meeting with my Line Manager at the moment and have told the childminders that I will contact them when I know more about my return to work. But what this has taught me is that there is a childcare option for everyone!

The main thing now is how do you trust someone to look after your child? I will be meeting these people, seeing how they work, checking references and seeing how they interact with LP. But how well can you ever know them? In life you must have a certain amount of trust and I will make sure that I find the best person I can to look after LP as well as Hubby or I would.

So I now have just over 5 months to spend as much time as possible with LP, to make the most of every day and make sure that we have as much quality time as possible. When I go back to work I will be coming home, giving LP dinner and then it will be bath and bed 5 nights a week. So I will be living for the weekend with so much more emphasis than ever before! There will be so much to cram into those weekends – quality family time with LP, seeing her three sets of grandparents and then trying to prioritise the other aspects of our lives – other relatives, friends and social events. I know now that LP and quality family time are the priority, seeing grandparents comes second. The other people/occasions will be prioritised dependent on how much of a priority LP has been to them during the first year of her life – if friends haven’t seen her, haven’t spent time with her then I won’t be wasting those precious weekends seeing them. I will make time for LP to see the people who matter most and that have cared the most but realistically, if most weekends are spent being just LP, Hubby and I then what more could we want?

Right now the thought of going back to work is horrendous. I cannot imagine leaving her every day for a week, let alone every day of the working week for the forseeable future. I now have so much respect for working mothers. Going to work and leaving your child in childcare must get easier as time goes on but I can imagine that my first day back will be unbearable. But I have got 5 months to get used to the idea of going back to work. Many people say that I will love going back, I’ll love a break from being a Mummy by then and will love the adult company. I think the people who say these things are either just trying to make me feel better, don’t understand at all or they are the kind of Mothers that really felt like that. I love my life now, and love spending every day with LP – she is the most amazing little person I have ever had the privilege of getting to know, she makes me smile endlessly and I love her company. We spend time with other Mummies and babies – and contrary to popular belief we do talk about things other than babies – I even had a conversation about the financial condition of the country and mortgage rates the other day, mummies have brains too! We also go on day trips, for walks and have a family day out every few weeks.

Going back to work will definitely be a shock to the system! But what is it they say, a change is as good as the rest?

A Pinch And A Punch…

Well, 1st of April. A day for unfunny people to think they’re funny by doing pranks before midday. Also, photo toasters, Titanic tents and Marmite Smoothies…

Luckily we missed all of that!

1st April for us was a family outing to our first Christening! I had no idea what to expect, I’m not religious and am not getting LP Christened. The Christening was for LP’s best friend, AW who is 5 days younger than LP but weighs 50% more. It’s great how different babies are!

Last night we had the best night’s sleep in a very long time! LP slept from 7pm until 8:30pm and woke for a feed – a lot earlier than usual. She then slept through until 2am when I fed her again and she then didn’t wake until 7am, at which point I took her back to bed with me to feed her. I find feeding lying down in the morning gives me a chance to wake up gradually. LP then fell back to sleep until 8:45am! It was lovely laying there next to my sleeping daughter, all snuggly in her sleep suit. I really treasure those moments.

The Christening was at 12:30 and we were bang on time, I hate being late for anything – LP being 3 days overdue was enough for me – I’d been eating hot curry and pineapples until my tongue went on strike for about 2 weeks before the due date! They tell you that Baby can come any time after 37 weeks, so I was willing baby to come from then!

The church service was nice enough. I don’t go in for church things really… When we got married I asked for a traditional church service with as little God in as possible… Everyone knows that I just wanted the pretty pictures!

The service was about half an hour, with a standard format and a couple of hymns where no-one sings or they sing the wrong words or they don’t sing loud enough. Except unlike a wedding ceremony, this had a lot more children/babies in the congregation, one of which kept going ‘Uh-oh!’ and another saying ‘Daaaaadddddddyyyy’ rather loudly! I found it all quite amusing. I’m sure the religious folk found it less so.

Afterwards we went to a local cricket club for a buffet and a drink. This was one of LP’s first BLW excursions where there would be constant distractions.. We’ve had lunch out a couple of times before but it’s always just been LP, Hubby and I. There were 60 people at the cricket club!

Trusty Bumbo came with us and I’d put together a pot of rice cakes with cream cheese and a little fruit salad so that LP had something to eat whilst we waited for the buffet.

So we set the Bumbo up on the middle of the pub-esque table and put LP in it, facing away from the majority of the distractions! On went her double layer of bibs and we gave her the first of the rice cakes.

When out I make sure that I have a new nappy bag to collect discarded food and plenty of baby wipes. It’s so much easier to clean up as you go along!

LP was loving the rice cakes. As I’d pre-cheesed them they’d gone slightly soggy in the container, but it made her love them even more! They broke up easily in her mouth and she sucked the little puffs until they disappeared. I have never seen her so excited over a rice cake!

Hubby and I then took it in turns to get a plate of buffet food whilst the other kept an eye on LP. I’ve learnt not to leave LP alone whilst eating. She hardly gags on food now and I can do odd jobs at home whilst she’s eating as long as I’m still in the kitchen with her, but I’d never go further than that. Anything could happen!

I ate my lunch and gave LP part of everything I had. She had a selection of sandwiches – egg mayonnaise, roast chicken in a creamy sauce, tuna sweetcorn and cheese. Each one she tried. LP isn’t used to having ‘constructed’ food yet, where the fillings can fall out, so the food did go everywhere but she managed to pick incredibly small bits up and get them to her mouth! All the bread bits went fairly quickly and lumps of tuna and sweetcorn were soon being gobbled up. LP seems to think that she’ll have more success at eating if she gets everything to her mouth as quickly as she can – it’s amusing to watch as her hands whizz to grab the food and then almost chuck the lumps into her mouth!

She then ate a triangle of vegetable Quiche and I gave her half an onion bhaji to try but she just wasn’t interested in that one! Cucumber, pepper and carrot sticks were chewed and sucked although still too hard to be swallowed by a 7 month old with no teeth!

LP decides when she has had enough and starts arching her back and making frustrated noises, so we distract her with the sippy cup of water, which she can now hold and manage beautifully, and clean away the leftovers from her tray and down her bib into the waiting nappy sack.

LP then has her fruit course. Halved grapes are sucked to within an inch of their life and the empty grape skin gets expelled expertly from her mouth. Mango, her favourite, is always devoured with gusto! We leave the skin on the mango and cut into segments, the same with any moist slippery fruit, as it gives LP something to grip, and she sucks the mango from the skin and then drops the skin onto her tray.

Watching LP eat is amazing. It takes her such a long time, but her concentration when she sees a new piece of food is immense, and she tries to get every last piece of food to her mouth. On the other hand though, she knows her limits, and if after a couple of attempts she cannot get the piece of food into her grip she moves on to the next bit. If she’s bored of something, she drops it on the floor. In our 5 weeks of BLW we have definitely managed to communicate with each other!

Throughout LP’s meal, I was aware of people staring at her. AW, whose Christening it was, was sitting in her Mamas and Papas Snug next to LP on the same table being spoon fed puree, so it must have been strange for the other guests to see two babies, the same age, one being fed and one feeding herself. Seeing them staring though made me feel so proud of my Daughter. She has come so far in such a short amount of time, and we are comfortable enough to eat away from home with her. Every meal we have with her amazes me, how she handles food and how her dexterity and co-ordination are improving.

AW’s Grandmother came over during the meal and asked what LP was eating. She exclaimed ‘Ooooh she has what you’re having? Even LUMPS!?!’ and I explained that she was allowed anything we were eating and that if given the opportunity a baby will cope with the lumps and learn to eat by feeding themselves. At that, she turned to AW’s Mum and said ‘I think AW should be allowed some of the Christening cake then, don’t you?’

Introduction!

Well I’m new to all this Blogging malarkey but I guess I should start with an introduction! I am Donna, Mummy to my beautiful Little Pickle (LP) born 28th August 2011. The last 7 months have been trying, but have also been the best of my life. I am loving being a Mother but in all honesty it isn’t a walk in the park – some days are knackering, some are tedious and some I just feel like crying! But most days are rewarding at least in a small part and the whole journey that LP and I are making is one huge learning curve!

LP was born 3 days late at home. We had planned a home birth and it all went incredibly well, 12 hours of labour, gas and air, a birthing pool in the lounge and no stitches! I was very, very lucky and LP was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I had been adamant that I was having a boy, and adamant that he’d be at least 9lb… I ended up with a girl, 6lb 4oz of ginger perfection!

Baby LP - 2 Hours Old

The next two weeks are now a blur of painful breastfeeding. LP took the top layer of skin off my nipples on day 1. It then took the next 2 weeks for me to heal and so every feed was painful. Sometimes I’d grit my teeth and curl my toes. Other times I’d cry. Other times I’d pull away and not look at her as she latched. I have never experienced anything like it. I think the worst thing for me was that no-one had said that it might be hard, no-one had said anything other than it’s the most natural thing in the world. This made the pain so unexpected! It felt like there’d be no end to it and that it would hurt forever. Everyone kept saying to me that if it hurt I wasn’t doing it right, that the latch must be wrong. But everything was fine, the problem was that the damage had already been done and it needed time to heal. A good friend said to me ‘Give it two weeks, after that it will get better’ and thankfully it did! Lots of Lansinoh and airing of my boobs and 2 weeks later it didn’t hurt any more. After another couple of weeks it actually felt nice and I started to enjoy breastfeeding! We are now 7 months in to our breastfeeding journey and I love it. I cannot imagine formula feeding LP and am so glad I persevered through the pain. She’s never had a bottle, and now, if I have to go out and leave her with her Daddy, she takes expressed milk through a Nuby sippy cup with a silicon spout. However, night feeds and her bed time feed she won’t take from the sippy cup, only from me. This is a work in progress! I will keep you updated!

LP has never self settled and still needs us to rock her to sleep. In the early days she’d feed to sleep but that is rare now. For the first 8 weeks she didn’t go to sleep until at least 1am, quite often 4am and one awful night 6am. But it gradually got better! 7 months in and she now goes to bed sometime between 6:30pm and 7pm. However, she still wakes regularly for feeds, but again this is getting better. Generally she will wake 4 hourly, but last night she woke every 5 hours. I am finding that with everything Baby related there is light at the end of the tunnel!

I don’t know where the first 6 months went. They literally flew by! After Christmas we started looking into weaning options and heard about Baby Led Weaning. We bought Gill Rapley’s book and read up about it. LP was still only 4 months and we knew that we wanted to start weaning at 6 months – we didn’t see any reason to start earlier as she’d always been petite and not a particularly hungry baby!

We invested in a bumbo – the princely sum of £12.20 from eBay including the Bumbo tray, and this was LP’s new ‘toy’! She would sit in it on the kitchen worktop whilst I cooked and she’d sit in it on the middle of the dining table every time Hubby and I ate. We eventually gave her a spoon – a Petit Filous spoon that had come through the post, and a sippy cup – Tommy Tippee, and she’d play with them whilst she watched us eat. The spoon went in straight away and she’d gnaw at it, The sippy cup also went in but holding the handles took a little while to learn.

By the time we started weaning at 6 months, LP had mastered the art of getting everything and anything into her mouth! So we invested in a high chair – Antilop from Ikea, a bargain at less than £15, wipe clean, removable tray. LP proved to be too small for the high chair for the first couple of weeks, she could sit up very straight with support but the high chair was just too big. So we used the Bumbo. LP loved weaning from the start! I decided to embrace the mess and her first taste was blackberries… Oh the mess! There was blackberry juice everywhere – the table, Bumbo and Baby were covered. But she made the most pleasing nom nom noises! Blackberries were a hit! We had decided to let her eat in just her nappy as we hadn’t managed to find any decent bibs yet, and this proved to be a wise move! Pickle was covered in sticky juice! Luckily, bath time followed!

LP's First Taste

I have since made sure that the messiest foods are at dinner time, so that bath time follows. We have also been using a pillow to pad out the high chair and she now associates the high chair with food and gets excited as soon as you put her in it! We’ve also invested in floor mats from Poundland – Polythene sheets with dancing hippos on that go under the high chair. We keep this super clean so that any food that goes on it we know that we can pass back to LP. There’s enough waste with Baby Led Weaning (BLW) that anything to minimise it has got to be a good thing! We’ve also bought a lot of basic velcro bibs and also jersey plastic backed bibs with arms from Tesco. We use one of each at each meal time, small one under the big one, and this way LP’s clothes survive for a little bit longer!

We are now 5 weeks into our BLW journey and LP has tried so many foods! Fruit – Blackberries, Banana, Kiwi, Peach, Nectarine, Orange, Pineapple, Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, Apple, Pear. Veg – Tomato, Cucumber, Pepper, Avocado, Potato, Sweet Potato, Parsnip, Carrot, broccoli, Cauliflower, Beetroot. She’s also had Bread, Pitta, Wraps, Bagels, Rice Cakes, Scotch Pancakes, Mature Cheddar, Cheese Spread, Plain Yoghurt, Boiled Egg, Scrambled Egg, Omelette, Tuna, Chicken, Beef, Pork, Curry, Fajita, Sweet and Sour… Literally everything we eat we now let LP try. The only things we keep an eye on is no honey until she’s over a year as there’s a risk of botulism and we watch the salt/sugar content of everything. We have started making salt free bread in our bread maker and had intended to slice and freeze it so that we could take a slice out at a time for LP, but we all quite like the salt free bread so are all eating it! She also loved scotch pancakes, but the shop bought ones had 0.3g salt in each one! Baby is only allowed 1g salt max per day, so I have made batches of my own pancakes with raisins, raspberries and summer fruits in and have frozen them so that I can take them our for LP whenever I need them.

BLW has had a great impact on all our lives so far – LP is getting a very varied diet, and trying a lot of different foods but also Hubby and I are getting a much better diet from doing BLW. We make sure that the food we have is suitable for LP and so everything is cooked from scratch – processed food is now minimal and we are eating a lot more fruit and veg. The whole family has definitely embraced BLW!