Leaning in is all very well but unless you’ve managed to clone yourself, going back to work after a baby has its gruesome elements
1. The time my pregnancy bump cost me a job
I used to have this regular freelance job that was really easy. A bit of editing here and there, it never took longer than an hour at a time and I could do it on my phone. I’d read Sheryl Sandberg’s seminal career book Lean In; I didn’t want to stop working; this seemed the ideal post-baby job, so I never even mentioned to my contact there that I was pregnant. Then I bumped into her in a coffee shop around eight months and she was not buying my story that I’d just had a big lunch. That was the last I heard from her - yay the sisterhood.
2. The time I milked myself in the office car park
Before you think “well that’s no big deal”, you should know that I was not in a car. I was sitting in a quiet corner, trying to hide behind a moped as my trusty Avent waaaac-waaaac-waaaaced my daughter’s afternoon feed from my chest. She was ten weeks old, and I was back at work for a training day. It was much too early but I was so determined to prove that nothing had changed and I could do everything. Turned out I could, but not with any dignity.
3. The day I tried to work from home
We don’t talk about this any more but it involves a computer crash, a crying baby and a Friday night newspaper deadline. *Vomits into wastepaper basket at the memory*
4. The time the baby was given formula milk, aka poison
The first time my husband looked after my daughter all day, he’d given her a bottle of formula within half an hour of my leaving the house. I spent my morning staring at a computer screen in blind rage: did he not realise this was an ARTIFICIAL SUBSTANCE he’d just put into our North London newborn? Was he trying to undermine my selfless and valiant struggle to breastfeed? (Obviously I now realise that this was madness: it doesn’t matter if he feeds her Dairy Milk as long as he looks after her.)
5. The time a relative told me to give up work
Along with breastfeeding - obviously - work is the thing that has made me craziest since I became a mum. I’ve avoided writing about it until now, mostly because I was scared of people’s craziness about working mums: OMG EMA U SHD NOT AV HAD KIDS IF U WAN 2 LEAVE DEM >:-((
And that was just the text I got from my granny.
6. The day the nanny left
In Esther Walker’s book The Bad Mother she describes a nanny as “like a s*** best friend”, which is funny but totally inaccurate. This is someone who comes to your house bringing no problems, loves your child nearly as much as you do, looks after them probably better than you do, tidies up and leaves, i.e., the best friend you could possibly have. I would have SOLD my best friend for a visa that allowed my daughter’s brilliant Australian nanny to remain in the UK, but sadly that wasn't an option for the British government so we had to say a tearful goodbye.
7. The first day at the new childminder’s
After the nanny went (sob - still not over it), we found a childminder who asked us to take our toddler round for an hour at a time in the first week. “She’ll be fine,” I said. “She’s used to being left.” The toddler started wailing. The childminder slammed the door in my face. When they called me back 25 minutes later, she was heaving with sobs and I felt like Pol Pot with a pram.
8. The time I cried in a job interview
Recently, I was approached about a job opportunity. I was blown away by the company and the person who would be my boss there. Then I realised that taking the dream job would mean leaving my daughter with her childminder full time. At my second interview I went to pieces, explaining how my daughter was stuck in someone else’s weird-smelling house. Sheryl Sandberg would not be impressed, but then she probably didn’t have to find childcare in Tottenham.
9. The time I found a tub of my breastmilk in my mother-in-law’s freezer
Bless my mother-in-law for having the decency to keep a straight face when I turned up with about a litre of my breastmilk and put it in her fridge. And for waiting until I went home to empty out everything else that was in the fridge, throw away the fridge and buy a new one that had never contained her daughter-in-law’s bodily fluids.
What she didn’t know was that I’d also put some in the freezer for emergencies. I found it later - much later - while looking for ice cream and realised just how bad it could have been if someone else had come across it. Why am I such a lunatic?
10. The time my toddler said “bye bye Mummy nice day!” on a Saturday
The only thing worse than your kid hating you going to work? When they get so used to it they ask for the childminder at weekends.