Does a baby mean the end of romance?

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Have you ever noticed how the vast majority of Hollywood romances are only about the courtship period? The “climax” is usually marriage, and the story is how they get from meeting to marrying. That’s the end of the story, the happily ever after.

Only, for most people, that’s only the tiny little bit at the beginning. For my husband and I, it took us 3 years to move in together, 5 years to get engaged, and 7 to get married- and that’s quite slow compared to lots of couples we know! I was only 18 when we met and he was 21, so we were in no rush. But Hollywood tells me that that’s the end- happily ever after. I was only 25! Surely that can’t be the end of the story!

Since we got married, our lives have changed so much. When we got married, we were both doing well in our jobs, and we had disposable income, nice cars, lovely holidays, we had both just lost lots of weight, so we were fit and healthy with fancy new wardrobes. We loved to do things spontaneously, and we loved to spend quiet time together, lazing in bed. We ate out lots, we saw our friends lots, and we were very carefree indeed.

A year later, I got pregnant, and all that changed- the loss of my income so I could be on maternity leave meant no disposable income, and the addition of the Cub meant no time to actually do anything anyway. We toyed with the idea of going on holiday, but the idea of doing a beach holiday with a suitcase of baby paraphernalia in tow, dealing with the logistics of naps and feeding in a strange place was just utterly off putting. I got rid of my fancy car to save money and now we share one- mostly, I walk everywhere.  And we both put on a ton of babyweight and our fancy wardrobes started to mock and jeer at us from the corner of the bedroom. (We are now fixing that issue, slowly but surely!)

Then there’s the exhaustion- the sheer, utter exhaustion. Not just the sleepless nights, but the real loss of time for ourselves, in which to recharge.  We now need to prearrange babysitting for a date night out (date night! I would have laughed at that idea not long ago!) and haven’t even managed a meal out together for two months.

This has been my day for most of the last week:

Awake for most of the night with a teething Cub. Then I get up, get Cub ready, kiss Cub and husband goodbye as they leave for work and nursery, get myself ready, walk to work, do a full day at the office, walk to pick Cub up, walk home, bath Cub, dress Cub, feed Cub, put Cub to bed, say hi to husband, run out the door to the gym, spin, come home, eat whatever I can find, say goodnight to husband, collapse in a heap.

We are like ships passing in the night, and honestly, we talk more over email at work than we probably do at home. So, I ask, how on earth do you make time for romance? How is it possible to fit in actual relationship stuff into real life with a small child? Because I do not want to wake up in 20 years and find that I have an empty childless nest, with a strange bloke in it who I barely know.

Tomorrow, we are going out for a meal together, just the two of us, and I am very very excited. I am excited to be going out with a man who is handsome, funny and caring. I am proud to be going out with a man who is a fantastic father. And I am very, very lucky to be spending an evening with my best friend in the whole world.

Also, I really bloody love tapas.

Maybe there is hope for us yet! Maybe romance isn’t dead. Maybe it’s just having a little break. I certainly hope so.

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Back to work…

This week, I returned to work after 9 months on maternity leave. I had really mixed feelings leading up to the big day. I was sort of looking forward to using my brain and socialising with adults, but I was dreading leaving my lovely little Cub. In fact, the day before, I cried virtually all day. I was an absolute emotional wreck.

It wasn’t just the fact that I had to leave him that was upsetting me- it felt like the end of an era, a reminder that my baby is no longer a tiny little thing that sleeps, coos and smiles- he is nearly a toddler, full of personality, crawling around at light speed and demolishing everything in his path in his curious, clumsy, irresistible way!

My husband and I took him to nursery together on his first day. We gave him to his key worker for a cuddle and some breakfast, and kissed him goodbye. I thought it was best to keep it short, so we left, and he didn’t really seem to notice- too busy making new friends!

I thought about him all day at work. It didn’t help that I had no PC access set up and no work organised, so I had a lot of time to think. I thought of calling the nursery to check on him, but decided against it. I made tea instead. Then I thought some more. Then I had lunch. Then I missed him some more, and willed it to be 3pm. At hometime, I walked so fast to the nursery that I looked like one of those bum wiggling olympic walkers, but I didn’t care, I was just dying to see his little face.

When I went back for him, he was tucked up in a buggy, snuggled up in a bundle of blankets, fast asleep. He had just come back from a walk.  We let him snooze while his key worker chatted me through his day- he had apparently eaten everything he had been given, and even made a bit of an attempt to take a bottle (I had been worrying that he wouldn’t take any milk at all.) He had slept a little, and played a lot.

And me? Well, work was ok. I’ve had a good catch up with my colleagues, but I don’t really have much to do yet, so we will see. In a way, it feels like a bit of a rest from full-time mothering. So far, so good.

I couldn’t have really hoped for a better start. I hope Cub will learn to nap there,  as he only had half an hour each day in his cot, leaving him frantic and overtired at home! But other than that, he seems happy, and I’ve just about stopped crying. Hopefully that’s the worst bit over with.

The end of maternity leave

5 days to go. I don’t want to go, I want to stay at home with my beautiful baby. I don’t want to have to find things to wear that match and are not covered in sick/snot/food, that are not denim, and that make me look like a real actual grown up, whose opinions should be taken seriously on very serious matters. 

 I have no idea how I am going to mobilise myself, my husband and the cub to leave the house early each morning. I was always late when I just had myself to worry about, and I only had a 10 minute walk to the office.  I am still usually drinking tea in my dressing gown at 9am each day.

I still haven’t quite figured out the logistics of the nursery pick up/drop off situation. We only have one car between us, and I have a horrible feeling that a cycle trailer and some unflattering lycra may need to be part of the equation.

I don’t think I remember how to use Excel, or what the company I work for actually does. I don’t even think I have a desk to go back to.  I may just sit in the corridor drinking tea while that gets worked out.

I am afraid that working 3 and a half days a week will play havoc with breastfeeding. And cub won’t take a bottle or a cup, or formula, or expressed milk, or cows milk, or anything that isn’t a boob, and preferably the left one. I am telling myself that he won’t starve, but I can’t help feeling that I am depriving him.

In a lot of ways I feel horribly guilty leaving him. I am afraid I will miss his first steps, or that he will say his first words at nursery. Maybe he will be miserable, maybe he won’t nap there, maybe he will miss me. More likely, I will drive myself nuts missing him. Or, on the upside…

Maybe it will work out fine. Maybe this is the right thing to do.

I want to go and use my brain again, properly. I have found the last 9 months I have been physically exhausted but *whispers* a little bit bored too.  Shoot me for saying this but… I think it will be good for me to mix it up a bit. I am a proper social retard, I have never done the mother/baby group thing, the idea makes me want to curl up and hide under a rock. I have some great friends at work, so I am excited about spending time with some adults. You just can’t chat about Eastenders with a baby in quite the same way.

Being with a baby 24/7 is exhausting, because you don’t get to be truly off duty. There is no real down time, because you are always planning around naps and meals, with one ear always listening in case he wakes up. It is a challenge with no right answers. An awful lot of making it up and seeing what works (hang on, that’s what I do at work too!) They say a change is a good as a rest, maybe it is, maybe I’ll just be a whole different sort of knackered. 

It needs to be done, we simply can’t support our family on a single income. There is no choice here. I would love to spend more time with the little man, but honestly, I don’t think I’m cut out to be a stay at home mum forever, even if the choice was there, which it is not. Plus, I like what I do, I like who I work with, and I am lucky enough to be relatively well rewarded. In this climate, that can’t be sniffed at. My family will always, always, come first, but my career is important to me too, and it’s time to start doing both like a proper grown up.

I will definitely cry in the toilets on my first day, and I am not expecting the guilty feelings to ease up anytime soon.  But in the long run, I know I am doing what is best for everyone. I just need to dry my eyes, stiffen the old upper lip, and figure out what the hell to wear.