London - Day four of being back at work after ten months on maternity leave. So how do I feel? And how am I doing? People keep asking me these questions, so I guess I’d better ask myself, too -otherwise I’ll start to feel left out.
Also, I’ve begun to suspect there is a ‘right’ answer to these probing queries, so frequently are they asked. And that maybe the correct thing to do is hurl myself to the floor wailing, ‘I can’t do it, I give in. I’m too torn to carry on,’ before tossing my hopes and dreams in the bin outside my office and waving goodbye to fulfilment (or indeed future happiness) as I stride off into the domestic sunset.
But I don’t want to do any of that because I feel fine. Content, even.
I’ve initiated so many projects to keep me busy that these few days have gone past in an energetic, action-packed blur.
And when I get home at 6pm, half-an-hour later than I mean to, I cling to baby Mabel (and her three older siblings) so tightly my evenings whizz past, too.
Then I go to bed. But really, truly, I feel OK about that. For now. It’s possible there will be some kind of ‘crash and burn’ mothering meltdown later on, or perhaps I actually am comfortable about leaving my robust, ginger-haired baby girl with our nanny.
It’s possible I am at peace with the way things are. Maybe even happy to be the ‘working me’ again -and pleased to see Mabel and her siblings are happy, too.
I am not giving it too much thought, because I believe that thinking things through is vastly over-rated. Instead of forward planning, I break my days down into 15-minute bites, which makes going back to work easier to deal with.
And this way I don’t end up in an exhausted, confused heap, slumped over the five-year-old’s slowly deflating Space Hopper, clutching a pile of dirty laundry at midnight and wondering when an adult will come in and sort out the mess.
Nowadays, I figure that if you don’t look too far into the immediate future, the odds of making it through a day without losing your sanity are stacked in your favour. This ‘no forethought’ mantra makes parental life and working life simpler.
Obviously, when I am in the my office at Elle, the one thing I am not going to think about is nine-month-old baby Mabel. I’m not a fool, I know that kind of thinking is heartbreaking.
Thinking about her for even a second in these emotionally bruising first few days will open the lid on my box of magical maternity memories: our Wednesday walks in the park, the hours spent tickling her on the bed, the day she started crawling, her messy but entertaining eating habits, the way she laughs like Barbara Windsor, offering a two-toothed smile to anyone who talks to her. Days of wonder.
No, I won’t be thinking about Mabel, or her three charismatic siblings and the loving afternoons after I picked them up from school. I’m just getting on with my life, doing what I enjoy, relishing the fact I have worked hard enough over the past 20 years to have this choice and taking each moment as it comes. And admitting out loud that I know I am a better mother to my children when I work.
I’ve declined the invitation to accept motherhood as a martyrdom of my own making, welcoming instead a family life that is evolving in its own unpredictable and it seems, harmonious, way. But exactly what lies ahead is of little concern at this moment.
Maybe I’ll go in tomorrow, maybe I won’t, I tell myself.
I am having a break from trying to factor in all the spontaneous variables that assault us throughout the working or child-rearing day, or the potential guilt-ridden future outcomes of my decisions.
I wouldn’t say I’ve achieved a mental simplicity on the same level as, say, the cast of The Only Way Is Essex yet, but I’m getting there. And perhaps I am now happy, wanting what I have got. - Daily Mail
* Lorraine Candy is editor in chief of Elle magazine.