Friday, 20 January 2017

Thoughts on Going Back to Work

I wrote a while back about how much I appreciate the fact that France offers lots of options in terms of going back to work (or not) after having a baby.In the UK, maternity leave and pay is structured in a way that means most people take at least 6 months and often a year after the birth of the baby. In France, by contrast, most of our friends returned to work after between 4 and 7 months. In my job, though, nobody would have batted an eyelid if I'd taken a year, so it really did come down to what we wanted and what we could afford, and in the end I opted to work 3 days per week, which will continue at least until SCB is one, when we'll re-evaluate the situation.

While there have been some practical issues relating to the childcare, so far I'm happy that we've made the right decision. SCB seems to really like the nanny and I think it's good for her to spend time with other children rather than being at home with just me all day. I found the build up to leaving her with someone else hard and was having crazy dreams about being separated from her in bizarre circumstances for about a week before it actually happened, but in reality it was fine.

On the work side, I've been busy, busy, busy, but almost entirely in a good way. I was a bit scared I might have lost my professional touch after eight months of absence, so it was satisfying to find that I could more or less just pick up where I left, with an extra layer of efficiency driven by the need to be out the door promptly in the evening.

The best thing, though, has been having so many things to look forward to in the week. While I enjoyed being full-time at home with SCB, every day was very same-y. I used to look forward to UFM coming home, then feel vaguely disappointed that I had so little to say to him about what we'd been doing, or look forward to the weekends only to discover that they were just as tiring as the weekdays. Now when I'm at home I look forward to the company and stimulation of being at work. When I'm at work I look forward to having accomplished what I need to do in the day, then picking up SCB and spending time with her in the evenings. I look forward to Friday because I can relax after a busy week. I look forward to spending time as a family at the weekend, or taking advantage of UFM being around to go out and do things by myself. And then I look forward to the days that SCB and I have with just the two of us, enjoying being at home or going on little outings together.

Finally, I look forward to going to bed in the evening and having a good night's sleep. Currently, that's the only hope that is consistently disappointed!

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Survival

Just over a week ago, I blogged about how I hoped the beginning of 2017 might present us with some enjoyable survival challenges.

Hollow laugh.

The past week has definitely been a challenge. I think we've survived OK. But it certainly wasn't enjoyable.

On the Friday SCB caught her first stomach bug from one of the other children the nanny looks after and began the day by being sick all over both of us, and the sofa, just as we were about to leave the house. On Friday night, UFM, who had been up since 5am, was delayed for four hours coming home from Brussels after a Thalys train caught fire. On Saturday, SCB was getting better, but I caught the stomach bug and spent the whole night throwing up and most of Sunday doing very little other than lying around the house groaning. Being sick and dehydrated messed with my milk supply, meaning I started the week with a very grumpy, hungry baby who eventually decided that the solution was to cluster feed ALL NIGHT just before my toughest day at work, then refused to eat anything or sleep at all all day with the nanny.

One week later, I feel as if we have finally come out of the tunnel and are starting to feel normal again.

The funny thing is, having made it through the whole painful episode has been kind of motivating. Having experienced what only just managing feels like, I'm now looking forward to doing things better this week. I'm actually happy to be spending time this weekend tidying the house. I'm going to shop for and cook some healthy food so that I can stop staggering in from work and filling up on the Christmas chocolates because they're the first thing I can get my hands on to eat. I might even find the time to plant the bulbs I bought back in November in the hope that it's not too late for them to flower this spring.

We'll see how much of that actually happens ...

Thursday, 5 January 2017

They Grow Up So Fast

When you're a kid, it's so annoying the way adults comment every time they see you on how much you've grown.

Then you become an adult yourself and you find yourself being that annoying grown-up saying it to other people's children.

Then if you become a parent yourself, you start thinking it about your own baby EVERY SINGLE DAY (or so it seems).

SCB turned 6 months old just before Christmas and I can't believe all the changes that have happened in the last few weeks. In a funny way, I found 3-6 months harder than when she was just a tiny newborn, partly because, after a lovely summer, I was alone with her a lot but mostly because, having been a chilled-out champion sleeper, she started teething and being hungry in the middle of the night as she went through a massive growth spurt. While she certainly woke more in the night during the first few weeks of her life, at least at that point she was steadily improving rather than going backwards!

It all happens for a reason, though, and there have been lots of fun developments to make up for the lost sleep. SCB started rolling quite early, then got distracted by her sore gums for weeks, then learned to move around by pushing herself in reverse across the parquet floors of our flat. I would leave her on her playmat and come back to find that she'd backed herself into a corner and was crying to be rescued. She can also now sit up by herself, although she occasionally topples over and bashes her head if not closely supervised. Her absolute favourite thing, though, is standing up (with help) and pretending to walk. Papi discovered a baby walker in the attic, so she spent Christmas speeding around on that and having a great time, but I'm kind of relieved that we haven't it back to Paris with us as it makes her suddenly extremely (and somewhat unnaturally!) mobile.

SCB has been making a wide range of noises for quite a while now, but the major difference recently is how clearly she seems to know what she wants and a developing ability to express her preferences. It's fun watching her personality starting to emerge, and, if one of her character traits is stubbornness, well, as my mother-in-law would say, "les chiens ne font pas des chats"! Luckily she is also very friendly and loves looking at new faces and charming strangers on public transport with her cheeky smile.

Finally, after two months of teething, SCB now  has two little teeth in her bottom gums. I was ridiculously excited when I saw them, partly because it confirmed that really was what all the fuss had been about and partly because I was hoping we'd finally all be getting more sleep and enduring less screaming. Unfortunately, the next lot seem to already be on the way because that hasn't really happened. I actually Googled "how bad can teething be" to check that we weren't horribly mistaken about the cause of her distress and the internet has confirmed that yes, it really can be this awful. On the plus side, now she is 6 months old, we can give her both paracetamol and ibuprofen, but it seems a bit wrong to be happy about that!

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Hello 2017 ...

... and a happy new year to all my readers!

We spent Hogmanay and new year in a gîte in Brittany with my brother, his wife and my little nephew, with an old friend of UFM's joining us for dinner on the 31st. We didn't do a massive amount over the 5 days we were there as just getting out of the house took a fair bit of organisation with two babies to work around, but we did have a good time eating, drinking and catching up.

For our traditional seaside walk, we went to the coast at St Brieuc. There were no massive waves this year, as the tide was right out and the sea far away in the distance, but it was a lovely cold, clear day with sunlight shining off the wet sand and the rock pools.



When my sister-in-law asked over dinner whether we were making any new year resolutions for 2017, I replied "survival" - and only half in jest. This week SCB is doing her adaptation with the nanny and we're all going to have to start adapting to me being back at work. I'm a bit apprehensive about the organisational side of things but I think SCB will enjoy being with the other children the nanny looks after and I feel pretty good about getting back to doing a job I love. So 2017 will indeed be about surviving, but hopefully in a "rising to the challenge" rather than an "only just coping" sort of way.

I hope it's a good one for you too!