parent opinion

'I'm a better mum when I've had a break from my child, but you're not allowed to say that.'

My daughter is the shining light in my life. She is my best friend, my greatest achievement, the love of my life. 

She’s also nearly one, which means that her favourite hobbies include pulling everything off the shelves, speed crawling to splash in the dog’s water bowl, and being overtired but refusing to nap for more than 30 minutes.

She’s a handful, a beautiful, inquisitive, handful.


Video via Mamamia.

My daughter was born right between COVID-19 peaks, in January 2021. 

She’s spent a little more than half her life in lockdown, and the rest under heavy restrictions. 

Where most babies born in the years before her were able to divide their time between being at home, going to GymbaROO and baby swimming lessons, or going for coffee and shopping with other mums and their babies, my daughter and I have spent the better part of the past year by ourselves, having to come up with creative ways to be entertained at home. 

When you’re constantly being confronted with friendly reminders of what a baby’s day should look like (no screen time! A variety of people, places, sounds and smells! A mixture of activities to ensure they don’t get bored! Fresh air and exercise!) and your reality is to get by with what you’ve got inside the walls of your home (which in my case yes, does include a TV) that triggers some pretty serious mum guilt from the get go. 

During the most recent lockdown (August 2021), I made the hard but right for me decision to return to work a few months early, having secured a place for my baby in our chosen day care. 

This decision did not come easily, my mind raced with questions and what ifs. Am I doing the right thing? Am I just asking for her to catch COVID? What if she needs me and I’m not there? How will this impact our breastfeeding journey? Am I being selfish by returning to work when I should be with her? 

I agonised over the decision, but in the end I had to come to terms with the fact that it was time. 

I could not handle the unknown, the likely possibility of many more months at home 24/7 with a baby whose needs I felt I wasn’t meeting. 

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She wasn’t socialising with other kids; she was playing with the same toys each day. Some days I held her all day and let her nap on and off while I watched TV, as that was all my lockdown fatigued self could manage. And I needed more. 

I was desperately craving adult interaction, a conversation that wasn’t about when to start solids or nap routines, a purpose beyond being a mum. I needed, more than anything, to be given a task that I could complete and feel proud of myself, because the task of raising a well rounded, happy, healthy baby was something I truly felt I was failing at. 

As our first day at daycare approached, the guilt, anxiety and dread really grew. 

My husband took the day off and we dropped her off together, and promised to be back in four hours to pick her up.  

In our four hours together, we got coffee and drank it while it was hot (oh the luxury!), we spent some time in our garden (something our dirt ingesting baby doesn’t really make easy), we had lunch at our favourite café, and we had a conversation that wasn’t interrupted by the end of a nap, or a dropped dummy.

When 1.30pm rolled around, we went to pick up our baby, feeling like we’d just had a two-week holiday in Hawaii, not four hours spent doing yard work and eating fried food. 

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The more time my daughter spends in day care, the more I realise how important having some time apart is. I’m fortunate that she loves day care, and is thriving there. 

As we navigate teething, sleep regressions, refusing foods she loved the day before, and day care colds, I am getting better at admitting that this sh*t is hard! 

Sometimes this sh*t is so hard, I wonder how I ever did it day in day out. 

When the end of the workday comes around and I pick her up, suddenly the chasing around the house, the food throwing on the floor, the crying... none of it seems unbearable anymore.

I used to brace myself every time I heard her cry, now I can calmly pick her up, bounce her around, and try every trick in the book to get the tears to stop. 

I finish a day at work feeling rested, energised, and ready for anything my child throws at me. (Literally, most days she actually throws food at me!) I always thought that to be a good mum I needed to be with her 24/7, but if this past year has taught me anything it's that I just need to be present in the time that we do spend together, and I can do a much better job of that, when we’ve had a break.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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