While I was pregnant with Milin, I had a feeling that once he was born certain emotions would be magnified. I expected, for example, to feel responsibility more intensely. And I do. I thought my experience of fear would be greater. It still is. (I’m constantly terrified of doing this whole parenting thing wrong.) But what I was not prepared for was the guilt.
I have been working two days a week since Milin was four months old. Undoubtedly, the first day back was the hardest. I worried constantly. Was he taking the bottle? (He was.) How many mls had he drunk? (Not enough.) Was he staying awake for too long? (He was.) Was he getting day sleeps in his cot? (Not enough.) But, despite the worry, I knew that he was with his favourite person, his dad. I knew he was happy. And I knew Tony would be fine.
I had expected to worry – and constant updates, photos sent by text, and numerous phone calls helped to ease my nerves. Yet what almost overwhelmed me was the feeling of guilt. Guilt that I should not have left my Little Mister.
Most evenings that I have been at work, I get home and Milin is asleep. Sometimes he is swaddled up snuggly and taking up a tiny portion of space at the bottom of his cot, with his bunny by his side. Sometimes, he is in Tony’s arms, and they might both be sleeping, exhausted from simply making it through another day.
But I have come home and felt my heart break into pieces as I turned the key in the door and heard him screaming. Poor hungry Milin, in his father’s arms, waiting while the milk was warmed. If I had been home he wouldn’t have had to wait.
I know you have to leave them one day. But I wonder if I did it too soon. Milin looks for me when I am gone. Now he is more aware of his world he tries to starve himself, knowing I will come home in the evening. Tony is the best dad in the world. But sometimes, when Milin gets hungry, or when he wakes up suddenly, he just wants his mum. And sometimes, I’m not there.
I asked a colleague, working full time with slightly older children, how she did it. She said it didn’t get easier.
I can’t imagine not working. I have worked hard to be doing what I enjoy, and the buzz of doing it drives me to want to do it more. It also helps pay the bills. Is that selfish?
When I returned to work part time, I was in no way prepared for how hard two days a week would be. I am learning to cope with the constant tiredness. Tony and I are getting better at juggling the logistics. Expressing is hardly convincing me that women’s liberation was a good thing – but Milin will surely one day take formula. All these things will get easier.
The Little Mister loves hanging out with his dad. Tony makes him laugh, he plays the guitar, he reads him stories with more voices and jokes in them than I can think of, he pulls funny faces. But sometimes, I’m simply not there to hold Milin close to me and kiss him. When it comes to the guilt, there is no answer.