I wrote this unfinished blog post at the beginning of October and I forgot all about it until I found it just now (probably because it’s just one big long moan about being tired).
All the women in me are tired. The mother. The teacher. The feminist. Despite having a 14 month old who sleeps in 2-3 hour intervals, it’s not exhaustion, no. More of a tiredness that comes from emotional and mental gymnastics that comes with returning to teaching (albeit part time) after maternity leave during a global pandemic (on broken sleep) and knowing that you should be contributing more to your community but have no idea where to start. My failure at being multifaceted is constantly weighing me down as I survive each day.
Despite the sleep issue (if you follow me on Instagram, then you know I have spent a lot of the past year moaning about sleep), the first 8 months of my maternity leave were fantastic. We were out and about most days at various support groups and baby classes, meeting friends for coffee and lunch and taking long walks. Everything felt like it had been put on hold. You see, I had ‘plans’ for my maternity leave like so many of those women I had seen on social media who had started their businesses on maternity leave, working while the baby napped and then after bedtime.
As the months ticked by and it was clear that Rudy could only nap in my arms with a boob in his mouth or in a moving pram, my plans were shelved. My evenings were spent running up and down the stairs settling him back down to sleep or sitting in front of the tv mindlessly scrolling on my phone for an hour or two before heading to bed, fighting the anxiety that he was going to wake as soon as I closed my eyes. I decided that it would be easier for my mum to have him for a few hours a week once he started eating more solids and breastfeeding less and then I would ‘get shit done.’ It would be great, Rudy would get to spend time with his nanny and I would be able to start dedicating real time to the feminist collective I had recently formed and start making plans for the freelance work I had in mind for the future.
Then lockdown happened. The baby classes, the coffee dates, the support groups, the mindless trips to the supermarket just to have something to do, it all stopped and I had absolutely no childcare. This made no difference as Rudy had spent all of two hours away from me his entire life but the endless days of playing with the same toys, walking the same streets while he slept and scrolling the same websites while he fed was surely not going to do either of us any favours. He was 8 months old when we went into isolation and weaning was still relatively new. My days were filled with boobing, watching him spend forever eating (baby led weaning is not for the impatient), cleaning up the ensuing mess, a carefully timed nap on the boob (today was definitely going to be the day he slept well), another messy meal, more boobing, maybe a walk to hopefully coincide with another nap… feeding and napping and feeding and napping… We spent three months like this and I didn’t read a single book, write a single word or sew a single stitch. I was just a mum.
My recent return to work has left me feeling overwhelmed and unprepared. I feel like a newly qualified teacher fumbling my way through lessons I don’t understand and struggling to motivate the kids. I have a headache most days and I’ve cried in the toilets a couple of times in recent weeks. I knew I would never be able to return to my job in the same capacity and I couldn’t dedicate so much of myself to the role as I always have done but I was not prepared to feel so disconnected from the kids, the learning, the parents, my colleagues. I embraced mediocrity a long time ago and accepted that I would never be a great teacher but I was always happy being a good teacher. But what happens if I’m not even that?