Finding the right nursery to suit your family can be a difficult and scary time because it usually signifies that it's time for mat leave to come to an end and the impending return to work. It's tough to trust a stranger with your precious little love nugget, but sometimes you have no other choice if you have to go back to work and don’t have relatives or friends close by to give a helping hand.
I'll admit, our approach to finding a nursery for Harris was pretty slapdash because I was trying so hard not to think about going back to work and was pretending that I still had lots of time left. I damn right went and freaked out when I had a call to say I was due back in eight weeks’ time and needed to discuss what my plans were.. I decided right there and then that I was handing in my notice, I was going to be a SAHM. A week later, I called my manager to retract my resignation and apologise for messing her around. My brain was scrambled - I was about to start leaving my baby for long days at work, and I was terrified. I so desperately wanted to quit my job, but financially it just didn't make sense for us and I did want Harris to be around more babies his age. However, as I've mentioned in a previous post, going back to a working environment after over a year off was pretty difficult to get my head around. This, coupled with not having a lot of time to make arrangements, met for a few stressful weeks but we got there in the end.
Honestly, we went and visited one nursery and we just knew that we didn't need or want to see any others. Everything about it was appealing - it was affordable; staff came across as upbeat and welcoming; the babies and children seemed happy and well looked after; meals were provided and included in the cost; and it was less than a five minute walk away from the house. I think we filled out the paperwork the following day and handed it in along with our deposit; Harris then had 4 settling-in sessions the following before beginning his two full days each week.
There are a lot of factors that have to be considered when choosing a nursery although for us, you could say it was relatively easy to find the 'right' one. Apart from the obvious, having qualified and well-trained teachers, and being available on our preferred days, we didn't have any other real criteria that we felt had to be met other than being close to home. Our choice of having childcare closer to home rather than work made more sense to us because, as we don't drive, it meant we didn't have to take Harris in his buggy on public transport during rush hour - this is something you might want to consider if, like me, you feel quite anxious in crowded places with a pram. It also offers the added bonus of less travelling time in the mornings and evenings for all of us!
Price and affordability is probably the biggest deciding factor for a lot of families too. If I'm being completely open, I didn't even compare the price of the nursery we chose to any others because I knew the one we really liked was within our budget and I was happy with that. However, a nursery can be more expensive than a childminder and we still have to pay our usual fees if we are away on holiday. Family and Childcare Trust report that, in Britain, the average cost of 25 hours of childcare for a child under 2 years old is £116.25 - that's over £465 per month. Considering most nurseries operate for ten and a half hours every weekday (typically from 7.30am til 6pm) this means that this is the average costs for less than 2.5 days in nursery per week. So, what about the cost to those who have no choice but to return to work full time? Crazy, right?! The total cost for a full time nursery placement doesn’t even bear thinking about, and for us it just wasn’t financially viable.
Something that I think a lot of other parents think about when choosing childcare is how much attention their child will need in order to feel secure under someone else’s supervision. Harris was always what I describe as a ‘high-needs’ baby in that he would scream unless he was attached to someone, ALWAYS. Naturally I was worried that he wouldn’t get as much attention at nursery where the staff to child ratio is one to three, but he seems to have adapted well and enjoys some time to play on his own now too.
Reliability and stability is another important factor for parents. I find it difficult enough to take time off work if Harris is unwell and unable to go to nursery for whatever reason, so I couldn’t also deal with the possibility of having a childminder be ill and calling in sick leaving me with no childcare. In a nursery setting, there is usually plenty of staff to cover should anyone be off sick so at least that’s one less thing to worry about!
Harris has been going to his nursery for just over four months now and the change in him is phenomenal despite it only being two days per week; the nursery staff always have such pleasant things to say about him. I firmly believe that being around other kids has worked wonders for his development - he's now walking and saying lots of words; and his cheeky little personality is really beginning to shine through. He has the freedom to toddle around and play all day, but also sing songs and read books; as well as create pictures and go on outings to places like the police station or library. So, whether you're choosing a nursery or not just remember that there are pros and cons to all childcare... but it will all work out in the end!
Stacey and Harris
In late January, my second baby came bawling into the world and I am still on cloud nine! A second daughter – Arabella Grace – who has not stopped bringing joy and sleep deprivation since she arrived. We didn’t find out what we were having and I am utterly thrilled to be a Mama to two healthy, gorgeous girls. My sisters are my closest allies (we don’t have any brothers) and my husband has two sisters/no brothers, so it wasn’t a huge surprise to add to the female force and I’m darn pleased we’ve done so! (My poor husband never stood a chance; he realises this and claims that it was always his “destiny” to have daughters. Bless him!)
I was booked in for an elective C section at 40 weeks, bang on my due date, after having an emergency C section with Rose, my eldest. Rose’s labour was dramatic and colourful – much like her character – and she arrived on my 33rd birthday. Because of the complications from my first labour, I was really anxious about doing it all again. I knew that I wanted more children, but I was terrified at having another emergency situation and couldn’t bear the thought of having to stay away from Rose for any great length of time. So, with this in mind, I decided to arm myself with as much prep as possible for both outcomes: a vaginal and caesarean delivery. The consultant offered me a C section at 39 weeks but I declined, because I felt that I wanted to wait it out until my due date to see what happened.
That last month was really tough. We’d ‘pulled up the drawbridge’ for Christmas (which was genius of us, in retrospect) and I’d been suffering from really debilitating Braxton Hicks contractions for the last six weeks of pregnancy. Everything that you read online says that they don’t hurt but mine sure did! I couldn’t lift my toddler; I was finding it increasingly hard to drive and was wishing we’d bought a bungalow, not a house with four flights of stairs. I was so lucky that my Mother in Law and Mum stepped in to help with Rose on the days that she wasn’t in nursery; they took a few days a week each and it made the world of difference because it meant that I could nap. Oh my word, the naps! Never underestimate those bad boys, they are HEAVEN! Looking back, I think the rest that I got in the last few weeks really set me up for a positive outcome so, if you’re in a similar position, I really would recommend doing everything you can to find some time to relax as much as possible. I know that it’s almost a cliché but it works.
I found a book that I loved and got stuck into it (‘The Essex Serpent’ by Sarah Perry – highly recommend it) and spent my time bouncing on the birth ball and reading that in the calm of my living room. My husband finished work on the Friday and the C section was set for the Monday, all nice and organised. Then my contractions started at 10:30pm on that Friday night. It was as if Mother Nature knew that my body was relaxed and that everything was in place! It soon became apparent that they weren’t Braxton Hicks (there was just no let up) and so, at 2:30am I woke my husband. My Mum was booked to come and look after Rose when I had the C section and she lives 3 hours away so I was adamant that I wasn’t going to get her to come down if it was a false alarm but, at 4:30am, I text her and told her it was the real deal. She replied straight away and arrived by 8:30am with my step-dad; the legends!
I went into hospital in the early afternoon of Saturday and Arabella was born naturally on Sunday morning. We had our own room on delivery suite and were pretty much left to our own devices. I’d feared the constant monitoring and being tied to the bed with the bands on, but the midwives were wonderful and fully supported our wishes to let things progress naturally and only monitored me when they needed to. Luckily, unlike the first time, all was well and so we spent Saturday night listening to a lot of Fleetwood Mac and dancing about, to try and ease through the contractions. I had liquid Morphine (which made me sick) and Pethidine (which gave us an hour’s break) until Sunday morning when the change of staffing shift happened. The night team said that I might still need to be sent home because things weren’t progressing, but I could tell that things very much were progressing, and then at 8am in waltzed the most amazing midwife I’ve ever met, who just took control of the whole situation and allowed me to have the birth that I’d so longed for. I asked for an epidural (probably demanded it, to be fair!) and she replied “Tali, you don’t need one, you can have gas and air because this baby is coming!” and so that’s what I did! My husband has since told me that, when she said that, he thought I was going to go crazy at her and he couldn’t believe how I just accepted what she said, but I think her calm, yet authoritative, manner was just what I needed after a long labour. Strangely, I felt that I could trust her implicitly and so I did! It’s amazing what takes over in those situations; you really cannot plan for everything but you do find trust in the people around you and that’s what gets you through.
Arabella arrived at 11:41am to Fleetwood Mac blasting out of the speakers and the winter Sunday sunshine streaming in through the window, and I haven’t come down from that high yet.
The Red Box Project provides schools with sanitary products for girls who are experiencing difficulty accessing them. They want to help ensure that no girl misses out on her education because of her period. The initiative depends entirely on volunteers, donations and goodwill and there are many ways that you can help to support this brilliant project.
On the 19th April the Red Box Project West London are collecting donations and holding a raffle at Holly & Co, Twickenham. Donated prizes include those by Selfish Mother, Belle & Boo, Holly & Co, Alphabet Bags, East End Prints and us, mamaME Box. So if you're local, get yourself along and donate some sanitary products and win some goodies whilst you're at it!
Having children has changed everything. Nothing in my world looks the same as it did. My house doesn’t look the same. My wardrobe. The contents of my fridge. My face. My hair. My schedule. My thought patterns. Literally... everything is different.
That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, I don’t resent those changes, and if things had remained the same as when I was young, child and care free, I probably wouldn’t be a very good parent. It’s inevitable, when you take on the enormous challenge of caring for and raising a helpless little human, and aiming to do a reasonable job of it, things just have to change.
I can’t spend hours with my nose in a book all night anymore. I can’t drink gin and juice in the middle of the day (some may be able to but I’m a complete lightweight so I’d be in no fit state to keep my kids alive if I did), I can’t have a leisurely bath and spend as long as I want on perfecting my eyeliner or curling my hair or polishing my taps or booking spontaneous trips away.
Most days, I can’t even think straight. The constant toddler whining and baby crying and snack demanding and nappy changing and disaster diffusing...it’s a second by second assault on the consciousness. I wouldn’t be surprised if my IQ since having children has seen a sharp decline. It certainly feels like it.
Some days I will long to feel like I did back then. How I miss all the things that used to make me...me. It seems like there is no room in my new life for me anymore, she just doesn’t get a look in. Even basic things like having a quiet cup of tea are a thing of the past. My every waking thought revolves around the kids. My every action is in service to the kids. My every minute of rest is spent in recovery from the chaos that is the kids. By the time it comes to doing the things that I really wish I could do, silly things really, like paint my nails, I just can’t be bothered. There’s nothing left in me at the end of a long relentless day for it. So it doesn’t happen. And I will glance at my chipped red nail polish from a fortnight ago in the middle of wrestling the baby in to her pyjamas and think ‘when do I get to be me again?’
But the truth is, I don’t think I will ever be that girl again. That’s not to say I won’t be me, just a new me. I will never be carefree again. It’s true what they say, once you have children it’s like your heart leaves your body and walks around in the world. There will always be a part of my mind that is obsessing over them and their needs and their happiness. A me that will probably always look at least a little dishevelled and tired. My body will never look the same. My house may one day look as neat and tidy as it once did - but that is the day I will probably break down in tears that my babies have flown the nest. And I will be a whole new kind of hot mess.
What I’m trying to say is, I will never be the same again. And I don’t want to be.
I do need to start asking for help, and allowing myself to take a break and do the little things that make me feel human again, that make me feel like a woman and a wife and a friend and a sister and everything other than just a mother.
But in the grand scheme of things, this crazy, sleepless, chaotic, messy, exhausting life is exactly what I want and the woman running on empty with her unwashed hair in a messy bun sipping her cold tea between nappy changes is me now. Me in all my mothering glory. And I wouldn’t change it. And one day I will wish for it all over again. One day I will look back and think ‘if only I could be that me again.’ So I’m going to embrace it and enjoy it for everything that it is and everything it has made me.
But I’m painting my nails this week. No excuses.
Ever After With Kids