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It’s been a really hard week, both emotionally and physically.

Firstborn started school on Tuesday, a big milestone by any measure. I hadn’t quite prepared myself for quite how much of an upheaval it would be. Firstborn and the Small(er) One have been at a full-time nursery since January which has worked out brilliantly; the staff are great, the location is convenient and the facilities are good. It’s not ideal – they have a long day and I always seem to be rushing from one place to another – but on the whole it’s worked out really well. But this week, things changed…big time.

I arranged to work from home for the week on flexitime to fit in with Firstborn’s new school hours, which involved a major juggle for Alpha Male and I, dropping children off in two different places (at opposite ends of the Borough) then me picking them up at different times and starting to work again once they went to bad. Tricky and tiring, but not impossible.

The first fly in the ointment came when Alpha Male called me practically sobbing on Tuesday morning after dropping the Small(er) One off at nursery. This was the first day that the Small(er) One had to contend with nursery without Firstborn as her champion (the Small(er) One refuses to play with the other little ones at nursery, instead scampering a few steps behind Firstborn’s pack) and it hit her really hard. Apparently, when the Small(er) One got to nursery she immediately went to find her favourite cuddly toy (a stuffed dog which she calls, inexplicably, ‘Donkey’), sat down on the sofa and cuddled Donkey with a dejected expression, ignoring everyone else, shoulders slumped and a faraway look in her eyes. She couldn’t even muster up the enthusiasm to kiss Alpha Male goodbye. The nursery staff told me when I came to pick her up that she was unusually quiet all day and played by herself, refusing to join in with the usual nursery high-jinks.

It carried on all week in the same vein. When I dropped the Small(er) One off on Thursday (Alpha Male having a work schedule clash), she clung to my neck, not crying or carrying on, just holding me very, very tight, which she doesn’t usually do except when she wakes up in the night with a nightmare. The sight of her sitting alone on that damned sofa holding Donkey tight and patting him still makes me want to cry. I cried all the way home and was so upset I had to pick her up early that day. The excited welcome I got when she saw my face at the door made me cry even harder.

Firstborn, on the other hand, started off the week loving school and bouncing around in her usual confident manner. Lunch was an especial hit (pudding every day! And you can have seconds!) but by Friday she was also unusually quiet and didn’t want me to leave her at school on her own. This has carried on all weekend, and my usually confident child who will speak to anyone and everyone about anything that pops into her head has become uncharacteristically shy.

It’s going to get worse. Next week, I’m back in the office full-time without the flexibility to drop everything if nursery tells me that the Small(er) One is hiding in the corner and won’t speak to anyone, and without being able to wait at the school gates for Firstborn, a comforting pair of arms for her to take refuge in after a challenging day.

Right now, I feel like the worst mother in the entire universe. I’ve cried so much this week it feels as if I’ve sandpapered my eyeballs.

Where’s the balancing act? Where’s the middle ground? How can we get through this without resorting to Prozac (me) and avoiding expensive future psychotherapy (the kids)?

Answers on a postcard please. Just address it to Crappy London Mummy - the postman will know exactly where to find me...


Mo said…
What's the alternative? Keeping them at home with you till they are 20? Packing up work? IT WON'T GET WORSE. You will cry and agonise, and they will settle. And if the postman had to deliver to Crappy London Mummy, there are thousands of candidates. I'm one.
Children are grown up, and I'm MUCH better qualified.
Juggling Mother said…
You get through it by reminding yourself that it is only going to be a very short time! By half term, they will have settled into their new routines, made new friends and got over the upheaval.

Ypu'll probably be stressed as hell tho:-( And will continue to be until they are all grown up!

I found the rushing between different places to be the most stressful - if you can get some good round school cildcare sorted out it will make your working life so much easier.

Or you could wimp out, like me, work PT from home & get stressed as hell over the fact that you can't pay your mortgage & the kids can never join in any out of school activities cos i costs too much.

My mother once told me, "being a mother means going to bed every night feling guilty". I'm starting to understand what she meant!
I've said it before and I'll be saying it again: school is MUCH harder than daycare. Us working mums muddle along for four or five years getting the hang of daycare and thinking it's so hard to manage it all and then just when we've pretty much got it sorted, and probably added another child or two to the mix, the eldest hits school age and all hell breaks loose again.

I really thought school would be easier somehow. It's not. Does it help to know that you're not alone. It does get a better with time, but that's no consolation for you two dealing with that horrible transition.

Many trans Atlantic and trans Pacific and trans Indian Ocean hugs to you both, MM and YLM. The ultimate consolation may be that if you were a genuinely crappy parent you wouldn't even have these thoughts!
Manhattan Mama said…
Hey you --

There's nothing I can say that will truly make you feel better except to say that I hear you and I am over here thinking of you. You will be okay. and smaller one too.

It's extraordinary how much we love our creatures, isn't it? All we want is for them to be safe, and happy and feel loved. She is and she does. This will pass. She will smile again. She will make friends. You will come to pick her up one day soon and she will greet with you a huge grin. I promise.
Emily said…
Dear YLM

Nothing worse than seeing your children uphappy and worrying that it is your fault. It isn't your fault. The smaller one would have had to find her own way without firstborn at some point. She will find her own level soon. It just takes time. Firstborn will also get used to it. Remember what it was like to be 11 and go to secondary school? It is a nerve wracking time.

Stay strong and give them lots of cuddles when they get home.

Sadly, there is no balancing act. We work to live. We do our best to care for our children too. We aren't miracle workers and can only do our best. You are doing your best.

Thinking of you, and MM, during this strange transition period.

mad muthas said…
if your children are being well looked after at nursery and at school - and it's clear they are -the person who is suffering the most it you. i'd bet my child allowance (yes - that much!) that your kids are not miserable all day - there are bound to be ups and downs in every child's day, one of the major ones being the morning drop off. you don't see the water play, giggling, colouring in, circle time - in other words, all the good bits. and i also bet that you sit at your desk struggling to concentrate and fretting your heart out. then beating yourself up because you're not giving your work 110 percent.
this is such an agonizing experience for mothers, but you wouldn't be stressing about it at all if you weren't such a good mother! it's a paradox, alright!

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