In my recent Instagram post I wrote about how I had to get on without much support being a new mum when our daughter was born. My husband travels for work a lot and we don’t have any family here.
We all don’t have the same options available either, such as nannies, babysitters or maternity nurses and night nannies, be it for financial or other reasons. I hadn’t even heard of night nannies before and maternity nurses seemed a foreign idea to me so we went with the traditional way of team mother and father caring for the newborn. When the four month sleep regression hit and I was on my own I did get a night nanny for a few nights because the hours spent awake trying to get her back to sleep started to affect me and I actually got panic attacks when she wouldn’t settle in the evenings. I really needed some help during those nights.
Now that she’s older, we’re well used to the ups and downs of bringing her up but even now as a stay at home mum we don’t use a nanny or babysitter often and it’s not something I complain about either because we make it work between the two of us. We make a great team without any help in an area of London where it’s very common for families to have full time nannies. I constantly get asked whether I’m my daughter’s nanny, she does look a lot more like my husband, and at first I was really taken aback, replying fiercely: no, I’m her mum! Just taking one certain bus I’m apparently on a typical nanny route 🙄 but now it doesn’t bother me anymore.
Personally, I’m glad she’s not in nursery yet and it’s a huge factor contributing to her future health. All this talk about building stronger immunity if the child is often sick is just not true! She’s had her fair share of coughs, colds, tonsillitis and an ear infection once but it would drive me insane if she’d constantly pick up a virus from daycare at this young age. At the same time not having her in nursery and not having much help at hand, means that I’m constantly needed… I cherish nap times and early bedtimes. When I say early, I mean she’s in bed by 7.30pm. Nap times are the best though! If I feel tired I lay down too but most of the time it’s my few hours of peace and quiet for writing, reading or working out.
About being constantly needed – I knew what I was getting into when it was time to decide whether and when to go back to work. I knew I wanted one-on-one care (nanny), in other words, the most expensive form childcare options and after doing some calculations it didn’t make financial sense for me to return. I wrote more about it in this blog post. While the maternity leave is quite generous here (nine months paid, three months unpaid) compared to many other countries, the pay isn’t – the UK is one of the worst places in Europe for paid parental leave and affordable quality childcare, see more from The Guardian article. Apparently we have the most expensive childcare system in the world. In Estonia, where I’m from, women receive 85 weeks’ maternity leave with full pay – seven times more than in the UK. Seven times!!! 😡
It didn’t come to me as a total shock, we had obviously done research into nurseries etc. while I was pregnant and at the back of my mind I had already made that decision – I wanted to look after my baby and not pay someone a little fortune while I can do a better job myself. When weighing up whether to sacrifice their career for motherhood, many women feel the domestic sphere to be inferior to the professional. I think at some point I felt I was losing my identity as a stay at home mum even if I worked from home on a temporary project last winter. This might also explain why I feel I put so much pressure on myself. I want to be a really good mum because this is all I do right now and if at the beginning I was looking for validation then right now I can confidently say I’m the best she can have.
I got better at it (being a mum 😊) because all it is in the beginning is lack of confidence, constant doubt and worry. Those hours spent awake with her in the nights were to test me. Those long days filled with sometimes loneliness, sometimes boredom, sometimes sheer frustration, sometimes pure love were for character building. Now we’re happy in our daily rhythm, the activities we do and all that time I spend with her watching her grow up in front of my eyes.
Yes, it’s hard without a village but you’ve no choice but to get on with it. And speaking from my own experience I’d like to share some tips:
- Build a village. I built my own, a non-traditional one, with mothers I’ve met at playgroups etc., a few local friends with kids and even Instagram mummies. I’ve got a lot of support and practical advice from virtual strangers.
- Be a team with your partner. Communicate, share your calendars, always let each other know what’s coming up so you can coordinate your schedules. It sounds like a lot of admin but in real life this just means – mummy needs a break every now and then and that’s when daddy steps in 😊 . I can see how close our daughter is with my husband because he’s been completely hands on since she was born.
- Structure your days. I plan out activities for days in advance, then I know we’re busy doing things and time goes faster. I also almost never compromise on nap times. When she was smaller I was more flexible doing pram naps and letting her sleep wherever whenever. When she was a newborn she had late bedtimes and I was just going with the flow. Now that she’s down to one nap only she always sleeps in her bed unless we’re travelling because I need a break too. That’s how I cope!