I’m not at my best today. I’m struggling actually, and not finding it easy to concentrate. I have wondered aimlessly around the shops for an hour this morning, bought a coffee I didn’t want to drink, and sat daydreaming in the car, outside my house, wondering if there is something I should be doing, but not knowing, or really caring.
I know exactly what’s wrong with me, although I’m not sure words can capture it, but it’s safe to say that it has something to do with having left my baby at daycare for the first time this morning. What I’m feeling isn’t amenable to reason and has no rationale behind it. I am not worried about her safety or even her enjoyment. We’ve done the orientation, and each time, without fail, she crawled off excitedly to discover and explore her new world, throwing herself into piles of teddies, singing and dancing with the other children, and snaffling biscuits from the table when she thought no one was looking.
Little Miss will be fine. I’ve just called, and they say she’s having a ball. She hasn’t asked for me once, apparently blocked a right hook from an over zealous giraffe wielding classmate, and has even done a poo. You don’t poo just anywhere. You only poo if you’re really comfortable, right?
I on the other hand will continue to mope for the next few hours. I have been staring at a pile of shirts that need ironing, and have given some thought to dinner, but that is all. Let them eat cake! I have forgotten to eat breakfast, and now that it’s nearly lunch time, I might take the Tim Tam option on the sofa with a blanket and the TV remote, because today I don’t feel very well and I think I may be suffering some form of grief.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not mean to diminish grief in the traditional sense, but a mother being parted from her baby can give rise to all sorts of emotions, and very often, and I do mean very often, those emotions are of the negative variety.
What many mothers experience when they leave their babies for the first time, and on subsequent occasions too, is a form of grief, which requires some considerable effort to overcome and accept. For some women, the cycle of grief really does play out and can include anger (perhaps at having to return to work earlier than they would like) denial (“I feel fine”) sadness, as evidenced by tears, despair (“I can’t do this! I can’t leave her!”) then letting go, leading to acceptance.
For some mums, it may simply be a case of feeling like they’re missing something, like they’ve lost their little playmate, or their coffee buddy. Others may feel temporarily sad, or just a bit flat. This emotional turmoil can arise even when the mother, like me, has sought out the separation, is sure that the child is content and safe, that those who have accepted responsibility for the child are highly competent and caring, and that the separation is not extensive.
So next time you see a mummy crying into her latte, clutching a family sized block of chocolate for dear life, or cuddling up with baby’s favourite teddy, give her a knowing smile, because she’s not the only one to go through this, is she?