Monday, 7 July 2014

Our First Day Apart

I'm under no illusions about the fact that some, nay, most people who read this post will think this is a big fuss over nothing. But hear me out.

On Saturday it was a momentous day in our region. The Tour De France set off mere miles from where I live, and the whole of Yorkshire went Le Tour mad. Bunting, yellow bikes, Frenchified pub names - you name it, we did it. It really was a great event. I have minimal interest in cycling, I can't even ride a bike, but even I was swept up in the excitement.

But it was also a momentous day for Eleanor and me. Because, after two and a half years, it was the first day we spent apart.

Yes, yes I know. Most of you reading had to go back to work in the first year of your child's life. Some of you will have spent weekends, maybe even longer away from your little ones. One day away after two and a half years seems trivial, right?

But it didn't to me. Because every day for two and a half years Eleanor had been with me. And I'd been there for her. I'd spent the odd afternoon away from her, but never a full day. But I had an all-day event booked, and due to road closures I had to get there before 7am, and didn't finish until 5pm. Ten hours. Twice as long as I'd ever left her before.

In the run up I was really anxious about how she'd cope. Just a few weeks previously she went through a particularly close-to-me phase (I flatly REFUSE to use the word 'clingy' because I hate the negative connotations associated with it) and wanted me around all the time. I was so worried this would last, and she'd spend the day being miserable.

And then there was breastfeeding to factor into the equation. She still feeds pretty regularly - I'm talking newborn frequency during the day - so I worried about how she'd cope without that. I also worried about the effect suddenly not feeding for 10 hours would have on me - would I get engorged? Or would it reduce my supply?

In the end, it turned out I had little to worry about. A couple of weeks before she suddenly started asking for daddy throughout the day, and lighting up when he got home. Don't get me wrong, she has always loved her daddy, but something definitely changed. So on the day she had a lovely time with him. They hung out at our church and watched the caravan and the race go past. Then they went back to his parent's house with Eleanor in the carrier so she nodded off. She had a decent nap (another concern as I usually feed her to sleep at naptime) then hung around the house until I was all done. She asked for 'mummy milk' just once, as Daddy laid her down for her nap, but she has half asleep and nodded back off straight away.

And me? I actually cried saying goodbye (she was fine about it though) and missed her loads through the day. But there was some relief there - we'd had a particularly intense week as I was stressed about work, she was ill on and off so we didn't get out much, and there were some major tantrums going on - on both our parts! So a day away from being Mum probably helped to relieve the pressure. And the lack of breastfeeding didn't seem to have any effect at all.

Afterwards, I assumed she'd be up half the night wanting to catch up on mummy time (and mummy milk) but she only woke up once. In fact the only negative issue we had was when I fed her to sleep for her nap the next day. When I laid her in her bed, she started crying and saying, "Don't want Daddy to stop," obviously thinking she was still in the carrier. When she realised she wasn't, it woke her up properly. We tried to get her to sleep but in the end she wouldn't, which resulted in a particularly kicky-and-screamy bedtime. But everything's been fine today, so hopefully it was just a blip.

I know that all this will be commonplace for many mums. But it was a completely new experience for us. I feel so lucky to have been able to spend every day with my daughter for 30 months. She was very separation-sensitive when she was younger so I absolutely believe this was the right thing for our family and I'm glad I could do it this way. But equally, I feel so proud of how my little baby who hated to be put down has grown into a confident little girl who can spend time away from mummy without even a tear.

It's so reassuring to know that all those days spent together haven't hindered her confidence and independence. In fact, I'm convinced that all those days spent together were exactly what she NEEDED to grow into her own little person. This may not be the case for every child, but it was for mine. And the reunion cuddles were just LOVELY!



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