The One Year Nursery Debate

mum guilt nursery debate return to work

When I returned to work when Harrison was six months old, I expected the mum guilt to hit me hard. I think regardless of your babies age, most parents will have to face that at one point or another when they leave their little ones’ for the first time, and I was certainly no exception. At the time, my return to
work was necessary – we needed the second income and the stability as much as Harrison’ needed to be at home with me. We put him in childcare, and he thrived, and one year on he is still thriving. My one year old isn’t struggling with the separation at all, but I am, and I just can’t shake it.

I’m struggling less with the guilt of the separation, and more with the fear that I am missing out on him growing up. It was inevitable that I would have to return to work, life doesn’t stop just because I’ve added a child in to the mix and I am completely aware of that. Or at least, the rational side of my brain is. The other, less rational, much more emotional but still completely valid side is finding it difficult to manage. The balance feels completely off. In a normal week, I work Monday to Friday in a standard 9-5 job. In that week, he has breakfast, lunch and dinner with someone other than his parents for five out of the seven days. I see him on average for about three and a half hours on any given weekday, and I can’t help but keep going back to all of those hours that I am missing.

I’m missing the first words, his favorite foods, his favorite songs, and there is only so much of that I can claw back of that over the weekend. As he gets older I think it will get easier, but for now, at this age, I can’t help but wonder if I’m just losing too much. I don’t normally think about it all too much, I’ve never really had to. A weekday off with Harrison is rare. I never manage to sneak a Wednesday, let alone a Wednesday whereby we have the full day all to ourselves, mummy and baby time. This week though, we had a rather unexpected snow day, and an unresponsive car (RIP Harry the Hyundai) meant that we were snowed in and we had all of the time in the world. It felt almost like a treat, but I also couldn’t help but keep going back to the fact that this will probably be the only day we will have off together for months. I was able to spend more in those two days with my child than I had in the entire working week before, and that is sad.

mum guilt nursery debate return to workmum guilt nursery debate return to workThe debate inside my head is nothing to do with his actual nursery. I’ve already gone through that initial mum guilt phase that comes with nursery, and I think I’m over that now. Nursery has worked wonders for him. I do think it will have made him more sociable, he will be healthier in the long term (after his immune system gets over the traumatic first year of the breeding ground that isthe baby room) and he has a routine embedded in him that ultimately makes his life easier for us all. The ladies that take care of him are wonderful and I couldn’t ask for him to be better taken care of, but of course I want to be the one to do it. Of course the fact that the nursery has brought him on leaps and bounds doesn’t change the fact that ultimately I feel like I’m missing watching him come on leaps and bounds.

This is not mum guilt

I know there will be more mum guilt as soon as Harrison’ starts to say that he wants to stay home, or that he misses me it will be, but for now, it’s not. It’s just me being selfish.  Harrison doesn’t want to stay home, and he doesn’t necessarily miss me, but I do miss him. He may be sleeping in the room next door, but I miss him. They grow so quickly, and it feels silly to waste these years sitting in an office doing a job that I don’t necessarily plan on having when he’s grown up anyway. If I was building a career, I could maybe justify missing out on the little moments because I was working towards a better future for us all, whereas for myself, the only thing I am working on right now is building up a mound of Jobsite emails in my junk mailbox. My job is not my end job, it’s a ‘filler’ job. One of those we get when we need to work but we don’t plan on actually sticking around in for too long, a way to give us our house and our summer holidays’, but a job that is ultimately never going to be the end goal.

I wish I could say there was a positive note to end this post on, or at least a substantial one, but there’s not. I wish I could say my struggles has forced me to pen my resignation letter and that I would be embarking on the life of a work-at-home-mum. Unfortunately, I’m not sure British Gas will accept the knowledge of Harrisons’ favorite jelly flavor as a form of payment, much in the way our mortgage payments won’t miraculously disappear along with my fear of missing out. I still have to adult, but I do think I am going to look at making the move to reducing my hours in the office.

I’m trying to be realistic here though. I’m a firm believer in ‘the grass is always greener’ analogy, and I am under no disillusions that the stay at home mum life would be for me. I value the nursery – and the ability to have a warm coffee and adult conversation – too much to ever take him out of there, or away from his grannies entirely, but I do think it’s time I reconsidered the balance I have going on at the moment. I have my blog, and I can put a few hours in after bedtime to make-up the shortfall in money we’ll have from losing a day or two of work a week, but ultimately I don’t think I’ll be able to shake the feeling of missing out on his life while I work full time. Our babies are only babies for a short amount of time, I do not want to look back in a few years time and wished I’d been able to spend just a few more hours with him on a Wednesday.

mum guilt nursery debate return to work


  • I have been exactly where you are right now lovely lady. I used to work full time, from when Zach was 1 until I went on maternity leave when he was almost 4. 3 long years of missing all of those moments with him. I’m not going to lie to you, I found that it actually got harder as time went on. As he got older, started doing more things, having more adventures, I totally felt like I was missing out on his whole life. Which is why I worked my butt off on my maternity leave on the blog to make a good enough income to not have to go back. Now I’m a SAHM/blogger and whilst it is not easy at all, it is wonderful. But then you know what? I now feel guilty that I’m getting to spend all this time with Oscar that I never got to spend with Zach! And I worry that with Oscar not going to nursery, he is missing out on that! Ridiculous isn’t it? We are never content with the role that we play, with the choices that we make. What I will say to you is this- if you can get a better balance, if you can make it work and survive on less hours in the office, then do it. You’ll still have those office hours for a hot cuppa, Harrison will still have that social aspect of being elsewhere, but you’ll have those wonderful extra hours that you will absolutely love. We do only get our children once and in the blink of an eye, they are all grown up!

  • It’s such a hard one. I went back to work for 3 days in between having my girls. Then when I had 2 at home it made more financial sense to stay home. That in itself was a big decision. Whatever we have to do, the decisions we have to make, there is always something that makes us thing is this the right decision!

  • Hannah | MakeDo&Push says:

    Firstly, his jumper is gorgeous!

    I went back to work for 2 days a week after having B – but I worked long days to try and put in more hours so would leave the house just before 7am and not get back until gone 7pm. I hated it, as would sometimes go 48 hours without seeing her awake. Then the blog took off – as did the social media management side – so I found that I could work from home. Then we moved up to Yorkshire and had H, and I’ve been doing this (and now photography) ever since. But it works for us. I’m not earning as much as I used to in my old role – but we have a great balance, we don’t shell out too much on childcare, and I’m there for school pick ups – which is something I’ve always wanted to do as my mum was rarely there to pick us up from school due to work. It sounds like this is the right decision for you – and I’m envious of your warm coffee and adult conversation! Something that keeps me going when I wonder whether this is the right thing is saying to myself “This won’t be the situation forever. Life is fluid.” xxx

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