After 23 months (9+14) of being my baby’s sole provider of care (i.e., eat, drink, sleep, play, learn – let’s be honest, I was her sole provider of life for all intents and purposes), I am now two weeks into my ominous Return To Work.
This unfortunate Return To Work ritual is one that apparently every parent can relate to – some after only a few weeks of parental leave, others after several months or years. There seem to be some customary phases of this momentous event, putting your child into Strangercare.
The Strangercare Dress Rehearsal
Also known as The Transition. Partial days, or partial hours, easing into the reality of leaving your most precious being in the hands of some hack who will probably drop her on her head and let her play with cigarettes. Usually exudes only a small portion of the total strength eventually required for the actual Strangercare opening day, partly due to your continued significant daily role, but mostly due to denial.
The Home Nesting Interpretive Dance
A fast and sometimes furious flutter, organizing and cleaning in an attempt to prepare for the new world order. An often fruitless but necessary exercise.
Before you know it, though, it’s opening night and the performance truly begins. If you don’t know your lines by now, it’s too late. The show must go on.
The Opening Prayer
A slow and cautious pleading to anyone who will listen, begging for empowerment. Usually in the vein of “This is good for me. And for her. She’ll get used to this.” and ending with a single repeated phrase “I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.”
The First Day Acrobatic Display
Usually accompanied by a sense of confusion and awe that fogs you into a convenient submission. Running out the door in high heels, carrying 1-2 children on your hip, 3-to-4 bags on your shoulder, and a giant coffee mug in your hand. Followed by an 8-hour intermission. Then followed by a dash home in the same fashion with desperation in your eyes/heart/soul.
The One-Woman Show
Also known as The Panic Attack. When the reality of this being reality becomes a reality and the whole show almost comes (or does come) crashing to an end. Usually accompanied by frequent (possibly extreme) crying for everyone involved. This image is a hard one to shake – spectators be warned.
The Team Building Exercise
The rally. The getting-to-know-each other and setting-a-plan group activity. Comes in the form of a meal planning diorama, or a "Juggle the Flaming Schedule" show, or a guest-starring role for your psychologist. Or all of the above.
A slow and steady decline of emotions into a pattern of rhythmic movements. Not necessarily in a state of calm, but a state of acceptance.
The reflection on the overall event and how it has impacted your life. Consideration of how you might change your life based on its influence. For some, this will have shifted their perspective entirely – finding a new job, or a new income, or a new approach for their family. Others will make moderate shifts – selling their house, moving close to work. Some will make small allowances – hugging their kids more often and more fiercely. Some will do all three. Ultimately, the finale is what brings you to your new you, your new world. Or at least inspires you to create your own spin-off soap opera entitled Wine and Tears: My True Life Story.