Thursday, 8 July 2010

growing up

There is a pile of baby clothes on top of the tumbledryer, waiting to be folded and put away for my smallest nephew. The nappies my son no longer needs are already in the loft, shortly to be joined by the now scorned pushchair: and I can't put off the laborious process of converting his outgrown cot into a real bed much longer, even if I have lost all the relevant screws.
Time to face facts: my baby is, if not exactly grownup, definitely not a baby any more. The all-absorbing, intensely physical years of early childhood are over and while doubtless the next phase isn't exactly easy, I suspect it won't be quite so primal. For the first time in three years - more, if you count pregnancy - a bittersweet liberation beckons.
Bittersweet partly because I had always kind of assumed by now there'd be another baby, and the same cycle starting all over again. As time goes by however, it feels safest to assume there won't. Hope is invasive, consuming one's life: a certain sadness is maybe easier to live with.
But then again, there's an undeniable giddiness that comes with leaving the early motherhood years behind. Somewhere in the distance glimmers the prospect of a life where one wouldn't always have to get up at 6am, there wouldn't be weetabix soldered to every available surface, one wouldn't have permanent backache from picking up wailing small people, and leaving the house needn't necessarily involve a ton of wetwipes and spare clothing.
There's even the dizzying possibility of civilised conversation with said child's father: perhaps even some work involving rational thought. Who knew?
It's a miniature version of the sudden burst of energy I've seen older women get when their children leave home: as if the shackles, in the nicest way, were broken. Empty nests are painful but can also bring a relief from guilt, from the huge part of motherhood that consists of just being needed (which is both a joy and at times a struggle).
And it's a useful reminder that careers, like marriages, ebb and flow. There are times when it's easiest just to keep on keeping on, and times when you have the energy to change direction. Now feels like a good time for change.
If there are to be no more prams in the hall, that leaves room for something else. And for me that's going to be a book. It's going to be called Half a Wife, it'll be published in 2012 by Chatto & Windus, and it's going to be about the future of work and the massive changes in family life that are coming together now in one big bang.
I promise I'm not going to plug it endlessly here - although I'll be wanting to pick readers' brains from time to time. But I hope it's going to fulfil one of the conditions I set myself when I left my Proper Job: that I'd take the chance to do something careerwise that I'd never have done otherwise. It's time to get out of my comfort zone.
And to stop getting sentimental over baby clothes, obviously. They are going up in the loft: they really are. Any day now...

9 comments:

  1. Last week I did my last mother and toddler group. Youngest going to nursery school in Sept. Oldest going to Juniors. I whooped, and whooped - free at last!

    But I will miss going out together whenever we feel like it. Holding hands and looking at snails and ladybirds on the way to the park. Pootling around the shops and having coffee and milkshakes together.

    Have been either at work or home looking after children for last 7 years. Very few moments of just me. Partner has been housedad while I worked - he's had even less time to himself. He's now bought a motorbike which expresses the little freedoms he is just about allowing himself to see.

    I remember when I was first pregnant, catching my reflection in a shop window and thinking "I'll never be on my own again". That thought was both comforting and terrifying. It still is.

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  2. Beautifully written and bodes well - best of luck with the book Gaby. In the last couple of years, my two sons have become ever more independent and I know exactly how you feel about the bittersweet feeling of leaving babyhood behind but the freedom it presents is so exciting.

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  3. Hi Gaby
    I read your post with great interest. Do you have need of a researcher for your book? I've spent ten years working in fields related to the politics of parenting, including the past five years reviewing parenting books for a living and monitoring research and media views on parenting/family life for a lobby group.
    Nervous about posting my email address here so please do get in touch via Facebook if you would like.
    Best wishes, Mel Tibbs

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  4. Keep the special things, but take pleasure in passing the rest of it on, I had some wonderful second hand gifts that I really treasured, the blankets were softer somehow than brand new ones.

    My mum and I have a bottle of champagne in the fridge, ready for my little boys first day at school in September, isn't that shocking!! I've warned her I may not feel like it on day one, but we'll be cracking it open sometime in the first half term. It's been a tough year looking after him and he's more than ready for school, has been for a long time; so I won't be celebrating just for myself, but for him growing up too.

    Glad to hear you're going to be writing a book, good luck!

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  5. I'm not sure I'm as far down the road in accepting that there may not be a second on the horizon (all the baby stuff is still up in the attic, waiting) but your post strikes a chord with me too. A is a few months younger but it's quite scary how grown up he is.

    I'm excited to hear about the book and looking forward to reading it eventually, your blog has made me think a lot deeper about my own working situation and the bigger picture and I've enjoyed the mental stimulation your blog has given me!

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  6. Very wise and thoughtful words. I understand what you mean about the ebb and flow of careers. My thirties have largely been spent working part time in jobs I love but not exactly climbing the corporate ladder. At times I get a little frustrated by that but I do acknowledge that it was my choice to do that while raising my 2 girls. At the end of next year they will both be at school and then I hope to move my career in a different direction, something I have always wanted to do and will then have the time to do.

    By the way, I understand what you mean about baby no.2. But I had problems having my second and it seemed to take ages and I often lost hope of it ever happening. But then she arrived and I understood in an instant why I had gone through what I went through to have her; because she was the one we were meant to have.

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  7. Gaby,
    Love your blog, most days I battle with the possible solutions in combining motherhood and working both of which I enjoy.
    Regarding baby No 2, you are doing the right thing, assume the worst and then you can be pleasantly suprised.
    I would recommend giving all the baby stuff away, particularly the expensive stuff, then you will need it again, sod's law

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