I’ve got used to lots of things over the past 13 months. Mainly, I’ve got used to not getting used to anything for very long. Just when I think I know what’s what with Mr Boo, things change. Progress made is lost or seemingly insurmountable hurdles are unexpectedly overcome. It’s all rather disorienting, but I am getting better at accepting change as part of our routine.
Which is just as well, really, because things are about to change dramatically again. I feel pretty bewildered and not just because I’m jet-lagged from a lovely but insanely short trip to New York. (Doubt I’ll ever type that sentence again.) No: it’s because on Tuesday I am voluntarily (well, sort of voluntarily) introducing a massive change into our lives.
I am returning to work.
I would write about how I feel about this, but it’s such a confusing muddle of emotions that it probably wouldn’t make much sense. There’s the pleasure of returning to a job I have loved and took years to train for and of remembering who else I am when I’m not Mummy. Then there’s the extraordinary guilt at leaving my baby, my beautiful, vulnerable baby, to the care of a nursery for several hours a day several days a week. There’s the excitement about seeing old colleagues and good friends. The guilt over whether he would develop better with one-to-one care at home with me all the time. There’s the relief at having something else other than medical research, therapy and the anxiety of caring 24/7 for a child with complex physical needs to occupy my mind. The guilt that no job is as important as looking after my kids. The money and ability to stay in our home, which entirely depends on me working. The guilt that Sissyboo, who already has so much less of me will have to get by on still less again. I could go on, but I’ll just bore you. Did I mention the guilt, though?
To be honest, I don’t know exactly how I feel about all of this, except that it all feels somewhat messy and deeply unsettling. But I do know what others think about it. Because they tell me through words or body language (usually incredulous smiles or rolled eyes).
Some clearly think this is doomed to failure. I can quite see why and fear they are probably right. If I can make this work with the pressure of a job with long and unconventional hours, the many, many appointments and therapies we have for Mr Boo, then I will be as surprised as they will. The odds aren’t in my favour, but then Mr Boo has taught me only suckers bet on those.
Some people, including a number of my closest friends and fellow parents of children with complex health needs, think work will do me good. To be frank, it did after Sissyboo was born and my mental health has taken much more of a knock than it did last time around. There’s much to gain as well as lose, here.
Others, though, just think I’m wrong to try to return to work and that I am being totally irresponsible. It hurts to know this and to know that many reading this may feel the same. But I understand where they’re coming from and to be honest, I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing, either, whether my being Mr Boo’s carer indefinitely would give him the best chance to realise his potential. All I can say is, I’m trying. I really am. For all of us. If this turns out not to be for the best for any or all of us I will rethink. I promise. But this might be good for us. It just might.
And having Mr Boo has confirmed something I’ve known deep down since having his sister and intuitively felt all my life. There is no single right way to live or steer a life. All we can do when faced the myriad challenges and opportunities that we come up against is to confront them, to make informed choices and to return to the drawing board when we need to. I suspect I’m going to have to do that a lot in the coming years.
The contingency and uncertainty of our new life often scares me. No, it frequently scares me. But I am getting used to it. Good job really. Change is the one thing I can reliably count on these days. And you know what they say about change…
This particular change is emphatically not restful, but I remain optimistic that it might just be good for us all.