We’re two weeks in to our new routine. I’ve decided I like being a nursery mum. Mostly because it’s now 1.15pm and I’m sitting on the sofa, by myself. Joel is asleep in his cot and Elvie, if her lunchtime chat was anything to go by, is playing tricks on her teachers in an attempt to make it onto the ‘amber face.’ I suspect that wasn’t the desired effect of the discipline system.
It’s been well over a year since I had any time to myself in the day. Even forty five minutes feels like a luxury. It’s just so quiet. Suddenly I have chance to drink a whole cup of tea, or read a book, or pay the gas bill over the telephone without the computerised system throwing me out because Joel’s screams don’t sound like our postcode. All those little luxuries.
For the first time in too long, I also have the chance to miss my children. Elvie in particular. We’ve been joined at the hip for the last three years, and now we have some breathing space. Just in time.
It’s amazing what the nursery gates can do. Every afternoon as I drop her off, I feel a huge swell of pride. My little girl, so confident, chasing around with her friends. Charging straight into the classroom and setting off on some new game. Barely even looking back to say goodbye. And when I collect her, and she runs at me, waving a letter about the latest contagious disease that’s going round the school, I’m genuinely pleased to see her.
A few years ago, I was a drama student. I was studying at the school I had always wanted, and still couldn’t quite believe that I’d been accepted. Every morning, as I walked up the steps, engraved with the names of their most famous alumni, I would have to pinch myself as I realised that my dream had come true. Unless it was cold and raining. Then I just put my head down and ran to the canteen for a cup of tea.
Strange as it may seem, the nursery gates are my new steps. They don’t have anything carved into them, and they don’t offer the promise of a hot caffeinated beverage. They’re red painted monstrosities with an automatic timer that locks you out if you’re late. But they serve the same purpose. Every day, when I drop Elvie off and pick her up, I’m reminded that actually, my biggest dream for most of my life has been to have a family of my own. And here they are.
The first few years of parenting are breathtakingly intense. And, for me at least, depression has stolen away a lot of the joy that all the baby books promised. It’s hard to be grateful when you barely have the time, let alone the energy, to notice what you have.
Nursery has given me that breathing space. An opportunity to step back and see what’s really going on. To wait at the gates, to be on the outside for a little while. And I’m so thankful.