On Returning to Work: Dreams, Anxieties and the Ticking Clock
by Nicola Wharry
This time next week I’ll be back at the office, and the dreams have already started.
This is nothing new. Since reaching adulthood – since I started to come to a realisation about how quickly and exponentially more quickly time moves as I get older – every time I approach a big life event I find myself getting vivid dreams during the run-up. I got them in the months leading to my wedding and they usually involved standing at the bottom of the aisle with a piece missing from my ensemble or someone I wanted to be there conspicuously missing. From the time that I was around twelve weeks pregnant I began to dream that I was back at school, sitting my A Levels. My Spanish and English revision had been going fine, but I’d somehow managed to lose my biology textbook right at the start of the year or I’d forgotten to attend the classes. Always a bit different, but always the same. Biology was one step ahead of me and my mind was racing to catch up.
Now I’m going back to work next week, and the dreams have started again, more on the nose this time. I suppose my brain knows how absolutely knackered I am and isn’t bothering to be subtle. I’m getting ready for work, and my baby is in his cot. I change his nappy and it’s six thirty. I have to be in work by eight. It’s okay; there’s still time.
Then I get my lunch ready and pack the baby bag to send to his granny’s. I look at the clock at somehow it’s already seven o’clock. It’s fine. It doesn’t matter. There’s still time.
I bring my son downstairs and have a little cuddle with him. I make a cup of coffee for me and a bowl of mushy weetabix for him, just like I always do, and pop on Milkshake or Good Morning Britain or whatever else. I feed him and sip my coffee. It’s seven fifteen. It’s getting tight but there’s still time.
I pop his clothes on and make sure the spare set is packed in his bag for the zillionth time. I strap him into his car seat and make sure I’ve got everything. It’s seven forty. Time’s up. I’m late.
I’m always awake before I ever make it to the office.
I suppose it’s always been this way for me. Time escapes me during the day, and at night my mind tries desperately to catch up. In dreams I’ve missed A Level exams, forgotten how to turn left in a driving test, walked up the aisle in my bed socks, and gone to my old P7 classroom instead of my first university lecture. I think the constant worry at the back of my mind is that I can plan as meticulously and obsessively as I want, but I will never be 100% ready for change – for the end of one thing and the beginning of another. No amount of scheduling and organising will help me predict for sure how these big life events, these “firsts”, will look and feel, and I struggle to let go of the parts I can’t control. There is a difference between being prepared and being ready.
I want to go back. Back in time, I mean. I want to go back and do it all again because even though it felt so long back then, and even though I tried to take everyone’s advice and drink that time in, I feel like I didn’t do it well enough and now it’s over. Right now it all feels much more dramatic than it probably is in reality. A part of me feels as though next week I will give up the role of parent and pass the torch to my baby’s grandparents. Deep down, though, I know that’s not true. His dad didn’t stop being a dad after his paternity leave ended. Every night, he comes home at half past six, and our baby breaks into the most gorgeous, sunny smile, just for his daddy. And then we all spend the evening together, and we cuddle him as the sun sets outside our living room window, and then we pop him in his little bed and sing him to sleep.
Now it’s my turn to go back to work. And this time next week I’ll be checking my phone for messages from my mum in law and and wondering how my baby is doing. And when it’s time to go home I’ll race round there and soak up that gorgeous, sunny smile that’s just for me. We’ll cuddle as the light dips behind the garden shed and my husband and I will pop our son in his little bed. We’ll sing him into his own simple little dream world, where dates and days mean nothing and deadlines and endings don’t exist. And I’ll still be his mummy, because even though ours together is less abundant than it once was, there is still time.
Nicola blogs over at Northern Ireland Mum, check her out!