So here we are nearing the end of 2015! It’s been a year of huge changes, brought about mainly by the fact that this time last year I was mummy to an 8 month old who was barely crawling – this year Max is 20 months and very much into toddlerhood.
Returning to work
In February I made the decision that I wouldn’t be returning to my old job in London – although I loved the company and my role, the long commute just wasn’t compatible with nursery opening hours, and the cost of travel made the job simply not financially viable. Handing my notice in at work was really emotional – I never realise quite how much my sense of self was wrapped up in my work. I’d made my peace with being a stay-at-home mum when a great opportunity came up locally for a part-time role, working two days a week in a very similar role to my previous work. I started that in April, and I love that it gives me the right balance for me to enjoy being with Max on my days off, but still feel that I’m achieving something for me.
Starting nursery and sleep issues
Of course, the new job meant starting Max at nursery which was a fairly traumatic time for both of us. Max and I have always had a close bond and separation anxiety for us started kicking in at around 8 months – leaving the room for even a second would result in screams that would make you think the world was ending. He was just under 12 months when he started at nursery and we had all of the expected tears, despite the numerous settling in sessions. The nursery staff have been fantastic – always emphasising that I can call any time to see how he’s doing, and very happy to give as many cuddles as needed. It’s clear that Max has a good bond with all of the staff at nursery and it’s been really good for him in so many ways – he’s very social, always wants to make friends with other children, and it’s taught him to be that little bit more independent with things like feeding himself.
But my goodness – the result on Max’s sleep from the time he started nursery has been awful! He was a baby who took a long time to start sleeping through – somewhere around 8 months it happened and my god, it was blissful! Then, just when we’d had a chance to get used to it, BAM! Nursery started and suddenly the separation anxiety was so bad that it became impossible to leave the room at bedtime without heart-breaking cries coming from the cot and completely unable to settle without clutching and stroking at my hand. This was a surprise to us – although Max had often been awake in the night, he’d always been great at just going straight down to sleep, either at bedtime, or after a feed in the night.
I’m a firm believer that in this case, controlled crying was not the answer. If what’s upsetting you is that you’re alone, then leaving you to cry is not going to help. So we took a more gentle approach of the ‘gradual retreat’ – gradually moving a chair closer towards the door. I’m not going to lie – this was a long process, but after 4 months, we were back to a point where you could be put down to sleep and self settle quickly.
In September, we went on our first family holiday abroad to Sardinia. We’d rented a villa with my parents and it was lovely to head off with them, giving them that extra time to bond with Max and also for us to know that they were on hand for a little bit of babysitting! We even had a couple of dinners out as a couple – a rare novelty!
Max loved us all being together and loved the unusual experience of going out for dinner on a couple of occasions. We were lucky in that the Sardinians love children and were great with Max – he loved the waiters and waitresses (in Max’s world anyone who brings you food is worthy of a huge grin!), and enjoyed trying lots of new and different foods.
Like most new experiences, it took Max a little while to warm up to the beach and the pool, but he loved playing with the sand.
The emerging toddler
Max’s development over the last year has been amazing – he understands everything now, and loves to be involving in helping with whatever Mummy and Daddy are doing. I’ll freely admit to finding the initial months as a new mum very difficult, but since we hit 6 months I think I’ve said to myself at each month “This is the loveliest age”! He’s such a funny little chap and it’s easy to make him laugh at the smallest things – he’s a real pleasure to be around. He loves music and it never fails to make me smile to watch him do his funny ‘bob up and down dance’ to his favourite tunes. It’s become a real pleasure to take him on trips that we know he’ll enjoy – walks in the wood, trips to the farm, or to the theme park, or dinner at a restaurant (food is always the way to Max’s heart).
And yet, the tantrums are something else! I’m hoping that Max has just hit the Terrible Two’s early, and that we don’t have much much worse on the horizon (if you know better, please leave me in blissful ignorance!). If he doesn’t like something his mouth will turn down, his face will turn red, tears will flow, and soon he’ll be collapsed on the floor in frustration.
I’m so proud of every milestone Max is achieving – my heart just swells when I realise he’s learned a new word (these are still few and far between, but are starting to come more regularly now) or that he understands something new. I know that 2016 will be another year full of change for Max – this time next year he’ll be very much a little boy!
I’ll look back fondly on 2015 – it’s been the year when I’ve found a balance in life; where I’ve settled into life as a mummy, worked on making time for the things I love, and discovered the small signs of a self confidence that I’ve been searching for for years. I’m feeling really positive for everything that 2016 has in store!
Wishing you all a 2016 full of happiness and contentment.