I'm back at work and feel as out of place as a penguin on a Caribbean beach…
22:46 GMT, 21 March 2012
Just two weeks back at work after maternity leave Lorraine had been struck down by a bug (stock picture)
On Saturday morning I woke up with a thumping headache. My shoulders ached and I had a streaming nose. Just two weeks back at work after maternity leave and I’d been struck down by a bug.
I believe these ailments are the side effects of my new work schedule. Lord knows I’m not an anthropologist, but I think this is what happens when you bring a new life form into an alien culture.
I’ve seen it on David Attenborough programmes and Star Trek: you can’t just walk from one environment (domestic) into another (the office) without side effects.
I feel like an Antarctic penguin on a Caribbean beach right now, as re-entry is taking more getting used to than I anticipated — in the working world, everyone runs everywhere and talks very quickly.
After nearly a year of walking at a normal pace behind my buggy, I feel as if I’ve accidentally entered the Olympic relay race, without any training. When I leave the house each morning I’m sure a starting pistol goes off and Mr Candy shouts ‘Go Go Go’.
A colleague took me to lunch on my first day back and I had to sprint to catch up with her.
‘Why are you going so fast’ I asked, out of breath.
‘I’m not,’ she said, looking at me curiously as people sped past us. ‘You’re dawdling.’
Maternity-me has spent months saying hello to people in the street, stopping to chat to familiar faces and making new friends at the school gates. I even know the name of the cashier in my local supermarket, for God’s sake (Norma, if you’re reading, pop a Haribo jumbo pack to one side for me will you).
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But I’m not used to hurtling around like a worker ant. When I went to Marks & Spencer to get a lunchtime sarnie it was so busy, and the queuing system so complicated, that I stood motionless in front of the salads for 20 minutes, before leaving with a roll of sellotape.
When I get home in the evenings I’m speechless and physically exhausted, (a shadow of my energetic ‘shouty self’ as Mr Candy puts it). In fact, most nights I have been going to bed shortly after the children: only to wake at 2am remembering all the things I’ve forgotten to do at work and all the requests from the school newsletters I’ll no doubt forget to do, too.
As I stood on the doorstep this morning with a box of cress seeds grown into the shape of a Christmas tree (for a class science project) and a bag of ‘Victorian clothes’ (for a school trip) I felt like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz: ‘Toto we are not in Kansas any more’.
Of course, things will settle down, my metabolism will gear up to match the frenzy of work activity and after a little mental re-programming I’ll slot back into office life as before. Perhaps it’ll take longer to adjust this time because it’s the fourth baby, and I’m in my fourth decade Anyway I’m putting myself in working mum bootcamp: A healthier diet, less wind-down wine.
I’m strapping the ever-increasing baby Mabel to my front and walking up a few hills. Before you know it, I’ll be back in the game.Until then, however, the children have spotted a weakness in me and are trying to exploit it.
Eight-year-old Gracie persuaded me to say ‘yes, of course you can’ into a tape recorder and now they claim I have agreed to things I have not: 10pm bed times, excessive biscuit consumption, use of water bombs in the lounge.
But I’m too worn out to argue when she says ‘but you agreed on tape, listen,’ so I’ve started to give in. This has ruined the game for her, though and last night she asked: ‘Why are you so quiet and yesful’
‘I think I’m broken, Gracie,’ I tell her.
‘That,’ she replies,‘Is because you are as old as a dinosaur.’
Which didn’t make me feel better. Not at all.
Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of Elle magazine