Why am I wasting the chance to scoff my bodyweight in doughnuts?

Why am I wasting the chance to scoff my bodyweight in doughnuts

1:15 AM on 12th May 2011

Waiting game: Lorraine doesn

Waiting game: Lorraine doesn”t know what to do with herself after finishing work on maternity leave (posed by model)

My maternity leave started on Friday. I took the children to school, had a scan, made a dent in the washing pile, found the missing swimming hat, picked the children up, went to the park, collected another three children along the way, supervised all six as they rampaged around and, ignoring the restraining order the oven took out against me in 1990, attempted to cook dinner from a recipe.

It was as busy as being at work (but with less grateful recognition for the effectiveness of my activities, obviously). All in all day one went smoothly.

But when I got up on Saturday morning my feet had swollen. I couldn’t even get flip-flops on. Then I had a nosebleed. So I was rendered useless by 7am. No value to anyone because I couldn’t do anything. The washing machine breathed a sigh of relief. But what was I to do now

I was stuck on the sofa, feet up, resembling Gilbert Grape’s huge mother. Ginormica Candy (the biggest of all four of my babies) wriggled so much inside the bump that I half expected her elbow to poke out of my ear.

The trio of trouble performed a magic show to occupy me. It was a little stressful because I was instructed to keep my eyes shut for most tricks, especially the one where the cross-dressing four-year-old stood by a half-open window promising to make a cushion disappear. ‘Call me Susie and say abracadabra,’ he commanded in his pink nightie.

This was followed by a lengthy and disturbing conversation with Gracie-in-the-middle, seven, reviewing the reasons we can’t name the hamster they’re saving up for ‘Danger of Death’.

Then they disappeared for various weekend play dates and birthday parties and I lay there wondering what to do next. Just ‘being’ seemed pointless. I felt feeble, brought down by pregnancy.

I felt even more pointless by Sunday night having contributed little to the weekend and knowing I wasn’t going to work on Monday either. What was my purpose

I know in 12 days time, I’ll regret that I wasted my chance to scoff my own body weight in doughnuts while watching The Only Way Is Essex in a quiet house. But the beginning of maternity leave is an odd sensation for a working mother.

You are on the brink of a discombobulating change of identity. It’s even more disturbing when you’re in any way physically incapacitated.

Each time I’ve begun my maternity leaves, I’ve feared this feeling of uselessness. I miss the comfort zone of my job while I run the gauntlet of daily failures that can overwhelm you after a newborn comes into your family life.

I feel especially useless during the days between quitting the office and giving birth. Being on the domestic front line confuses women like me. I need a mental reboot, like a computer or a mobile phone.

I’ve worked full time since I was 16. My identity is so bound up in my career that being alone in the house (before school pick-up) is an unknown quantity to me.

Beyond the normal chores, I don’t know what to do — but still wonder if I am doing it right. And I do everything at speed, conditioned into achieving things swiftly by my usual office schedule.

This is what scares me most when I entertain thoughts of giving up work to stay at home full time. Exactly what will I do all day Work is where my skills lie. I have no qualifications. No hidden talents.

My desire to keep my job shouldn’t de- prive me of a large family; I manage both.

Men do it, and it seems to be working, especially with the support I can afford and a helpful partner. But maternity leave is a taste of what it would be like if I was a full-time mum. Who would I be

Of course when Eliza/Maud/Merryn/Steno (the four year old’s bizarre suggestion) arrives, I will be over-occupied, but even then maternity leave is hostile territory.

It is fraught with the perils of potential boredom, and worse still the worry that I will forget how to do what I do at work. Or that someone else will do it better in my absence.

It’s about confidence, isn’t it I think you have to be extremely confident to stay at home full-time. Secure in your own company. I know women like that. I’m just not one of them.

Lorraine Candy is Editor-in-chief of ELLE