A day in the life of a nursery nurse and mum
Date: 05 Jul 2019
I have now been back at work for 6 months. Maisie is now 14 months old. It has flown by! Seems like a good time to reflect on “back into the swing” of nursery life but this time, as a mother.
When I left the nursery to go off on maternity leave (I used some annual leave first), it was bittersweet in some ways. I have always been very passionate about my work and especially passionate about my setting. Handing over all the things I did for the setting alongside my manager to the cover deputy was a bit sad but the excitement of having a small human certainly overtook that. Plus it was Christmas Eve. I lost count of how many times I reminded the team “Don’t worry, October will be here before you know it and I will be back”. I knew from relatively early in my pregnancy that I would plan to return to work – financially and because I love my job.
Maternity leave was filled with so much stuff. Groups, coffees, new friends, visitors, etc. I learned things about caring for children that I didn’t really know or had never had to deal with when working in a nursery. Considering I have been in early years for so long with the majority of my experience with babies, I realised that I had never cared for a child younger than 5 months for more than a twenty minute cuddle! It was a learning curve and a lot to take in but I feel that I learned a lot of things that could further support the team at the nursery, especially for the Under 2’s.
As October got closer, I started to think about the return to work. I felt that I was ready to become “Deputy Lucy” again but I did not want to feel like I wasn’t “Mummy” either. I missed being in the setting – coaching and supporting staff, going into numbers and setting up experiences, running training at staff meetings… I even missed the admin side of my job such as writing the weekly newsletter and organising the rotas. There are only so many groups you can go to before your brain feels it’s going to mush! But at the same time, I loved the time I was having with Maisie – the bonding, watching her grow and develop, noticing her personality traits, doing lovely things. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to leave her full-time in the nursery whilst I worked. I felt that I would miss having the special one-to-one or family time but for my well-being and financially, I knew the return to work would be beneficial.
I met with my manager Helen and we spoke about me having one day off per week so I could still have that precious time with Maisie (and sometimes my husband Paul, depending on his working pattern) other than the weekends which could be filled with other things. I was elated when she accepted my request and we were able to work out a pattern that would benefit me, Maisie and the nursery. I was offered keeping in touch days and some training (online and face-to-face) before I returned as well. I was welcomed back with open arms by the whole setting and I felt very loved!
My keeping in touch days correlated with Maisie having settling-in sessions so we were able to ease me back in gradually as well as Maisie settling-in gradually. I was initially nervous about her settling-in as she was starting to go through a “clingy” phase but my mind was put at rest by having those sessions before hand as well as the fact I know the team really well and have great working relationships with them. I felt I could go into lots of detail about her routine and also felt I could talk to them when I was concerned or anxious. Maisie’s key person and key buddy were fabulous at the beginning (well, they still are!) – they would keep me posted as to how she was doing, gave me some photos of her first sessions (which I could also share with Paul) and would give me the same handover at the start and the end of each session – exactly what they do with any new children’s family members. She settled really well after lots of small visits as well as gaining strong bonds quickly.
Maisie is thriving – always an active baby, she particularly likes being outside in our lovely nursery garden and using the “climb and crawl” equipment. She uses Makaton alongside single words to communicate and will lead me into nursery from the car (gets a little frustrated if I don’t get her in fast enough!) Her learning journey is filled with wonderful photos and observations, really showing a true picture of her, her interests and her development. I love being able to have a little peek at what she is up to during each day but equally, I leave her to it. At the beginning, I felt like I watched her lots and felt like I may be treading on the toes of the team – I had to remind myself that being able to spy on her was not something all parents get to do and actually, she was generally enjoying herself and the team know what they are doing.
Since being off, there were a lot of team changes but that all seems to have settled down and our team has become stronger than ever. Not much changed other than some policy updates or system updates and I coached back through a short handover period with my cover deputy and time with Helen. The families are also mostly the same with a few new faces and there was a new regional team to get to know. It really helped me to feel that I was doing the right thing by returning.
It wasn’t easy at first and I certainly struggled with tiredness – Maisie was not the best sleeper at night and there was so much to think about when getting ready to get into work. Even with Paul helping at night, I would still wake up. The commute from home is around 40 minutes on a good day so getting on the road with time to travel meant an early start – long gone were the days of just hanging out at home in my pyjamas and having a nap when Maisie napped because of a bad night. Then after a day of work and commute home, it would be bath and bed for Maisie then bath and bed for me! This calmed down after Christmas and we really got into a good routine (and sleep is now so much better, thank goodness) so I no longer feel as tired. But through this, Helen and the team were so supportive – switching shifts to give me a bit more time in the mornings/evenings and just talking about how I was struggling (well, moaning about how tired I was!) and giving me time off (either holiday or leiu) as needed.
I continue to love my job and I am so pleased with the support I have had for my return and the option of part-time in my role. I have also been lucky to have an incredibly supportive husband and family too. I particularly like conducting Personal Tours to new families as I can use my own experiences about having a child.
The nursery is going from strength to strength – we’re excited for Ofsted to come and see us!
As for Maisie, she seems to really love coming here and, as a parent, her feeling happy, secure and safe is what it is all about.