It’s almost taken a year but I am starting to settle in to life as a mummy. No longer does motherhood seem to fit like a shrunken leather glove, but more like a fuzzy cashmere mitten.
We got off to a rather frazzled start, motherhood and I.
A worrying pregnancy took its toll with fortnightly scans at the foetal care clinic and baited breath on delivery. Soon after they arrived, the husband relocated ahead of me and the babes, which led to months of solo twin night feeds. Trust me. Two new babies, layered with months of sleeplessness, leaving everything you know and love, moving into the unknown, and a dangerous dose of breastfeeding hormones, can turn any sane girl into an eye-twitching fuse box. Needless to say it has taken some weeks of Senegalese sunshine and gin sipping to unwind.
But gin and UVA rays only go so far. Attainable childcare does the rest.
One of the biggest postpartum shockers wasn’t just the sore nips, exhaustion and a body that resembled a curdled panna cotta. Oh, no. It was the total absence of me-time. A marathon day of feeding and entertaining, was followed by Himalayas of laundry, vomit on every surface, a steriliser on speed and that exhausting feeling of ‘remaining switched on’ at all times, long after the babies were in bed. I would often get the fear that there was no way off the merry-go-round.
In London a nanny would swallow my wage whole, and eat my annual bonus for dessert. Nursery isn’t much better at £80 a day per child. In Senegal an affordable Mary Poppins is a reality. As is a full-time driver, cleaner and chef (hangs head in shame). But when you’re so far away from family and friends, that is a wonderful thing. Let’s be honest, looking after little people is hard work but the domestic demands that come with it, are pure drudgery. Babies require more daily wardrobe changes than Beyonce on tour, and who really wants to scrub shitty vests until midnight? Plus they’re now crawling so I have an extra pair of hands to prevent injury in our chic but lethal apartment.
The twins are now approaching the ten month mark, and if I were home, I would inevitably be thinking ‘what next’. Should I go back to work? Can we afford it if I don’t go back? Can we afford it if I do go back? Will I ever see the girls? What will people think if I don’t? And will my brain gradually turn into baby porridge if I am forced to become a 1950s poster mum?
Our budget sheet would probably make the Chancellor’s look like a pre-schooler’s maths homework.
So while I miss home, gorgeous family, wonderful friends and my flopsy cocker spaniel, I am making the most of a full-time nanny and the liberation that brings. The freedom to work freelance, go to the gym, get a hair cut, make a phone call that doesn’t end in ‘sorry, can I call you back, the babies are eating the bougainvillea’…
Plus, it works both ways. At the end of 2016 the unemployment rate in Senegal was 17%. The UK’s is 4.6%. So keeping a local professional in a secure job benefits their life as much as yours. Our nanny is heaven-sent and I tell her so every day.
But it does make me think about mums in the UK and how limiting the options are back home. And while I would LOVE it if you all moved to Senegal, that won’t fix the problem in Blighty. Thousands of parents are priced out of work with extortionate childcare costs, while employers view the term ‘flexible working’ as your ability to cram 5 days into 4. Campaigns like Flex Appeal and #WorkThatWorks are out to challenge the 9-5 status quo, in order to help parents actually parent, and work.
Transition takes time, but I sincerely hope the tides of change make waves for the next generation.