Mama is back at work: adoption leave is officially over. It’s all change for everybody.
Little Chick needs to adjust to seeing Mama less and spending more 1:1 time with me. He needs to believe that we are still a family unit of three, that she will keep coming home.
The Other Mrs Reed Warbler must return to a job she loves and excels at knowing that she is different. As well as respected colleague, she is Mama now.
I need to up my game. I need to do everything Mama was doing (during working hours), most of which I never noticed or acknowledged.
This is the point when I feel like everything might implode.
The keeping in touch days have given us all an opportunity to adjust to this new normal, with an overnight trip proving valuable. The Other Mrs Reed Warbler was able to enjoy adult company and be reminded of her skills beyond the home. I saw that I can look after Little Chick alone for 36 hours without too many tears (from him or me). Little Chick saw that Mama might go away but she always comes back. And she will always leave him with someone safe (in this case, me).
To help convince Little Chick that Mama will be coming back she has given him something precious. She has made it clear that it is treasured and that only someone special, someone she loves, can look after it until she returns. She has given Little Chick her cuddly Wonder Woman.
Originally a gift from me (back in the days when we exchanged cutesy love tokens), Wonder Woman will watch over Little Chick in Mama’s absence. She covers it in kisses and cuddles it each morning, ready to reassure Little Chick if needed. Although he can say Wonder Woman, he has renamed her Little Mama.
We will do more to reinforce their relationship and attachment (for example, bathtime will remain Mama and Little Chick’s exclusive fun), but this is the first step towards reassuring him that we are both his safe places and we will look after him always.
The next step is to cherish the time we have with her, as both Mama and as the Other Mrs Reed Warbler. After just one week at the coal face, she is taking a week’s annual leave. We’re undecided if this oversight will be a genius move – giving her a chance to better prepare physically and mentally knowing exactly what awaits her and is expected of her – or a foolish error that will undo our progress. For now, Little Chick and I look forward to seeing Mama return each day and spending as much time with her as possible.
Edit (September 2018): At the time and for the weeks that immediately followed, the Other Mrs Reed Warbler’s annual leave felt like a positive move. We all enjoyed the holiday and she returned to work refreshed and excited. Later, we wondered if the stop-start nature of it had caught her cold, contributing to it being even more difficult for her. There were two issues here: the pressures of work and being the sole earner and missing us and feeling like she was missing out. Both were expected and understandable. They were also overwhelming at times. We underestimated how much the Other Mrs Reed Warbler’s return to work would affect all of us; with hindsight, we would have prepared differently and asked for more help sooner.
When she feels able to, the Other Mrs Reed Warbler has kindly agreed to share her experience of this, in the hope that it may help other adopters.