Sometimes, the hardest things you can imagine actually turn out to be the easiest - as was the (unexpected) case when my baby started childcare this week.
After winning the childcare place lottery in October, I spent two and a half long months dreading the inevitable moment of separation, and second-guessing my hard fought decision.
On the days I was scrambling to keep the contents of the house off the floor while simultaneously pureeing pork and mash and paying the car rego at the Post Office, I could see the wisdom of my decision shining through the cloudy oven door.
On the days when I was writing articles
to deadline and submitting job applications amid chaos, I would flop
open my mind and mentally skip down the childcare driveway with bottles
of expressed milk and bouquets of roses in hand.
On the days when I watched my daughter playing with other babies at Parents Group catch ups and annual family gatherings, pushing toys back and forward and freaking out when they touched her hair, I would relax into my decision and start prattling about the many virtues and benefits of social interaction from a young age.
On the days when my daughter would light up the room, or unexpectedly manage to stand on her onesie clad foot, or suddenly find a decisive 'bird' or 'ball' from within the constant stream of babble, I would emotionally bail on the whole childcare caper.
I would resolve to become unresolved, and start preparing my fiery argument against childcare, for consideration and endless discussion in the marital decision court over turkey burgers and salad come dinner time.
As we descended into the final fortnight of unadulterated stay-at-home-mummydom, my clingy mother status skyrocketed from lousy home brand cling wrap to the top shelf, brand name stuff.
I spent countless hours holding onto my baby for dear life, even when she clearly wanted to be out of my arms and exploring the ceaselessly amazing fluff content of the lounge room carpet.
My hug and kiss rations multiplied, and where I would normally give one kiss, I started to dole out ten, with an extra butterfly kiss and a special peck on the cheek for added good measure.
I unintentionally dug deeper all round, ensuring that every block tower was knocked down with unusual oomph, every outfit change was selected with unexpected fastidiousness, every Incy Wincy rendition delivered with extra special hand movements and embarrassing facial expressions.
Unfortunately, cling wrap is not thick enough to keep out the world, and my excessive hug-a-thon eventually dribbled away into the inevitable orientation day that had been marked on the kitchen calendar for so long.
Orientation was far cooler than I had been prepared to give it credit for. It was a bit like my own personal halfway house, all the freedom and responsibility of entering the real childcare world with the safety net of being able to run back up the corridor and into the nursery room whenever my panic got the better of me.
As I tiptoed out of the room for my trial separation, heart somewhere between my esophagus and my churning stomach, my daughter pounced on a pile of triangular shape sorting blocks and stuck a plastic stegosaurus in her mouth - go away, mum, you're cramping my prehistoric dining adventure.
With my heart still somehow inside my body and the trial separation inked in the childcare day book as a theoretical success, we progressed with lightning speed to the real deal - the first day of childcare, no safety net attached.
My husband and I decided to climb the mountain together - or rather, I dragged him up the mountain against his will to help push me along when I tried to turn around and roll back down to the safety of another day at home with a morning nap and afternoon pram walk.
After so much anticipation and dread, though, the mountain seemed radically smaller in real life. Despite months of technicolour nightmares, I did not self combust or hyperventilate or have to dodge cesspits of fire and brimstone.
Perhaps it was the afterglow of the orientation trial separation, or the promise of uninterrupted french toast and coffee for breakfast, or the wonderful teachers in the centre, but I felt strangely calm as I dropped my daughter off and effectively tipped our lives upside down forever.
I kissed my daughter goodbye and simply stepped out the front door and into the new world order, leaving her to crawl off into a wooden mirror maze with a look of baby awe plastered all over her face.
My daughter didn't notice I was gone, I didn't cry like a baby or wail like a banshee, my toast and coffee did not get tipped on the floor or covered in steamed apple and pear once - and I even managed to vacuum the skirting boards properly for the first time in nine months.
Six hours later, my daughter greeted me at the nursery door with a shoe full of sand and a face full of sheer excitement - and in that moment the hardest decision I ever made suddenly became the easiest.
Have you had to make tough family decisions? Have you left your child in care? I would love to hear your stories.
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