I was in a London pub and two sips into the first drink of the evening when I got the call. The little man had woken up from his sleep and was crying and no amount of coaxing from his grandparents would soothe him. He was inconsolable, I could hear it from the other end of the phone as my mother-in-law tried to make herself heard over his screaming. And there I was, a walk, tube and train ride between us. He needed his mummy and he couldn't have her. It was awful.
He had been going through a clingy stage - only really wanting me to hold him and even getting upset when I left a room - so I knew there was going to be trouble and a small knot placed itself firmly in the base of my stomach as we left him napping, knowing that when he woke and looked for me I wouldn't be there.
As it happened, it was mostly one of those grumpy cries we all feel like having when we wake up and haven't quite had enough sleep, only accentuated by his parents' absence. I advised setting him in front of the TV or playing a CD to distract him from his mood and after a nervous wait, while I pondered whether to start making for home, I got a text to say he seemed better. I wasn't able to relax until I got a final message to say he was tucked up in bed; only then did I head to the bar and got myself a drink - large please barman.
I have been very lucky that I haven't had to use a child minder and the one-day a week I do work is spent at my parents' where he is able to come into the office, show me his favourite toy cow and leave, happy in the knowledge I am there. As he is mostly with me, I have avoided the distress many of my friends have described when leaving their babies with a child minder for the first time, but I do ask myself would he be so clingy if I had done the same? Whether it is better for children to always be with their mothers in the first few years or to learn independence and social skills at a nursery or childminders, it is difficult to say and I can see advantages to both. I know leaving him is a hurdle I will have to face and that it will probably be harder for me than him. Clearly separation anxiety can work both ways and I have been holding him a little tighter ever since while I still can.