This morning as I was taking Jack to childcare (gulp) I ran into a work colleague I hadn't seen in over 18 months.
I explained to him I was dropping Jack off for his final settling-in day before I returned to work next week. (Gulp again).
I'm not sure if he heard the apprehension in my voice or saw the vulnerability in my eyes. Either way, his response was exactly what I needed to hear. "It's really hard, isn't it?" he offered.
Yes it is. It's heart-wrenching hard.
I know I'm not the first mother to return to work, nor will I be the last. But it doesn't make the process of 'letting go' any easier.
Andrew's words were particularly welcome. In recent weeks when I've told people about the uneasiness I've been feeling about leaving Jack in care, the overwhelming response has been "you'll be right" or "he'll be right" or "it will be good for both of you".
Of course we'll be right. Hundreds of thousands of children are left in care each day while their parents go off to work and their worlds haven't fallen apart.
These comments, of course, have been well-meaning. But what I really needed was for someone to acknowledge and understand how I was feeling. Yes Andrew, it is bloody hard.
This morning when I left Jack in the capable and caring arms of his teacher, Neetu, he cried. Once I was out of sight, I cried too.
I headed straight to my favourite cafe. Last time I was here (with Jack) I hurried out 20 minutes later with avocado in my hair, a spilt babycino in my lap and longing for the day I could eat here alone - in peace.
Now I'm here, alone, with my coffee and my newspapers and yet something is missing. I cry again.
Some women return to work because they have to. Others choose to. Some make the transition easily, thankful for some much-needed me time, even if that me time is spent in the office. And that's ok too.
I feel blessed to have had 18 months at home with my precious boy and to work for an organisation that is extremely accommodating when it comes to working parents. I will return just two days a week, for now - an option I know is not available to many working mothers, who are given the choice of returning full-time or not at all. (That’s a rant for another day.)
I know Jack and I "will be fine." Of course, we will. But right now it feels hard. Really, bloody hard.