Earlier this year I decided I would return to work full time. I am now 6 months in and since making this decision I have observed an array of reactions from people responding to my apparent ‘situation’. These responses have come in several interesting, sympathetic and sorrowful styles, and 6 months in, I am ready to document my observations and share my feelings on this subject here on the old mission to motherhood.
Just before we start, there’s a few disclaimers to note:
I do not have the plague.
I have not been diagnosed with clinical depression.
My left leg isn’t about to drop off.
You can look me in the eye, I won’t turn you into stone.
I do not have a second head.
I actually a really nice person (so my husband says) I really am not a corporate evil witch sent from the planet ‘career’ to destroy us all.
I am just a mum. Who works.
A bit like a dad. A dad that works every day. But a mum. How strange!
And the last time I looked, (which was about 2 hours ago because, hey, stop the press I really do put my kids to bed most nights! O.M freaking G!), my kids are happy. thriving, loved, polite (well the 10 month old will burp in your face but its early days), beautiful little creatures whose parents take an equal share in shaping them up to survive this weird and wonderful world. They also do not have second heads, weep in corner when left alone or attach themselves to my thigh every morning when I leave for work. They are also normal…whatever that is anyway.
There are countless debates about working versus stay at home mums. You only have to browse any mummy blog, mine included, to see it is a topic of endless discussion. Mums torment themselves with what to do, battle with inflexible employers, or tear their hair out at home because they feel guilty doing anything else. I personally don’t really care what is ‘right and wrong’ and what anyone else is doing, I really don’t. I don’t care what books, journalists and stats say (apparently part-time working mums are the happiest), and I really don’t care what mums did in the ‘old days’. I only care about us. Our little family and what it right for us.
When I say I don’t care, I mean it doesn’t really effect us. I am interested and inspired by what others are doing and I think this is really important. One thing that would make this whole tricky business a lot less tricky lies in the hands of us mums. And its pretty simple. To start with I think we all just need to be a little bit nicer to each other about what we’re doing. Easy! Just be nice! It’s easy to judge and pass comment on others, but one thing I have learnt in this parenting wild-ride is that its probably always best to avoid this (unless its six year old with a dummy in its mouth and then I really struggle. Sorry you have to draw the line somewhere).
Because each of us really has no idea what is ‘right and wrong’ for other families. What works for you may be the next mamma’s idea of hell. For myself, the thought of being a full time mum makes me want to run into a corner of the garden, dig a hole and hide in it pretending to be a badger until I’ve stopped thinking about it. It’s nothing to do the kids, they’re great, love those little things, its to do with me.
Because a mum is the very best mum she can be when she is happy and fulfilled. For me full time motherhood just doesn’t fulfil me.
Ahhhhh. There it is, it’s out, the thing you’re not allowed to say. Doesn’t it just feel so nice to admit that?
Because you’re not meant to be able to say that right? You’re meant to pretend that every aspect of parenting is great – woohooo look at this slightly washed out instagram photo of me with kids climbing all over me, look at us LAUGH! Oh WHAT FUN!!! HA BLOODY HA!
And actually yes, it really it is fun like that at times. But certainly not all the time.
At times it is frustrating, knackering, relentless, thankless and BORING. And usually that’s all just within one hour! It is ok to say these things. I do not have the plague remember. I’m just a mum who likes to work.
It’s different for everyone and I think you’re relationship with your career and job has much more to do with it than your relationship to your kids. The fact I am now full time does not mean I inject any less love, energy, passion and quality time into my motherly role in comparison to someone who spends all day with their kids. I really strongly believe that. But I do love my job and my future and I need to feel like I’m achieving something outside the world of being a mum. It’s exciting, rewarding and it is if I’m honest more ‘overtly’ fulfilling than motherhood.
My parenting time is now all about quality over quantity. When I’m with my kids I switch off, I play, I laugh I take in everything. On days off or weekends we make them count, every moment is precious. When I was doing more childcare I saw myself slip into mundane routines, get stressed and frustrated and become someone I didn’t think I was going to end up liking that much.
I’d like to say it took nights of late night discussions to make this decision, it has indeed been a very long time since I have worked full time. I’d like to say I made lists of pros and cons, that we had agonising hours of debate over bottles of wine and through tears. In all honesty, I just don’t have the time to do all that. The decision was in fact made over a text message in my car whilst sitting on the drive with a sleeping baby in the back and a boot full of Tesco shopping (I’m not entirely sure why that’s relevant to the story but what a vision for you all!).
Because actually when it came to the crunch it was an easy decision to make. It made sense for us….
1. I struggled to do my job part time, I was always rushing, stressed, late for everything, never off my phone
2. I earn more. We just bought a house. No brainer.
3. Ben had been full time for a long time – where was his daddy day?
4. The business we both work for, created by me, where all our income and our future is invested, generally operates better with me in it….and I’d just taken half a year away from it
5. We have a great child care system in place
It was that simple. And yes I did get upset for a while after and even I punished myself declaring one drunken night that I had become ‘an evil blackberry welding corporate whore’ (I must have been drunk, I would a. never own a Blackberry and b. a whore?! Gosh, to have the time! Imagine the outfits! What FUN!). But it was actually pretty painless. Life is so much easier now because I have that extra day to fit more stuff in. I now have a bigger team and I’m lucky to have some flexibility to work from home which I try to do two days a week, and on one of those days I work an earlier day and take Phoenix to swimming lessons. I feel like I’ve been able to do things and adapt our lives in ways that would have been tricky still working part time and I love that Ben gets have his precious day with them that for so long was mine. That’s fair. That’s modern parenting 101! Its working for us right now.
So yes, you can look me in the eye. I will not turn you to stone. I am just a mum who likes to work.
…….I go to work to be stimulated, I’m an ideas person, I like to make things happen, I build the best Lego space garage with a side zoo and slide for octopuses, but I do want more.
…….I go to work to be creative, I like to invent, to design, to inject personality. My painted pine cones are pretty epic, especially when dipped in glitter, but I do want more.
…….I go to work to interact and be social, I’m a people person, I love to talk, to meet people, to manage, to nurture to be part of a team. The playgroup circuit is quite fun until you realise you have nothing in common with anyone and every single person is wearing a long sleeve stripy top, bootleg jeans, converse pumps and has a slightly vacant look in their eyes, I just want more.
So to give you a flavour of how people react when you tell them after you’ve had a baby and you’re going full time here’s a few choice cuts and how I feel about the responses….
“Oh my god it must be so awful for you, it must just break your heart to leave her”
– I’m actually ok, I lead a pretty nice life that as you can see from my beautifully edited instagram feed can hardly be described as ‘awful’. Get over it.
“What?! Oh no that’s terrible!! What are you going to do?!”
– Well I know its cray-cray, but just hear me out. I just thought I would carry on living my life like a normal happy human!! I know!! CRAAAAZZZZYYY!!
“Are you crazy?”
– That my friend was concluded way before this latest revelation. Get with the programme.
“Wow were you forced into it? Did you have to?”
– Hard as it is to believe I am not a slave, but I am a modern woman lucky to live in the Western world with choices. Lucky me hey? I actually made this decision myself! I know!! Over a text too!! Viva la revolution! Burn your bras!
“You’re going to miss out on everything”
– ‘Everything’ is quite a strong descriptor there dude. I take your point, but my babies wake up and go to sleep with me 90% of the time and when its not me its their dad. Lets ease up there and perhaps consider ‘you’ll miss some things, but you’ll make sure the best bits are the ones you all remember’. Too kind and polite for you? Yeah, what was I thinking?!
And so we reach the end of this post. I’m not really sure what I’ve concluded here but if you remember nothing else remember this:
– Be nice to other mums, lets empower each other to make choices that are right for us and that make us happy
– Do what it takes to make you happy. Happy mum = happy kids, don’t underestimate the impact that can have on your brood
– Always pull over to send a text
– Drink gin
– Don’t turn people into stone. Unless they’re mean to you. Then do it.
– I’m going to stop writing now and go to bed
– I am still crazy
Night night x