Hi everyone! The blog is back from break. I bet you’re all so excited about that. I must say I missed putting pen to paper, although it wasn’t a break for me. Far from it. I took on a ‘little’ work in my pre-children role and a little turned into a lot and before I knew it, I was having the most insane week ever, working like a crazy woman while juggling the two kids like an expert carnie and relying on my poor overworked husband to take up some of the slack, so to speak.
I have gone ‘next level’ in my respect for working mums, whether they work from home and juggle kids in between, or whether they have to get out the door each morning carrying rugrats and briefcases and coffee cups and all those stereotypical things working mums are supposed to carry. You guys are amazing! I have always had a lot of respect for working mums but after last week, I’ve bumped it up a notch, fo sho.
Tim was home for the week on a study break so our house looked like a diner with two very busy cooks constantly flipping eggs and throwing bread in the toaster and frying bacon. We barely looked at each other as we figured out how he was going to get a few quiet hours of study in before coming home to make us all lunch and hand the ‘quiet’ over to me. Then I’d work all afternoon before giving him time to study again. I’d make dinner, we’d all sit down to eat, remind each other what our names were, discuss night time tactics and then when the two wee ones were asleep, I’d sit down to my laptop to type as fast as my fingers would go and he’d sit down with his pile of bloody boring-looking books. (He’s studying tax right now, poor bugger)
It was full-on and stressful but quite fun really. I know raising kids is a really rewarding job, but it was nice to actually fill in an invoice at the end of the day and to see my work amount to something. It was nice to achieve something that wasn’t to do with toddler negotiation or baby sleep. And it was nice to work as part of a team again, with adults, even if we were all working a short week and there wasn’t much time for small talk. So this week is going to be all about working mums and today I have interviewed three working mums about the ‘big return’.
Kirsty is mum to two-year-old Hannah, who was four months old when Kirsty returned to work full time. Adele returned to work three days a week when her son Finn was two years old. Jennifer is a full-time teacher and has a two-year-old son called William. She returned to work when he was one.
- Why did you return to work?
Kirsty – I returned to work as we were not planning to have a family so financially we hadn’t managed to save enough money for me to stay home for very long.
Adele – Partly because I felt like something needed to change. I had looked after my nephew as well for nearly two years and was starting to find my patience wasn’t the same, and also I was missing adult company more than I thought. The opportunity came up when my old job rang me when I was having a particularly bad day with two toddlers throwing tantrums. And after a few family discussions, and agonising over it with other Mummy friends, it just seemed to be the right time.
Jennifer – I returned to work for three totally selfish reasons. 1. I couldn’t handle relying on my partner to be the bread winner- it’s just not something I was able to get used to or even enjoy- I was just too used to paying my way and contributing. I have looked after myself financially since I was 17 and hated feeling dependent. 2. I loved my job. Even since I became a teacher, I have gone to work each day loving what I do, loving the kids, loving the difference I am making, loving that I am good at what I do. I missed teaching, I missed the buzz of the classroom and the stimulation of those sparky kids and the conversations with my colleagues about how to make things better. 3. I was an incy bit bored. I could feel myself slipping into a groundhog day rut where everyday was the same and the difference I was making was so little- one kid versus 28! Although I love my son to pieces and am actually a bit ashamed about this third reason, it was the truth at the time. Now of course, all these things are exactly the reasons I hate being at work. I don’t need to pay my way, my partner doesn’t care about that, I have too much to do as a teacher and never enough hours and I miss my boy like hell and can’t believe I am looking after other peoples kids all day!
- What was the hardest part about returning to work?
Kirsty – The hardest part of returning to work was a) leaving a very new baby, and b) trying to find my “normal” again. Having so many more responsibilities with being a full time working mum and striving to be a great mother.
Adele – Hardest thing was letting go of being “Mum” all the time and having a say in every part of my son’s day. He is looked after by Nana and although we are super lucky to have effectively free childcare with fantastic loving grandparents, I felt threatened by the blurred lines of parent/grandparent. That and needing to be super organised all the time to survive!
Jennifer – The hardest part is always being stretched too thin. Leaving work, stressed, emails to read, work to mark, lessons to plan, getting home, dinner to cook, boy to talk to and play with to make up for not being there, bath him, story, bed, try to relax, sleep. Never having enough hours in the day and never being on top of any one thing because it’s just impossible. Feeling like you have too many balls in the air and you just never were any good at juggling anyway.
- How long did it take for everyone to feel settled?
Kirsty – Settling didn’t take as long for us as I thought. We had a few large judder bars along our settling process as my parents were looking after Hannah two days per week (and she would go to daycare three days per week) but my father’s cancer returned with a vengeance and sadly they were unable to look after her as mum became dad’s full time carer and Hannah had to increase her daycare time to five days.
Adele – I am still not sure after three months if we feel settled? Finn is happy, I still have days where I am torn. Love my work and colleagues, but miss both boys terribly too, especially my wee man.
Jennifer – Things never settle! You never feel like you have the perfect balance. I always want to do more at school or for school, more time with my man, more time with my friends and family, and there is never ever enough quality time with my son. But each day, we make a conscious effort to pull up the slack from the day before and somehow we muddle through.
- What do you like best about being a working mum?
Kirsty – I like being a working mum only 50% of the time. Even though I love my job I still have tough days where I’d rather be with Hannah, and when she’s sick it’s a real emotional strain for me as I don’t like farming her care out to her grandparents.
Adele – I do love the freedom work gives me. Lunch breaks for a whole half hour where I can just sit and eat and slurp on a cuppa without worrying about what my child needs. It feels deliciously selfish and I get some adult time as well as a lot of peace and quiet in my own office.
Jennifer – The best part about being a working mum is coming home. I enjoy knowing that I am providing for him, doing the best I can for him and our family and that he is doing brilliantly. He has an amazing relationship with his grandma who cares for him three days and he gets to go to daycare two days and loves that as well. I come home to him running to meet me shouting “Mummy, Mummy, Muuuuummmmmeeeee!” and throwing himself into my arms and telling me all about his day. So yeah, the best part is him.
- What advice would you give a parent who is returning to work?
Kirsty – I think the best advice is to find a solution that works. Trust your daycare provider, tell them in detail what your expectations are so they are clear and don’t cross any lines. If family are taking part in regular care make sure they too have strict ground rules and adhere to your wishes.
Adele – Beware you can spend a lot of time in survival mode. I seem to constantly be getting ready to go to work! I am the one who packs the bags for Finn and me, gets us ready dressed, packs lunches etc, so being organised is pretty important in our house, right down to meal planning. Also, when family members are taking care of your kids – try to get set ground rules in place, but be aware there will be moments you just have to grit your teeth over the way someone else does things. It is amazing how the small things can drive you batty!
Jennifer – Try not to feel guilty. You have to do what you have to do and there’s no point beating yourself up about it. You are one person and much as we all would love to be Supermum, it’s not reality and your child will love you best of all no matter what you do. Just make sure you put aside some time every day for undivided, exclusive, quality, memory-making moments with your little one and make that a priority.