Yesterday was International Women’s Day when I had planned to publish this post, but because I’m a working mum, time ran away with me and now it’s the day after International Women’s Day, but I’m going to publish my post anyway, because it’s relevant any day.
Today (now yesterday) I bumped into my friend and neighbour. She has four children and has dedicated her life to looking after them. “I suppose you’re back at work?”, she asked, as I picked her up a few roads away from where we live. I’d stopped to offer her a lift, as I would anyway, but in particular, today as she was laden with a shopping bag and 2 4-pint bottles of milk hooked onto one stretched and overworked finger!
“I am!” I chirped (still ecstatic at being an entrepreneur). As the conversation progressed she told me her husband still, 4 kids later, asks her what she does every day. “What?! Leave him at home for a week with the kids, see how he copes! He’ll be begging to go back to work” I (un)helpfully suggested. She went on to tell me that if her husband stayed at home for a week it would become his mission to prove to her that her job was easy! So, we decided, following a discussion (maybe 6 months, maybe 2 months) that 2-4 weeks would definitely be sufficient time to show him that it’s not as easy as she makes it look! Let’s face it, it’s not just getting the kids up and getting them to school, it’s the getting them up, cleaning them up, making sure they brush their teeth, getting them dressed, feeding them, and walking (yes, my friend walks – 23,000 steps one day last week!) them to school. It’s also finding their shoes, brushing hair, making sure school bags have everything in them, it’s making packed lunches, thinking about what to cook for dinner, the whirlwind of managing the emotions of 4 little people. It’s a logistical nightmare by anyone’s standards. This is not to mention the judgement at the school gates and beyond on what you’re feeding your child or whether or not they’re behaving in the right way (because we all have perfectly behaved children don’t we?!?! If only.).
“I go and work in my uncle’s shop for one day a week to get away from the housework”, she told me. And she deserves it. We all make decisions for different reasons. But I take my hat off to my friend and any other woman that stays at home to care for her children. That is a full-time job of the hardest kind.
There is no doubt having children has been one of my greatest achievements (most days, some of the ‘terrible two’s’ days I really have to wonder!) but, OMG it is hard?!
I don’t know about any of you lovely readers, but for me, having children and staying at home with them has been the hardest job I’ve ever undertaken. Going back to work has brought light relief and some normality to a world that has been wonderfully turned upside down!
Being a mother walks all over being a lawyer, a businesswoman and an entrepreneur. As a woman who has worked all my life, I confess I was looking forward to going back to work after both of my children. There are many who are quite adamant in their views of what is right and what is wrong. I always thought I was the kind of woman who would have children and gladly hand them over to a nanny whilst I went back to work but having had them, nothing pleases me more than having the flexibility I now have to spend time with them, have play dates with fellow mum’s, take them for their vaccinations, be home giving them cuddles when they have a temperature and perhaps even have a glass of wine with fellow mums on a Friday afternoon if the mood takes me! Far from being the mum skidding up late to collect them from nursery, I’m skipping up early, excited to see them. Now, I want to be the mum who’s on the PTA, at sports’ days galore and nattering at the school gates.
But do I feel guilty for returning to work? Should I? Maybe, sometimes, probably, every day. I worked my socks off to achieve what I have in my career and it took be 11-years of hard slog to become a lawyer. And I am proud of that. I am a little ashamed to say that when I’m at work I enjoy wearing my high heels, having a hot cup of coffee and lunch that I don’t have to share with two little people propped up at my knees like poorly-trained puppies! But we are all human and we are all individual.
But the end of my maternity leave has not spelled the end of fun times with the kids. On the contrary, 4-months into working for myself I’m spending ‘quality’ time with the children. That’s because on my non-office days I make time to do things with them, for them, rather than tearing around, stressed, trying to do a little bit of everything and achieving nothing. And the three of us love our days together, we relax, we have fun, we chuckle to our heart’s content. And I cherish those days. It might not be financially rewarding but being a mum pays dividends in other ways.
So, is working right for me? A resounding and unapologetic YES!
For some reason when we conceive, right through pregnancy, childbirth, parenthood and beyond people seem to feel they have the right to have an opinion about our size, our weight, how we feed our children, what we feed our children, how we discipline our children, our choices. Going back to work, or not, doesn’t make us bad (or good) parents. It makes us human beings making decisions that are right for us in the circumstances we are in. There is no rule book on having children and there is no such thing as the perfect scenario.
So, to the mum’s who work and to the mum’s who don’t, keep doing what you do because it’s right for you. Ignore the judges, forget the doubters and do what you do best, BE YOU. Because being you is the best for you and everyone else around you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on working, or not. Join the debate.