When you are pregnant and working, you think about what you will do when the baby is born. Maybe, you even think about it before you decide to have a baby. There are three choices open to you:
- Leave work and be a ‘Stay at Home’ mum – sounds appealing but I know most women can’t financially afford to even think about it for more than a second
- Go back to work after maternity leave – makes financial sense
- Go part-time after maternity leave – the ideal balance for a lot of women although not always possible due to either the employer or financial commitments
While the finances and childcare is something we spend quite a while deliberating and weighing up the pros and cons, I wonder how many consider the emotional aspect of it.
The guilt of being a working mum.
The guilt of ringing up sick when our child is too ill for nursery/school.
The guilt of sending our child to nursery/school knowing that they would be better at home.
The guilt of coming home from work too tired to read books or spend that magical quality time that we promised ourselves we would, when in reality, all we want to do is sit down with a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit.
The guilt of not spending more than an hour or two with our child and that hour is filled with getting him/her dressed, packing bags, cooking, cleaning, bathtime and bedtime.
Yesterday, I saw my youngest for 45 minutes as I tried to get both her and myself ready for nursery and school. Then, on my return from work, we spent an hour together as I got tea ready, unpacked her nursery bag, answered the phone, nagged my older ones to get ready and changed her nappy.
Today, I saw her again for 45 minutes while I tried to get us both ready and when I return from work, she will be asleep in bed.
Tomorrow, I will again see her for 45 minutes in the rush to get ready but then I will spend until 8pm with her. I would like to say that these hours after school will be ‘quality time’ but I know they won’t because I have to cook dinner, tidy up, drive my older two girls around to their clubs and do some shopping. By the time 8pm comes, Hannah and I will both be over-tired and ready for our beds.
Three days of feeling guilty and shattered – not a good combination.
So, when women think about becoming a working mum, does this enter their minds. Not the finances but the emotional (and at times, the physical) pressures. Of course, I know that a lot of women don’t have a choice, and manage things admirably but there are also millions of us that are working mums and are trying to juggle it all every day.
I wish I had an answer to this, but I don’t. Organisation is key and seeing the overall picture is also important. For example, this week is a particularly bad one, but many others are not as time restrictive or pressured. Make the most out of every minute you have and try (although it is hard) to keep the guilt in perspective as it serves no benefit for you or your child. Make the most out of the weekends and time that you do have with your child but make sure you are not too tired to enjoy them. Going to bed early on a Friday night may seem boring, but if it gives you that energy to spend on your child on a Saturday, it is surely worthwhile.
In the meantime, cups of tea and friends are invaluable to keep your sanity. Especially if they are friends who will support not criticise you.