Wednesday, 1 August 2018

The Working Mother - what it's really like

Working Mums

There are a lot of things you don’t find out about motherhood until after you’re committed to this child birth/baby thing. I have been in the thick of this many times thinking – why the hell didn’t anyone tell me it was going to be like this?

Like, how much is labour going to hurt? Well hot damn, nobody could have quite prepared me for that level of excruciating, vagina tearing pain.

But hey, I survived. If you want to know what it’s really going to feel like, come chat to me. Oh, and just so you know, you don’t actually forget what it feels like. That’s just another story we get told, BUT it is totally worth it and I 100% would not change a thing about the delivery of my babies, except maybe the 26-hour labour with Josie.

Ever since I became a mother I decided to never lie about what it was actually like because I really felt like, had I known, MAYBE I may have been more prepared. So, if someone asks me, they get the truth. I also recognise that as mothers we don’t want to necessarily let on how hard we are finding this motherhood journey for fear of looking like a failure.

Or for fear of being judged.

Screw that, if you want to honestly know the ins and outs of what it’s going to be like, come chat to me. Disclaimer – I may turn you off having kids forever.

However, I wouldn’t change the gifts it’s given me for the world. My kids are my life and I love them more than I ever imagined possible, but here’s my blog on what it’s REALLY like to be a working mother, with a few quotes thrown in from some of the mums in my Mums Who Lift community at Ritual HQ.

I remember thinking, before having children, that once they were ‘out’ I would be able to work from home and raise my babies. I had visions of me sitting calmly at my desk while my baby slept angelically in a cot beside me with gentle music playing.

In my mind I was going to have a roaringly successful Personal Training Business while nursing my baby. Then, after six or so months I was going to head back to my job at the bank full time and it was all going to be fine.

I couldn’t have had this more wrong if I tried.

What quickly became apparent to me was that I urgently had to redefine what success looked like. Success no longer looked like me strutting off to my city job with my six-figure income, stilettos and pencil skirt, and immaculate hair and make-up. Success was now getting to midday and managing to go to the toilet and take a dump without a baby screaming from another room (or managing to do this without taking the baby with me in their Baby Bjorn carrier because they can’t be put down that day). Maybe throwing toast in my mouth (because you can hold toast in your mouth while breast feeding a baby and juggling at least one other task) and MAYBE brushing my hair.

If I was really having a good day, I might even manage to get out of my pyjamas and – wait for it – put on a bra! Nobody told me that whilst breast feeding is absolutely beautiful and an incredible thing to do for your baby and their health, it is actually very challenging (for some of us it hurts like HELL in the early days) and will consume hours of your day. I recall one witching hour feed lasting nearly two hours. Oh, and witching hour is another term I had never heard of. This is the time around dusk when babies turn crazy. Fact.

Without redefining success, the feeling of failure was imminent, and this came regardless. On a good day, the thought of taking on any kind of intellectual work was so far from my mind because the fatigue from sleep deprivation would swamp me like a dark wet blanket. Did you know that sleep deprivation was used as a form of torture by the CIA as part of their interrogation techniques? I can confirm this would work.

Daycare is certainly an option and one I indulged in after the first year. But we need to be realistic about the cost of daycare (whilst factoring in the cost of your sanity). At one stage, my income was only JUST covering the daycare fees.

For me these days, now that my children are no longer babies, a successful morning is managing to get both kids to school with their hair brushed and shoes on both feet…on time. An extra successful day is when I manage to brush my own hair. I don’t always have successful days! Even now.

One of my mums in my Mums Who Lift community sums this up beautifully – the guilt, plus the mornings, plus the juggling act. Amelia says:

“I feel like most of my parenting stress is trying to leave the house for a specific time x 100 when you have to leave the house to get to work and they dont want to get out of bed let alone get ready.

“I can never stay late at work to finish something like I used to as I have to get home to pick them up. I feel guilty during school hols because they go to holiday care and then feel I need to arrange stuff for us to do on my days off when actually they probably need a boring day resting at home (they whinged, fought and complained all day Monday at the activity I
d planned for them).

“The days I work I feel like we
re all on a conveyor belt with not enough time to get dinner in, showers, homework and some reading before bed. And I only work three days and have a partner (I have no family here though). I cant imagine what fulltime and single parents have to deal with.”

My two are regulars at my workplace,
mostly out of necessity

These days, I do somehow manage to run two businesses, manage a team of nine, hold a relationship together, manage a separated parenting arrangement and seem to have two relatively well balanced kids, albeit extremely busy kids! But like all of us mums who work excessive hours and manage kids, it comes at a cost and for many of us it is precious time with our kids. I know I have missed a lot of time with my children, however I do have some non-negotiables that ensure the quality is always there.

We also had to learn to work at a level of speed and precision we never imagined possible. Time management skills needed to go to another level and we had to accept that down time or rest time was a luxury that no longer existed. And if you seek this kind of time to yourself, resentment mounts. The other thing I didn’t realise is the pressure that compounds your day when your kids go to school. Suddenly you have a thousand letters to read, music lessons, extra tests, parent teacher interviews, newsletters to absorb, parenting apps, parent reps, volunteering activities, fetes and play dates to navigate. Oh, and birthday parties. Nobody prepared me for this, or the pressure of school holidays, but that’s another blog.
I have been lucky enough to integrate my work into
the kid's school so I can be more present for them in
a more creative way. 

Single mum Lisa explains her world and how it has played out now that her children are a little older:

“I learned that I cant do it all, and I was going to fail everywhere unless I reframed. I was lucky enough to buy extra annual leave for holidays for a few years – and then had one week per hols with them. That was my bargaining chip for holiday/before/after school care. And they were fine with this deal. And I gave up on giving a shit what anyone thought. 

ve worked stupid hours for so long but despite a few horrors (armed burglar in the house with my son whilst Im at work, occasionally forgetting to pick them up or where I had left them, and regularly not getting home til theyre in bed). I also found the bloody joy in watching them look after each other and learn to help me run a house.

“And all my guilt about having to juggle 80-hour weeks and single parenting whilst on a massive IT project was washed away when just weeks ago I apologised to them for my long work hours when they were little, and they both had no idea what I was talking about!! No memory of my absence!!!! This is forgiveness for sure!!!!”

Interestingly, despite discovering all of these things along the way that I had wish I had known, I can now laugh at my naivety. I also know that there is nothing you can say to a mum to be to prepare them for any of this. If a mum had tried to warn me about all of this, I would have nodded, smiled and thought to myself, “yes, but it won’t be like that for me.”

And here is one final thing nobody prepared me for – the depth of love I feel for my children. This hit me harder than anything I could have ever imagined. Every time one of my children gets on stage to dance or sing or play an instrument, or hit the sporting field to do something, I literally weep. Nothing prepared me for the fear I would feel watching one of them cross the road for the first time, or the mumma bear instinct I would experience when my child got picked on at school or how much I would miss cuddling my tiny babies now that they were bigger, despite those years being some of my hardest years. Nothing prepares you for any of this and I guess this is probably a good thing. Because had I known how hard it was going to be I would have missed out on the unconditional love I give and receive now every day from these two tiny humans.


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