I am a working mum.
Over this lovely festive period I was sat on the sofa in my parents house and my middle child was sat next to me. Something amusing happened, I can’t recall but I must have laughed out loud. My son said “Mummy, I never hear you laugh”. It was a proper stab to my heart moment and I welled up. It still hurts thinking about it. I recall, in my shock, I started to explain myself to him and my reason was along the lines of “well, I work, and its tiring and now I’m on holiday so I’m feeling relaxed and so I’m happy”.
WTF?! Is this really true? that working means I am so tired, distracted, busy that I have lost any sense of fun, silliness and laughter. That’s really sad. And not ok.
I am a working mum. Let me elaborate because there’s many variations.I am paid to work 33 hours a week, term time only.
I do get the benefits of the school holidays, blissful time with children every 7 weeks and no concerns with childcare when they are off school.
But I leave the house every day at 7am and do not get to prepare my kids for their day, I do not take them to school or Nursery, go to assemblies, dress them up for special occasions, decide if they are well enough when poorly, for school.
I do, by working only 33 hours get some flexibility in my week and have two days where I finish early so that I can collect my youngest from nursery, be his mummy and then see the big 2 when their day ends.
But this is only 2 days a week that I get to be mummy and collect from school or clubs, chat about what they’ve been up to before they sink into a tv coma (the state they are often in when I get home), feed them snacks and see other parents (my friends).
I do get the weekends with my children, pure family time without fail.
But working every day can leave me mentally tired and I often crave some time to recuperate but feel insanely guilty for even having that thought and then take this stressful overthinking out on the children. Cue more mum guilt for being shitty. Or I bring work home for the weekend.
I do get to be part of the adult world at work; chatting and making friends, having ideas, using my intellect, and being ‘Me’.
But this brings with it levels of responsibility and stress that is hard to carry and that doesn’t automatically go away when I return home to be mum. Working alongside child free adults or whose kids are older can leave me feeling misunderstood and like the odd one out at work. All of which adds to the overwhelming feeling that I don’t know who the real ‘Me’ is anymore.
I go to work in a permanent job and get paid a wage that I can rely on. So many don’t have this.
But it is not enough for us to live on (the holidays are great but I’m not paid for them). So we live with the daily worry that money won’t stretch to the costs of our family of 5.
I think that many who meet me believe that I have chosen my full time work set up.
When our family set up changed; my husband I and swapping roles (for many reasons) I genuinely believed that I would be ok. I was passionate that a child needs a parent at home when little but that it didn’t matter who, and this is true. Our youngest has flourished with his dad as his main carer and I think its wonderful that he’s had so much male influence from the start. But my god, its been soooooooooo bloody hard!
For the first year I found it physically painful to her about my children’s days, activities, milestones. It hurt my heart.
Whilst I thought that I’d more or less got over this pain (3 years in) I’m beginning to realise I’ve simply made my life all about trying to make up for it. My son’s comment made me evaluate me and how I am these days. I know that we are all more relaxed when on a break but I can see that during term time I really am not a happy mummy. I’m tired and distracted because I’m obsessively finding ways in my week to be mummy, to make myself feel better. This invariably means rushing around and overdoing in order to have it all. I will speed across town from work in my car (never sensible) in order to get to swimming lessons to watch, though I don’t need to, because there dad is with them. Bringing work home in order to complete it so that I will get out of work on time the next day to do my precious pick up from nursery even though that means my family time at weekends see’s me working and not playing? (writing this makes me see the craziness of these decisions).
So what do I do? I do not want to be the mummy who doesn’t laugh or the wife who doesn’t smile or the friend who is never available. I do not want to feel that to succeed at work I must fail as mum. That’s not fair, on me or my children.
As part of this working mum life I question who ‘Me’is now. I also need to create a work/life balance. I can’t work less so I’m trying to fit in more non-work stuff .
I joined an R n B choir. I love it. I meet other adults; people I’m not linked to through parenting or work. We collaborate, we perform occasionally and singing is just good for the soul.
I took up running and plan to return after this holiday. Running offers me time away from everything, music on, and no one to talk to, its mentally freeing.The endorphins of course help my mental health and its feel so good to reclaim my body post 10 years of rearing children.
For the whole duration of my full time working life I have spent my Tuesday evenings stitching and bitching. I have 3 wonderful mum friends (the kind of mum friends who are my friends because we love each other and not because our kids get on) and we get together every week to ‘sew’ which sometimes see’s us creating, sometimes mending and sometimes drinking wine. For me, this time with these women has been life saving. Thank you Beauties.
And writing. Its an outlet for me and something that pre-children I did without thought and that got put on the back burner. Letting myself put my thoughts down somewhere, making them become something helps me to figure out ‘Me’.
By doing all this I think that I’m learning to let some stuff go, to be a little more open about not coping, to say to my husband ‘Help!’ and allowing him to be the supportive husband he can be. I think I’m doing my best to have it all even if having it all wasn’t my ideal.
I am a working mum who’s working hard to be (a good) mum. A mum who need’s to laugh more, with my children. And not just in the holidays. I’m gonna work on that this year.