At this point a week ago I was lying in my garden with my youngest relaxing across me. The sun was warm on us and it was a rare quiet moment. It was still holidays but I was preempting my return to work after 6 weeks off. I was being met with the ball of nerves in my stomach and the ongoing sick feeling.
On Monday I returned to work and it was a system shock like every year but I told myself it was ok and it was alright. On Tuesday I came home early for the little ones home visit for school which he starts next week. It wasn’t what you would want as far as home visits go, but what I expected from this strong willed boy of mine. That night he got up 3 times in the night. All because, I think, he was worrying about school. It wasn’t until 4.30 am when I stroked his hair and said you’ve got a lovely daddy day tomorro )not school) that he appeared to peacefully fall asleep. On Wednesday morning I got up and left for work again before the kids had woken. At work there was an incident that meant I had to stay late. I had to sort things for some other children. By the time I was done it was too late to get back home before bedtime started. I rang my husband to say I wasn’t sure when I’d be back. I spoke to my older kids on the phone and asked how their first day back at school had been. I listened to my husband and son telling an exciting account but the reception was breaking up.
Today I got up for work and left the house again before their get up. Today I raced home on my early finish to be greeted by my youngest. He hadn’t seen me since Tuesday bedtime. We spent the afternoon together for the last time with him as a pre-schooler.
I write this in some disbelief that within 3 days of returning to a new year at work I’m not seeing my own children for whole 36 hr periods. It’s a sad reminder of the fear I had a week ago that I was going to return to my struggle for a work life balance. And yet I think I’d carried that (false) hope that it would be better. Because you do, hope. Don’t you?
But the realist in me isn’t surprised my year has begun this way. I joked to colleagues; start as we mean to go on! But I mean it.
Our social care systems are breaking in front of my very eyes. The impact on people like me in schools is both terrifying and unsafe. The lack of resources in education means the situation is unmanageable. And I honestly can’t see light at the end of the tunnel.
I carry on doing what I can. And yes, I have this job because it’s what I’ve always been good at, passionate about. But now? I do it because I have to work and it’s paying me. I do it because if I have to be away from my children working then at least I’m helping other children.
But sacrificing the limited time I have at home with my family for this job is not what I ever signed up for. Missing out on key moments of my children because of work is not the kind of parent I want to be.
And again I turn to look at our society; the one where the social care and education systems are in such dire states. And I question how having stressed, under paid working mums is good for society. How does it add value to have parents who are not living the way they wish to, who can’t parent the way they wish to because the cost of living is so high, because renting a home for their family is untenable.
I have always worked as a Parent. I have, i think, provided my kids (daughter in particular) with the example that I work because it makes me feel good, because I will contribute just like their dad to the family and our home, because whilst I love parenting them I also love doing something else. And I showed that this worked: they had a mum who was there for them and who also happened to work.
Now I feel the message my kids are getting is mummy has to go to work even though she doesn’t want to. That mummy often won’t be around for key things or be there for them because she has a job. They see that mummy doesn’t seem to enjoy her job. What will this lead to in their futures?
I want to see a change happen. Not simply in my life but societally. I need to feel that buzz that occurred with the general election is still buzzing and that something will give that will give us all the change that’s needed.
Meanwhile my youngest will start school on Monday, which his dad will take him to. I will hopefully get home asap Monday to hear all about it.
I will carry on working because I need to, and hope for some easier days.