On the eve of returning to work after 9 months of maternity leave I reflect on the never-ending debate of what is the best work/life balance scenario for parents?
With my first child I returned to work after 6 months (just when I was starting to get hold of the baby routine malarkey) and worked 10 – 4 weekdays. I then got a bit carried away with my new found freedom and within a few months my daughter was with my child-minder even longer as I tagged on a quick horse-ride before work. I was racing around like a blue-arsed fly and my daughter was on a production line. Getting her out of her cot and delivered to the child-minder’s in the quickest amount of time and then dinner and cot at the end of the day. At the very beginning I couldn’t face giving her breakfast as well before we left so I used to give the breakfast to the child-minder (she had obviously had her bed-time milk she wasn’t completely starved).
As I got more used to having someone else look after my child, I found my daughter ended up having all three meals at the childminders – her home wasn’t even a bed and breakfast – just a bed. I soon realised my mistake. I was trying to return my life back to what it was before I had children. I was attempting to fit in everything I used to be able to fit into a day even though I now had a very important person in tow. To be fair I was in my mid twenties so having a child was a bit of a shock to the system. Thankfully by the time my daughter was 18 months I had an opportunity to dump work completely and I gladly did so.
As this was the first time in my life that I had been at home full-time (I went straight from uni to work) I completely freaked out at the prospect. As the final day at work approached I booked my daughter on a zillion different activities convinced that we would both be bored out of our minds. After 2 weeks of shoe-horning meals around activities and trips out and stressing myself out over where we were meant to be at a certain time I realised that time on your hands was there to be enjoyed, not disposed of. All I was doing was making home-life stressful and what was the point in that. So I promptly cancelled all our commitments and just stuck to one dip in the pool and a trip to the local toddler group each week. After a few months of being at home full-time I realised I was in heaven – it was fab.
I have been kicking myself ever since that I rushed back to work too quick and that I missed out on the life I could have had full-time with my daughter in her early months. She had the most lovely child-minder, who I am still friends with now, but I could have tried harder at the full-time Mum route than defaulting to the life I knew before I got pregnant.
I now see friends and family of mine making the same mistake. Age has nothing to do with it. I have a friend in her thirties who is a first-time Mum and is now back at work pretty much full-time admitting that parenting does not come naturally to her – she just hasn’t given it time, just like me. My sister-in-law, in her forties, is also working ridiculous hours in the city while her 15 month old is with a nanny and is now expecting child number 2 and intends to keep working afterwards – absolutely crazy.
Its cheesy but we have all been given the most precious moment in life, that of becoming a parent, yet so many of us hand that over to someone else when it all gets too monotonous.
I have a friend who has had 10 IVF attempts yet still can’t conceive.
I have a friend who lost her eldest son when he was about to go to university.
This time round I am going to work 2 and a half days a week just to keep a salary ticking over. The rest of the time it is just me, my son and my daughter – no checking of the blackberry, glancing at emails. Your life and their life is too fucking short.
Sorry about the language that crops up in this blog every now and again but I speak from the heart and swear words just do it.
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Thanks for reading.