So often, ‘get organised’ New Year prompts are about diary management – something I’m always keen to improve… I must double book myself at least once a week. The thought of returning to work and having to plan not only where I am but where Bea is on a daily basis, frankly terrifies me and so I will be fascinated by todays post and all your comments. I’d love to hear how all of you (working mum or not,) balance your life and various commitments and any pointers you have! Over to Esme…
Have you read Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please? In it she talks about how motherhood changed her and some of the things she finds hard, and she suggests a mantra for mothers to use that I really like: “Good for you, not for me”. She calls us all out for saying things that, at first, sound supportive, but are actually us being judgemental over someone else’s choices or working patterns. She tells us that we should support each others decisions, even if it’s not what we would do. Taking this advice into account, it’s difficult for me to offer advice for how to regain balance in your family life, because maybe you want to make very different decisions from me. If that is the case then I hope that you will respect my choices, just as I would respect yours.
At the beginning of 2014 I decided to set myself up as self-employed in order to stay at home as much as I could with Freddie, while still bringing in some money. “It’ll be a really good balance,” I thought to myself and told everyone who would listen, “Once I’ve got a good set of clients and regular work coming in, Freddie will go to nursery for a couple of slots a week and I’ll work around him. I’ll have time for everything!”
Best laid plans, and all that. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t get enough work, or that Freddie didn’t settle into nursery, it was that after doing a temporary freelance full-time post in an office I realised that I wanted the structure of an office job again. I was very lucky to find a part-time job somewhere I wanted to work very quickly, and, suddenly, we had a very different routine to work out. Since I went back to working structured hours, I’ve been trying to work out the conundrum of being part of a family with two working parents. The only thing I can conclude is that there are not enough hours in the day to be able to do everything you would want or even need to do. Being a working mother and the ‘issues’ and the guilt that entails is part of the struggle (but not the subject of this post, so I won’t dwell on this), but really it’s about trying to find a way not to let anything slide. It is about finding a balance, a balance that works for your family.
When I became a mother I kept trying to work out whether I’d changed or not. Was I the same person as I was before? Had this new person coming into my life dramatically altered me? I came to the conclusion (and still think this now) that being a mother simply became another part of me, an addition to what was a whole person before. But if I used up all of my time being an employee, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a blogger and a woman, how could I possibly fit in another incredibly time consuming role?
We haven’t got it all worked out. I don’t have it all, not even by a long way. But we do have something that resembles a balance that we’re happy with. The key for me has been realising that I had to find a new way of working things out, making the things that were a priority for me an actual priority. I also had to let go of spending all day with my son if I wanted to work. I will never be able to see every milestone Freddie reaches, just as I can’t be there to hear about every achievement my husband has at work. I can’t be at work for every meeting because I don’t work on Mondays and I have to leave by 4.15. I have to balance the emotions about missing out with the knowledge that me working part-time is what is best for me right now, and – by association – best for my family.
Making an effort in my marriage is important to me, so we ask friends to babysit and have even had our parents take Freddie for a night or two on more than one occasion. Having time to myself is important as well, so I say yes to meetings friends for drinks in the evening and book in the odd Esme-only Saturday morning to go shopping or just read in bed. I admit that my friendships have taken a back seat over the past almost two years, and I have to hope that those people who are true friends will understand and will still be there when I emerge from this period of having young children.
I work hard when I’m at work (and have been rewarded for it already in a small promotion in my current role), but I endeavour to always leave on time. This is partly because Tom’s job has long hours and quite a lot of travelling and so, between us, we balance the responsibility of dropping off and collecting Freddie from nursery and being the ones who see him in the morning and in the evening. Sometimes it’s both of us, sometimes it’s me every evening for two weeks. The balance isn’t always perfect, but we try. And when something goes wrong we just scramble together a temporary solution. There is usually an ‘exceptional’ day at least once a week.
This is our regular weekly routine:
Monday: My day at home with Freddie, Tom normally travels on Mondays and often leaves very early and returns late. I try not to do too many jobs around the house and concentrate on having a fun Freddie-focused day.
Tuesday – Thursday:
7.30 I leave the house and travel to work, arriving at 8.30
8:15 Tom takes Freddie to nursery and goes to work
4:15 I finish work, run to the station and travel home
5:15 I collect Freddie
5.45 Everyone is home.
Friday: Every other week Tom has Friday off and has a daddy and Freddie day, the other week my in-laws travel to look after him and Tom works a shorter day. If I have to work late, I make sure it’s on Fridays.
This year I’m going to work on being more relaxed about the routine, about finding the perfect balance. I want to say no to spending too many weekends away from home, but yes to sometimes pushing the boundaries of nap times, taking all my holiday from work to have adventures and the occasional ‘personal day’ or day with friends. Having reflected on the balance of work/family/relaxation we currently have by writing this post, I have to say that I’m proud of what we’ve achieved. Ultimately, we have a happy and healthy son who is developing well, and that is what matters. Isn’t it?
Because I’m nosey, I really want to know: how do you feel about your balance right now? Are you trying to readdress it?
Find Esme on her blog Esme Wins or on Twitter @esmewwins