One lovely commenter suggested I wait and see how I felt after 12 weeks of being back at work (at the time I had been back for five). I am now creeping toward that 12-week milestone so, how am I feeling now? A bit better but not, if that makes any sense at all.
I thought it was getting better. The regular tears have dried up for both Sophia and myself. We don’t cry any more when I leave in the morning or when we are reunited in the evening, at nearly bedtime. I stopped rushing around in the evenings trying to get everything done all at once and instead concentrated on enjoying the small amount of time I get with my children before they go to sleep. I developed some semblance of a working routine, one I could easily see myself following day after day, week after week, year after year. But here’s the rub, I don’t want this routine.
I don’t want this to be my life; to be so far away from my children five out of the seven days of the week; to only have a handful of opportunities to be with them during the week when I’m not working; to not share family mealtimes; to feel so terribly guilty if a blogging (or other) event pulls me away from my children during a weekend.
At the moment, my mother-in-law looks after my children while I work. As much as I know I’m very lucky to have this arrangement, it’s still not fair. She gets to enjoy my children for up to 11 hours a day, five days a week (depending on whether or not my husband has some time off in the week). My time with the children totals approximately 34 hours a week. With the greatest of respect to my mother-in-law, that's not right. I am so very grateful she's able to care for my children to allow me to work but I should have more time with my children, especially for family mealtimes.
And I don't think it's just me who feels this way. When I leave for work in the morning, Dexter chases after me for one last big bear hug. The looks of unadulterated joy I get from both my children when I step through the front door each evening are truly a beautiful sight to behold but they tug at my heartstrings because it suggests they've missed me.
Sophia has also taken to insisting that I stay with her while she falls asleep at night. Sometimes it's enough that I'm sitting beside her, stroking stray strands of hair from her eyes. Other nights, she will cling to my arm while she dozes to make sure I stay by her side. It's the only way she'll allow herself to drift off to the land of slumber; I suppose it's a guarantee that I'm not going anywhere. Last night, she cuddled up close, squeezed my arm and whispered, "miss you when you go to work. Miss you when I'm at Nanny's. Want you to be at home and take me to school. Want to go to sleep with you every day." My heart broke just a little when I heard that.
It all hit home for me a couple of weeks ago. I had applied for another job which, although wouldn’t have solved everything, my commute would have been less than half what it is at the moment and would that in itself would have been a big improvement. Needless to say, I didn’t get it. Unfortunately, I had been building it up in my mind since the (what I thought to be positive) interview and by the time I got the call, I was convinced the job would be the answer I was searching for. I was devastated to learn that I hadn’t been successful. I held it together while on the phone, but as soon as the telephone receiver was back in its cradle, I burst into tears. I sobbed for most of the afternoon (thank goodness I wasn’t in work!) and into the evening. My husband was worried I was having a breakdown. He empathised, he cuddled, but he admitted feeling helpless; he didn’t really know what to say or do.
Luckily, we had a little break planned and the few days away gave me a chance to breath and I felt much better. But it made me realise that, although I don’t feel like I’m drowning anymore, I do feel like I’m swimming against the tide. Trouble is, I’ve never been the strongest swimmer.
So what next? What do I do?
I mentioned in my last post on this topic that things need to change. I still believe that. But, it's no good saying it and doing nothing; things will never change that way and no-one likes a moaner. My husband and I are going to be sitting down, putting our heads together and coming up with some sort of plan to help me find that elusive work/life balance. I've said before that I want to begin setting up my own agency and work from home but my husband wants one of us to be in a salaried role (he is currently self employed and, in his line of work, that's not going to change any time soon). There has to be a compromise. We're going to try and find it. I'll let you know how we get on.
In the meantime, do you juggle work and motherhood? How do you do it? Is there such a thing as a perfect work/life balance?