Friday, 20 April 2012

Riding the work / life rollercoaster

You may remember that, right at the start of March, I wrote about how hard I was finding being a full-time working mum again.  First of all, thank you so much to everyone who commented on that post, your words really touched me.  I was - and still am - grateful for your support.

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.

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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?

8 comments:

  1. I work 4 days a week with Wednesdays off. My commute is an hour (great for reading books).  My mother lives with us to look after our boys.  I think it's a great arrangement as the boys get to know their grandmother really well and I get to get out of the house for the sake of my sanity :)  I have been doing this on and off since my fist was 6 months old (had 9 months off when we moved to the UK and 11 months off maternity leave with my 2nd)  so after 7 years we're all used to it :)   I hope you figure out your work/life balance, there's no worse feeling than to feel that you're stuck in a routine that is not suiting you at all.

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  2. Hugs x Must be very difficult dragging yourself away each day.

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  3. If you find the answer please let me know x

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  4. It is hard. I am fortunate to have an understanding boss at least

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  5. Sounds like you've found a great routine that really works for you. I hope I find one of those too soon

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  6. I could feel my heart sinking as I read your post... I started working life as a parent (I started as a parent pretty young!) so I never had the 'return to work' scenario, but balancing work and life from day one was  always a priority especially with travelling for work and doing it solo for a good while. I've exited my corporate career now and work as a coach instead - helping women figure out where to find (& how to keep) their work life balance. It'll always be a juggling act (& a shorter commute would definitely help) but this might be worth a try:
    * If you could design your ideal week (work and time with the family) what would it look like?
    * Make a list of exactly what it would take for that to happen (no matter how far fetched the ideas may sound, resist the temptation to edit yourself & just write).
    * Look back over your list and pull out the top 20% of things you think are going to make the biggest difference to your work life balance right now.
    * Take your 20% and start getting creative about how to make them happen... What could you start doing differently, who else could you ask, are there other ways to outsource something, what could you ask your boss for (& how could you pitch it so they see the win/win behind the idea?).

    Hopefully that will give you a start! There are two other things to consider - what habits or ways of doing things have you fallen into that are no longer working? Sometimes when we become working parents we attempt to continue doing it all when what's required is a spring clean to get back to what's actually necessary.. Also, you never really know what's possible with your employer until you ask. Know where you stand, be genuine, make a sound and practical case and at the least it should open up a conversation. 

    The last thing I want to say is while you're finding your balance, take heart in the fact that you are worried at all - it indicates how great a Mum you are. Guilt is such a brutal emotion and hard to tackle, sometimes it can be helpful to remember everything you get and are able to give through working (the practical and personal stuff you mentioned above). I know nothing replaces quality time with a parent, sometimes though, explaining what working brings to the house can help kids understand it a little more and soften the experience. Kids are so ridiculously smart and often very understanding... Sometimes it's good for them to see that you're working hard, trying to balance life and that you care deeply for them too. It sows the seeds early for responsible adulthood parenting. If it's any comfort, my son has grown up to be really well rounded, financially independent and a really happy young man. He has a great work ethic and values relationships and the importance of earning and saving. I've watched others grow up with more time from their parents and less smarts, so maybe we should all ease off on the guilt a little? Best of luck Laura x

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  7. Just received a check for $500.

    Sometimes people don't believe me when I tell them about how much you can get filling out paid surveys online...

    So I took a video of myself getting paid over $500 for doing paid surveys.

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I would love to hear your thoughts and views so please feel free to post a comment

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