One Year as a Working Mum

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This time last year, Tom was 6 months old. And I was starting back at work, after 7 months of maternity leave. He had started at nursery two weeks before – one week of settling in and one week of early pick ups – and had mostly settled well, apart from a few napping issues. I was still a bit shaky about leaving him, but could see he was being well cared for.

I know it’s not the case for everyone, but I actually really enjoy being a working mum. Although I miss my boy whenever I’m away from him. I really enjoy my job. I’m extremely lucky that my circumstances worked out to allow me to come back just three days a week (job-sharing with the lady I covered when she was on maternity leave). Also…my job involves organising training courses for a building conservation charity. I get to do things like hang out at the Tower of London or Hampton Court Palace all day, calling it work. It’s not so much with the financial rewards, but the pay off in job satisfaction and life/work balance is more than worth it.

Don’t get me wrong – it hasn’t all been plain sailing. I was still breastfeeding when I went back, and pumping at work was not much fun. I sometimes have to travel around the country to run courses, which means leaving Tom overnight. And the logistics of childcare are often a bit mind boggling. As is the cost!

For the most part though, having something outside my family life gives me a lot of personal reward. It has led to a more equal parenting relationship between Mr Techno and I, as we both work and both stay home with Tom. And I’d even argue that it makes me a better mum – I don’t do well with being home full time. Being away part of the week means I am more willing to concentrate fully on Tom when we are together.

My situation wouldn’t suit everyone – I know there are lots of working mums who would rather be home with their babies. And plenty of stay at home mums who get lots of satisfaction from being there for their kids full time. But for me, this seems to be a good balance.

In Search of Work Life Balance

Before Christmas, we were in a great routine. I was working three days a week, Tom was happy at nursery two days a week, and we had worked out a daily schedule of naps, meals and outdoor play. Plus a family day once a week.

The new year has brought huge change. I’ve taken a second job, bringing me up to four days a week of work. And so Tom is now at nursery three days a week and has also started nature club once a week. Mr Techno has just taken a new job, involving a restaurant opening, so is home less and stressed more. And in the midst of all this, Tom has dropped one of his naps (perversely he has dropped the afternoon one instead of the morning one that we were expecting).

Unsurprisingly, all this is having an impact on our outdoor time. Before, I was home with Tom four days a week. We tended to get out twice a day – a short trip after Tom’s morning nap and a longer trip after his afternoon nap. Now…we still walk to nursery and back on the days he goes. Whatever the weather. But both of us are adapting to the longer working weeks, so we haven’t been stopping off in the park for play on the way back  – Tom is almost always asleep in the buggy.

We also get out every day when I am home. But because Tom is taking one very long nap in the mornings (9.30-12.30 most days), we tend to stay in until after lunch and just do one longer trip out in the afternoons. And because we have fewer days together and almost never see Mr Techno for a full day, we have been mostly sticking to our usual parks and the Marshes, rather than heading further afield.

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I like the new job. It’s interesting and I can see ways I can make a difference. But balancing two jobs is difficult. Especially since both involve running events. Just looking at my calendar for this year scares me. 

I know we will find a new routine.  It will come with time. But it has been a real learning curve the last few weeks and I find myself missing our easy, lazy days. Much as I don’t want to wish my life away…is there someway to skip this transition phase and move right to the time when all this feels comfortable and everyday? Because I am more than ready to get there!

The Morning Drop-Off

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Now that I’m up to four days of work a week, the nursery drop off has become a more regular occurrence. And it is fair to say it doesn’t always go smoothly! However, it is such a part of our daily routine that I’d feel I was missing something important if I didn’t include an example in this blog!

This is not necessarily an average day – there were more tears than usual. But no day is completely without hiccups. Here is how our morning went:

6.30 – Lumie Bodyclock alarm goes off. Mute and turn off light.

6.35 – Phone alarm goes off. Mute.

6.40 – Tom wakes up and starts babbling over monitor. Turn off monitor, get up and go to bathroom.

6.45 – Kitchen. Put together breakfast for Tom and I, then go to get him up. Big smile from Tom, who hands me his blanket for safe keeping. Go sit down for breakfast.

6.50 – Tom wants another weetabix. Stop eating own breakfast and get him one.

6.55 – Tom wants another weetabix. No. Stop eating own breakfast and get his vitamins.

6.56 – Tom takes vitamins, then throws spoon on the floor and asks to get down. Stop eating own breakfast and let him out of the high chair. Tuck him up on the sofa under a blanket, as it is cold in the flat this morning. Hand him an old remote to play with.

6.57 – Finally finished eating own breakfast. Mr Techno gets up and starts running a bath. Can he brush Tom’s teeth first? Yes. Significantly less crying than when I do it. Mr Techno is now on teeth brushing duty for the rest of Tom’s life. Get self dressed in clothes I laid out yesterday evening.

6.58 – Pour leftover coffee from yesterday in a pan and put on stove to warm up. Get last bits together ready to go to Suffolk this evening.

6.59 – Tom toddles back into kitchen just as I pour coffee and immediately tries to grab my cup. No. He can have his water cup instead.

7.00 – Tom doesn’t want his water cup. He wants my coffee cup. No. Because it’s mine. Daddy can’t have it either. Tom is unconvinced by this argument.

7.02 – Tom gives me a book to read him. No. We don’t have time. Sit down on the sofa and read it to him anyway, sneaking sips of coffee in between pages.

7.05 – Time to get Tom dressed. Tom doesn’t want to get dressed. He wants to play with his stacking cups. Arrange stacking cups on coffee table (which is now the change table) and manage to get him mostly dressed whilst he plays with them.

7.10 – Tom is bored of stacking cups. He wants to go in his blanket fort. No. I can’t get him dressed in there. Make him sit on my lap to finish getting dressed. Cue tears, struggling and attempts to run away.

7.25 – Tom now dressed. Time to put his coat on. Tom sees the coat and runs off to find daddy. Fine; I need to talk to him too.

7.26 – Mr Techno puts Tom’s coat on, whilst we agree on arrangements for getting to Suffolk this evening. Mr Techno will either pick Tom and I up from nursery or meet us at the flat, depending on what time he gets home.

7.28 – Ready to go. Grab handbag, lunch and change bag, all of which were packed yesterday evening. Open stair gate.

7.29 – Tom refuses to go downstairs by himself, a trick he mastered months ago. Attempt to help get him started, but have to put down bags in the process. Bags fall down stairs. Contents of handbag now all over hallway floor. Say some very bad words under my breath, pick Tom up and carry him down. Tom grabs a handful of my hair and pulls. No patience left. Yell at him ‘LET GO’. Mr Techno appears at top of stairs to find out why I am yelling. This does nothing for my mood.

7.30 – Forgot to set up buggy before bringing Tom down. Do it now whilst Tom throws all my shoes on the floor. Pick up contents of handbag and pack bags into bottom of buggy. Put Tom in buggy and put hat on him. Mr Techno can pick up shoes.

7.32 – Leave house, 10 minutes late. Tom immediately takes his hat off and throws it on the ground. Pick up hat and try to put it back on. Tom starts crying. Give up on hat and hand him his sock comforter. Start walking.

7.35 – Tom throws sock on ground. Pick it up. He wants it back. Give it back to him. He throws it on the ground again. Sock is confiscated.

7.40 – Halfway through park, Tom starts whining. Does he want sock? No. Is he cold? Won’t wear hat or gloves. Give up and walk on.

7.45 – Realise I am doing very angry marching. Stop. Take many deep breaths. Look down into woodland. Try to remember how lucky I am. Say to Tom ‘I am having a bad day today’. Tom seems to agree.

7.50 – Resume walking and reach the end of the park. Still in a bad mood, but feeling a little calmer. Tom settles down to watch the cars whizz past on the road.

8.05 – Finally arrive at nursery. Somehow only 5 minutes late (due to angry marching). Tom greets his key person with a huge smile. Kiss him goodbye, put buggy in store and head for tube station.

8.15 – Feeling oddly light. Oh. Have left handbag at nursery. Run back. Get laughed at by staff as it is the second time this week.

08.25 – Get on tube. Oddly empty. Where is everyone?

08.40 – Get off tube and walk to work.

08.45 – Made it! Have big cup of coffee and a piece of shortbread to celebrate.

A New Challenge

As I mentioned in my New Year’s post, I am taking on a new challenge this year – a new job. Or, more accurately, an additional job.

When I went back to work, when Tom was 6 months old, I went back to essentially the role I had been doing before he was born. But I had a new job title and a slightly adjusted role profile. This is because my original appointment was actually as a year-long maternity cover and I found out I was pregnant about 7 months in (proof, should you need it, that the rhythm method does not work). So the lady I was covering and I decided to split the role between us when I returned, each doing three days a week.

This has worked well up until now. But back in September, shortly before beginning jury service, I saw an advert for a job doing a very similar role, for a complementary organisation, for just one day a week. I had a chat with Mr Techno and we agreed that I should apply. I was interviewed in October and was actually given the job a few weeks later. Various scheduling difficulties have delayed my start date, but I’m now due to start next week.

To be honest, I have slightly mixed feelings – the role itself is similar to what I do currently, and the organisation is very interesting. I work in the heritage sector, which is not exactly well paid, so the decision to take the role was less about finances and more about career development. But it will mean an extra day at nursery for Tom, taking him up to 3 days a week. He’ll still be at home more than half the week, but only 3 of those will be with me. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m lucky to have that much time – so many parents have to work full time. And now that Tom is older we hope he will be getting more from the nursery experience than when he first started.

Of course, this will impact on our outdoor time – we’ll continue to walk to and from nursery on the days I work, but it doesn’t leave much time for more imaginative adventures, especially with the dark evenings. Having said that, Tom has now dropped his morning nap, so we have more time on the days we are home to explore new places.

Anyway it will be interesting to see how it all works out. I am excited and nervous in almost equal measures at the moment – waiting for our new routine to start is almost worse than making it work will be.

I just have one question remaining. When the hell am I going to find time to do all the washing?