Friday, November 04, 2011

On being a Working Mother

Firstly the disclaimer: this is not a blog post about if you should stay at home, work outside the home  or not work outside the home or any combination of the above. This is a blog post about me. So the person who felt the need to write me a long email last time I wrote about work about how they "are living on the poverty line" and so she "can stay at home with her kids" and I am "selfish" and am "only working so I can buy expensive pairs of shoes" and that I am "making a huge mistake giving my children to someone else to raise" please don't bother writing in. 

This post was prompted by a tweet from Chrissie Swan that said "being a working mother sucks ar*e sometimes" It really does. 

So it's 140pm on Friday I should be at work.  I have no sick leave left. I have no FACS leave left ( leave you can take if your child is sick or if there is a family crisis etc) I have a chid with a suspected case of whooping cough ( currently asleep on the lounge)   I have clients who need to see more as I am going away for three weeks next week and they want an appointment before I go.  I have thankfully an incredibly understanding manager who never makes me feel bad about taking time off.  So I am home feeling guilty about cancelled appointments and letting people down. 

I feel as if I spend my life racing between home and work ( I work 3 days a week outside the home)  and constantly thinking about the other one. We all race around in the morning Busy eat your breakfast, brush your teeth, brush your hair, wipe your face, get dressed, put your shoes on, get your bag, hat ( where is it??) drink bottle (where is it??)  please get in the car, drive to daycare, stay to draw a picture  but feel incredibly stressed as each moment is ticking away meaning I will be late,  please mummy please stay for a bit, please don't go yet, just 5 more minutes, try not to speed to work, find a car space and fly into work exhausted. Client client client client, nod, nod, nod, then back in the car to drive home. Get home feel torn between needing to do etsy stuff and hanging out with Busy. Hang out with her, play a game, feed her and get ready for bed, read a story have a chat, laugh at her delaying tactics, have dinner with Chef then do etsy stuff or chat on twitter while I watch TV and hang with Chef. 

Obviously I don't do this alone and Chef is awesome he cooks dinner and picks Busy up and does more than his fair share around here. But any working parent knows when you are at work and you check your phone and see that your childs' day care has phoned there is a horrible sinking  feeling that comes over you. Because they only ring you if it's bad news. And  you ring them back heart in mouth knowing that your child is either sick or have hurt themselves but at the same time thinking - I can't come - I can't leave work again to get her. I can't let people down but also I have to be with her if she is sick as I want to cuddle and kiss her and make it all better. We have no family here. We can't ring anyone to get her for us. We can't drop her at Grandma's for the day for a play. If we need a babysitter we have to pay for one.

But the problem is I like my job.  I did a degree so I could do it and I really enjoy it. I like using that part of my brain, I like being challenged and I like being in a professional environment. I like going to work. Of course I do think about her all the time and wonder what she is doing, who she is playing with. I am lucky I have great childcare. I absolutely love the centre she is in and the staff are so great. I like the people I work with too. I like what I do. 

I also like staying at home with Busy. I like taking her to friends places to play. I like making things with her. I like getting a big pile of books and hopping into bed and reading them to her. I like hearing her sing to herself. I like being here with her. I like her ideas. 

So what do I do?? Constantly feel like I should be somewhere else? 

 I don't know the answer all I know is that sometimes it is really hard and I know I am not the only one that thinks so. 


  1. First of all, Cath, I hope gorgeous Busy gets better soon - sending her lots of get well wishes!

    I also do 3 days a week working away from home, and have been trying lately to work out if I can reduce those hours (but this comes with the complication that I may have to give up parts of the job that mean a lot to me).

    I love that I do a job that helps people, and that my girl knows about and is interested in that part of my life (even worrying about what will happen to my clients if I take a day off...), but it is hard. I also don't have any real answers, just sometimes, no matter what combination of work / parenting / home responsibilities, it is hard xo

  2. Snap! My brain is fried from juggling everything you just said and existing on a week of four hours of sleep per night. So. Who's got the answer to this one then?

  3. Sounds like two things to me. Firstly give yourself a pat on the back because you sound like an awesome loving mum. And secondly you probably really need that holiday/break. Really hope busy doesn't have whooping cough either.

  4. I don't think there is a magic answer to this one, Cath, but if there is I hope you find it. You do your best, hon, so don't be too hard on yourself. Pretty soon Busy will be past this stage. My girls only get sick (at most) once a year these days... Sorry - I'm not meaning to be glib, just saying that it's not going to be like this for long. I often find I can deal with things better if I know it has an ending. Take good care and I hope Busy's feeling better soon. Kx

  5. My answer to "So what do I do??" is a shrug. None of us have the answer to that. The ones who think they do will hopefully come to realise their answers apply only to their own lives and families.

  6. hi Cath~
    i believe* the best thing any parent (person) can be is Happy,, that is what children need the most,,happiness & happy parents.

  7. You are, most definitely, not the only one who thinks so.

    Get better soon, Busy.

  8. This is SUCH a hard one. To be BOTH a mother and an individual. I'm glad you love your job, how nourishing for you to have something that is your own. How wonderful for Busy to also have something that is her own in pre school.

    I have just enrolled my son (2.5) into pre school one day a week, i don't go to work but we need a break from each other at this point. Distance makes the heart grow fonder in this case.

    I hope you find the balance my friend.

    xo em

  9. I have no solution, nothing at all, not even a wise comment that could help you out, clear your mind and put you at ease. In all honestly I have no fucking idea what you should do.

    I love ya though and I think your a spunk! MWAH!!

  10. Oh, that sounds tough Cath. I'd suggest cloning yourself, getting up at 5am, moving to Mars and all sorts of other stuff.... but in the end, you'll need to figure it out for yourself.
    ...I know you like Busy's daycare.. but is there one within walking distance to your walk?
    ... You say you work 3days a week outside of home.. but how much do you do at home? Maybe you should limit your work at home, like you would at your workplace - put time frames in place & stick to them (treat home workplace like your external workplace), that way you'll have YOU (& Busy & Chef) time.

    But hey, I'm a new mum still trying to figure out this motherhood gig, hey, I keep forgetting to bathe poor Joe, I realised that just yesterday that he.. um... hadn't had a bath in over 10 days.. Oops. Bad me.

  11. Cuddles to your gorgeous girl (and hopes for no whooping cough)..... wish I had the answers for the working Mum gig, but I've never been able to work it out myself. Just know that you're not

  12. Oh geez, so totally with you in every respect. And I'm on kiddo number three and don't have any decent answers for it all yet. Always muddling along, trying to put more boundaries on work but also appreciating that flexibility has to work two ways... now feeling a little panicky as my youngest starts school in a year and somehow I have to make this year *perfect*... sorry no help to offer but I'm glad you posted this because it somehow helps to know the constant dilemma and guilt is shared.... Work is work, raising a family is work and as they say it's called 'work' because it's hard!

  13. Hope she feels better soon, poor thing, and poor you for getting stressed. I work 3 days a week and usually it feels like the best of both worlds but if something goes wrong there is twice as much to worry about! Good luck

  14. Yes, it is hard... I have 1 in school and 1 in childcare and I'm in the office 5 "short" days a week at a family-friendly company - there's lots of compromising though, and lots of rushing about! I would like to work less and be with the kids more - but I do love having a serious job too. I hope your daughter is OK and that you can recharge your batteries on holiday - at least on holidays there's no need for the "hurry up... " parental talks :-).

  15. I hope that Busy is feeling better soon - whooping cough does not sound like a nice thing to have.

    And I'm with you on the mother guilt associated with working and kids. I think I have a balance with 3 days at work and the rest at home with the kids but I resent those phonecalls from childcare when you're in the middle of something, and then you get home and the kids are so sick that they just crash on the couch and you could really be doing work (whilst keeping one eye on them).

    It's a dilema but like you I love my work (and I love my kids) but I find it tricky to balance the two!

  16. Nah, I have teenagers and it's still a major juggle, sorry to be the bearer of bad news...I am just better at carving out my space so I dont kill them (more likely than drugs or speeding in cars) as I dont have their basic needs to cater for...but the head games tire you and render you as gaga as the monotonous story reading, nappy changing, getting to sleep wrangling.
    Mamas have got to have head space and partners and the world have got to support mamas to have that whatever they do in their day as for sure alot of their day is thinking about what to cook for friggin dinner or that they haven't got time to get their legs waxed.
    Over and out.

  17. I really hope your lil girl gets better too

  18. For me the answer is not working. I am studying from home so am very self paced around the children.

    I still find it a juggle but there is comfort in knowing that I get to do as much as I can and not worry about the rest.

    I will have the rewarding job again when the kids go to school. This is just what works for me, but everyone has to juggle their own balls in the air and do what works for them.

    I really hope Busy is better, and that you find the balance that works for you. Sorry, I am no help, but there is no easy answer.

  19. I feel the same way a lot of the time, Cath, and I just hope that in the long run, I am setting a good example for my girls. It is important to me to go to work, use my skills that I have worked hard on and help others outside my family. My girls are now both in school and that makes things so much easier. I think the fact that we worry so much about whether we are doing the right thing, generally means we are.
    Hope Busy is okay very soon.

  20. mmm! hope she's feeling better soon.
    it's the rushing through all the steps that seems the craziest part to me!! just all sounds so familiar :)

    p.s. would love to know what childcare you use, as my sister is fairly near you {sandy beach} and hasn't found a good option yet! might be to far away, but also worth the drive {gretchenmist @ gmail . com ~ if you are happy to pass it on!}

  21. Went through the same with my 2 when they were little, was working 3 then 4 days a week when my first was 3. She got sick one day and I had to pick her up, bring her back to work (same suburb, no car) as my bastard boss insisted he needed me there. She had to lie under my desk and even threw up in the rubbish bin.
    Anyway! the point is, as Jennifer Byrne pointed out on The Project the other night, parenthood is a shared job (if you're lucky) and at no time do you hear fathers being pressured at work about their family commitments - why is that? Is it because it's assumed women still don't earn as much as men?

  22. ahhh yes - i come up against these struggles on a daily basis as well. i feel like our wholes live are deadlines, rushing to get from one place to the next, with very few moments to stop and slow down. and even more so now my partner has a ever-growing hospitality business, i'm having to do more and more of it on my own. its exhausting i spend much time worrying about if its all worth it.

    but, and in the end, my personal conclusions are that if you are in the privileged position to love what you do for work, then the satisfaction that it gives you, will actually make you a a nicer human and inturn a better mother too. i was passed on this wisdom from my own mother, who was also a working mum my whole life. she set the motherhood standard for me - although she worked, i never felt unloved or second to anything in her life. she provided for me an awesome role model as well. that's what you will be for busy cath.

    cloning oneself is also a great suggestion. cant wait until i can do that

    get well soon busy x

  23. Yep it is hard. We don't have family where we live either and like you if we need a babysitter then we have to pay for one. We couldn't think of a single person to put down as the emergency contact at daycare (other than us of course) because either our friends would have a full care with their own children or wouldn't have any car seats at all. That knowledge in itself puts a lot more pressure on the working/parenting situation I think. Stuck in traffic. Car broken down, and yes sick child... all of these scenarios are just harder and I think mentally fatiguing more than anything. The anxiety that surrounds it all. I'm not good with anxiety.
    At the end of my last full time working stint (when I was pregnant) neither myself or my partner had any sick/carers leave left! Winter + two children in child care means lots of sick kids. My boss is awesome too... and in an effort to be flexible he offered for me to work from home while kids are sick. I explained to him that that was doable if they were totally knocked out... but if they're sick and whinging then I'm just not super human enough to care for them + concentrate on the work I am suppose to be doing. I only have two arms!!!

    You're a terrific mother. This struggle won't be forever. Busy is growing all the time (*sob* - she has lost all the baby from her face just like my E) the people at your workplace won't remember that you took so much leave in another 12mnths time.... and it might very well be happening to someone else and you can give them lots of sympathetic knowing looks of encouragement to hang in there.

  24. I offer no great wisdom either, but as a fellow working mum, I just wanted to say great post. There is no one size fits all.

  25. Hope that Busy is feeling better by now.

    I consider myself blessed that I can be a stay at home mum without incurring any financial hardship.
    I didn't love my job and I am so much happier being able to craft when I find the time. It is also a damn lot easier not having to juggle an out of the home job with the at home mum one.

    Having said that, I recognised a couple of years ago that I would have been a better mum if I had gotten out of the house a little bit in the past few years. It was not about being more successful because I had a career, not about bringing more money into the household and it wasn't about being of more value to society because I was employed.

    For me, it is a recognition that I could have used that time out from the kids for my sanity and stimulation.

    To each their own. You may never feel that you have achieved the balance, Cath. No answers here. But the whole thing would be a lot easier if society as a whole was more accepting of everyone's choices and recognised the need for each of us to do what is right for us without being judged.

    Hope that things settle down soon at your end. Keep your eye on the calendar- that holiday is looking...

  26. There arena answers to these questions I'm afraid, Cath. It really does suck arse some days! I am so tired of being torn in two and never really doing a good job at either of it. Arse, I tell you!!! x

  27. Fell better soon Busy!
    And Cath, you are clearly not alone in this struggle. It's the reality for women of our generation.
    Just keep juggling and hope that you don't drop too many balls.
    Andi xx

  28. It is such a hard juggle. And you really can only do your best and cross thumbs that you'll make everyone happy. Including yourself. For what it is worth, I think you do a phenomenal job.

    Hope wee Busy is feeling much much better.


what a nice person you are- taking the time to comment in this busy hectic world...Thank you!!