This day hung over me like a black cloud for most of my maternity leave if I am honest. I am a worrier by nature so this new experience of going back to work, with the responsibility of a baby to add to the equation made my stomach churn….Sound’s a little drastic I know.
My plan first time round was to take the 6 months off as I believed life would pretty much be the same and it would all slot into place..I couldn’t have been more wrong. As soon as my son was born I never felt the same and found it hard to function, let alone cope with a baby! The thought of entering the world of work in a matter of months filled me with dread. It wasn’t just the changes I experienced becoming a mum, it was the thought of leaving him and even worse with someone else.
I worried about this a lot and one day came clean with my husband and presented him with my fear and anxieties. We hatched a plan, reviewed our finances and decided we could just about manage until our son was 1 and then I had to return to work….phew! I still had to go back at some point.
My increased maternity time I relished every moment. My worry and panic subsided a little as I had “time” to pick up those feelings in the future. I was not going to waste a moment!
I enjoyed every minute of my “extra” time but as we hurtled towards a few months prior to returning, those pangs of guilt, dread and panic came back again. It wasn’t going away and I had to accept it would be my turn shortly and join my peers and friends who were working and juggling their family lives. This is what other mums had warned me about. I found it really hard whichever way I dressed it up or down.
“That” day approached fast and to lessen the pain I treated myself to new work clothes – a new me. Helped a little but the reality was I didn’t want to leave him. Yes the money was a huge plus….financial independance again, holidays etc “I am giving him the best start in life” “Better to provide for a easier life than constantly worry about money”. These where the conversations I would have with myself regularly.
The day came and I thought I would never survive, but I did. Plenty of women do. It’s hard and emotional but if you are organised, have selected the best childcare which works for you, don’t beat yourself up too much and try and select the positives from the working/balancing life then you will get through it. It also made it a little easier when I had some close friends to lean on when it was all too much….
If I could get through a good week without dropping a “ball” and more importantly no sickness from nursery, including baby and I then I had succeeded! The biggest reward of picking my son up from nursery and the time we spent when I wasn’t at work was worth it…..I will never forget those cherished times of indulgence…
Oh, I remember this well….
Not long after baby number 1 was born I was already “dreading” the thought of work and quite adamant I wasn’t going back to my old job. The hours, the commute, the pressure, the “absolutely” non-flexible working policy and also the not fitting in anymore because I simply couldn’t go out and play after work – every night! This was several years ago and believe me you were expected to return quickly to the same job and carry on as if nothing had changed. Leave at 5, and you were not pulling your weight or “doing a half day”!.
It was time to move on and reinvent oneself….
Armed with super confidence (haven’t a clue were this came from) and a mission to work flexibly I re-entered the marketplace with full force and a new “identity”. Well not literally, just my bundle of joy in mind and my desire to balance the act. I charged into the City to find that job and had a list of opportunities to explore.
As I delivered presentations, sat through panel interviews I was getting closer to the “mum” subject and the questions to follow…..This was to be a challenge!
Demonstrating my skills and experience was easy but to think on my feet (erm, I am sure I left bits of brain at home!) and convince potential employers I could “juggle it all” was a real challenge. I hadn’t really considered how much my perception of work had changed and my ability to convince, reassure and demonstrate what a working mum does was pretty difficult. I hadn’t prepared for it and that awkward questions around “hours”? Back then home working was a relatively new feature in some jobs and this was to offer me the flexibility I yearned for.
Thankfully my experience assisted me well and I was offered a few of the positions but with a caveat outlining my availability as and when needed. It came with the territory.
What resonates now and didn’t then was how much my priorities had truly shifted and how I meticulously had to communicate this. Being from a sales background I leapt into my pitch with some ease, but had a steep step ahead of me to convince.
I suppose what I am trying to say is that I am sure we will all find our feet and our way but for me I hadn’t factored in that within such a short space of time I had changed and I wasn’t approaching my career the same as before….I now had to perform my working life with an added responsibility…a”baby” and if I was to keep my position and my head above water I had to start pedalling and HARD!
Single Parent……….. Double Trouble?
Being a parent is not easy. Being a single parent is twice as hard. Responsibilities, worries, bills, school runs, ballet classes, football club…. are borne by one pair of shoulders and even Mr. T couldn’t carry that burden alone.
For whatever reason or circumstance finds you in this position, it is one that is initially daunting but with a bit of support, a leap of faith and a good sense of humour, it is one that you can not only survive but embrace. You can sleep easy at night. You can still have a career. You can pay your bills.
Your life doesn’t stop; it just takes an unexpected direction that can initially throw you into unfamiliar territory with a large pinch of guilt and a sprinkle of self-doubt.
My journey began when my daughter was a baby. I have since learned through first-hand experience about everything from working tax credits to childcare, flexible working hours to making your pound go further.
From my experience, the work/home balance is a fine juggling act for every mother but once struck, it provides space, self-esteem and fulfilment as a working woman and recharged batteries, passion, excitement and fulfilment as a loving mother.
That pearl of wisdom relayed, I am no expert but knowledge is power and it goes a long way. It gave me strength to know that I wasn’t alone or some societal anomaly and that there are a lot of good organisations and websites out there (allmumkind and gingerbread to name but two) that provide practical information and support and don’t make you feel like the pip in the apple.
Over the next few months, I shall tackle a number of topics with the aim of clearing the mists of uncertainty and providing a bit of much-needed sanity. I shall be offering practical advice and support for those of you out there that need a nudge in the right direction or just want a friendly ear to listen to your problems or answer your nagging concerns. I am more than happy to answer questions or comments to my post.
Posted in Family, Guest posts, Mummy and working, Single "super" mummy | Tags: Balance, Benefits, Careers, Childcare, Employment, Financial, Flexible, Mummy, Responsibility, Single Parent, Support Network, Women, Working
A really interesting report issued by the UK Women’s Budget Group along with the Fawcett Society points out that the 2011 Budget doesn’t help those affected by public spending cuts, rising unemployment and may actually widen gender inequality.
Within this report, such findings include;
The prospect if more women than men in the UK will be unemployed if the current economic strategy continues.
The report goes on to highlight, that by removing the protections of men and women in caring responsibilities will hinder them from working.
Interestingly, the report suggests that businesses who will be set to benefit most from new tax breaks and other incentives are more often men. It is felt that schemes to support women in business are scrapped.
The acting Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, Anna Bird, rightly hits back saying “ It’s time for the government to admit there is a problem with “business as usual” and recognise that to grow, we need everyone to play their rightful part. Women play a valuable role in the economy, but we urgently need to close the gender pay gap – in the private sector this stands at 21 per cent. – broaden women’s employment options and provide more support to enable more women to start up business”