Can you really have it all? The reality behind being a working mum
First of all being a mother is being a mother – working or stay at home, we are all still mums. We are all struggling (if you are not, please tell the rest of us what you are doing differently) but I wanted to set out my reasons, my experience and what MY life is like being a working mum.
I’m mum to two boys – Harry, 5 and Noah, 9 months. I also work as a Series Producer and have worked in the television industry for the past twenty years. I love my kids more than life itself (that bit goes without saying) but you know what, I also really enjoy my job. Don’t get me wrong, I know how lucky I am – I work in an industry I love, I’ve spent a long time getting to this stage in my career and I enjoy the life that it affords me. But you know what, it can be bloody hard work. There is no such thing as ‘having it all’; instead you just end up doing it all (and still feeling guilty about it). I know that I have chosen this life and others may think I have a nerve to complain, but it doesn’t always come easily.
Working mums (or at least the majority I know) feel the guilt in a major way. Just because we choose to work, doesn’t make us immune. For me, the guilt has definitely got worse. After my first baby, I went back to work and my mum looked after Harry most days. Life was relatively straightforward, I missed him but it was easier to maintain a semblance of my old self, knowing my baby was being cared for by his ever-loving granny. Fast forward five years and things are different. My mum unexpectedly passed away three years ago, Harry is now at primary school (and aftercare) and Noah goes to a (lovely) child-minder. But my guilt at not being there for them all the time has multiplied. They both have different needs and my overriding feeling that it should be me that meets them. I know they are doing well and thriving but there will always be days when they need their mum. So this is why I do the juggle – why I work through lunch to leave early to be there for pick ups, why I juggle my diary to attend school things where possible, why I prioritise family time the minute I leave the office until they are in bed (only then can I re-open the laptop).
But my decision to be a working mum was clear. Firstly, as a family, we need the money. I know that I am lucky to do a job I love, but the reality is that I need to work. As much as I would love to stay at home sometimes, we have bills to pay and mouths to feed that can’t be matched on just one salary. This is sometimes overlooked that often there isn’t a choice for working mothers. But secondly, and just as important, is that working is something that I choose to do, for me. As much as the guilt is ever present, there is also a small part of me that knows that I would miss work if it wasn’t there. There is a part of me that enjoys my work, my role, my career. I want my boys to grow up knowing that their mum worked hard for them, not only to look after them but also to inspire them for the future, to show them that with hard work you can achieve your goals.
Of course, I don’t have the balance right and for a control freak like me, that doesn’t sit easy. But I’m learning every single day. I work in an industry where no two days are the same and the juggle to keep all the plates spinning will continue. I have days where I would walk away and choose to stay with my babies and others where I wouldn’t sacrifice any of what I do – but isn’t that what life is about? We all try to do the best for our families – sometimes we get it right and other times, we do our best to navigate through the tricky waters.
SAMPLE DAY IN THE LIFE OF A WORKING MUM
3.30am – Noah needs milk
5.30am – Noah needs milk again – trying to give him water – maybe he isn’t hungry, but what if he just wants a cuddle (guilt), if I give him some milk, maybe he will go back to sleep for another hour, then I can sleep
6.30am – Alarm goes off – wakes Noah up
6.40am – Drag myself out of bed, try to shower, dress, hair, make up
7.00am – Harry wakes up, Daddy gets breakfast for Harry – use digital nanny for peace
7.10am – feed and dress Noah, get bags ready for day (find letter in bag asking for pupils to wear green – green T shirt is in wash)
7.40am – Breakfast for Noah and me (made earlier by Daddy)
8.00am – get Harry dressed for school. Relay for the tenth time this week why you need to wear a school tie, debate the merits of a wearing a vest
8.20am – spend ten minutes getting Harry to brush teeth
8.30am – pack the 7 bags (seriously, my bag, laptop bag, baby bag, school bag, homework bag, gym bag and lunchbag) into car – go back for kids
8.40am – drive to school – daily drama of trying to get space
8.55am – drop Harry off – feel the guilt as this is an after school day and he doesn’t want to go
9.00am – drive to childminders (who is amazing and a godsend with Noah)
9.10am – drop Noah off and feel enormous guilt going back to car
9.15am – start three hour drive to Inverness to attend important meeting
9.30am – sat nav estimates it is going to take 4hrs 20 due to traffic – FML!
1.00pm – arrive at meeting – late – offer apologies
1.40pm – leave meeting – debate whether to grab a sandwich but this could eat into travel time and what if I don’t get back in time?
1.41pm – the fear of being late for pick up wins – hit the road
3.00pm – STARVING……
3.15pm – pull over to petrol garage, grab a sandwich – soggy but hits the spot
5.10pm – M8 is gridlocked, not moving
5.15pm – panic setting in – text childminder to say going to be late – visualize Harry waiting at aftercare
5.20pm – starts slowly moving
5.50pm – get to Aftercare – Harry is playing happily. Guilt temporarily resolved
6.00pm – get to childminder – feel guilty again
6.05pm – get home, two hungry children – start dinner
6.30pm – sit down to dinner, forget drinks, get drinks, feed Noah and then eat cold dinner
7.00pm – do homework before it gets too late, spend ten minutes explaining why homework is a good idea and why you have to do it
7.10pm – actually start doing homework
7.13pm – get Harry a drink before doing homework
7.14pm – get Harry a snack before homework
7.15pm – watch Harry dance before he will do homework
7.18pm – lose the will to live and insist that we need to do homework now
7.40pm – start bath time – marvel over kids and how amazing they are – how much they enjoy baths, look like each other etc – feel the guilt again
8.10pm – start to settle Noah – love the cuddle time, etc. Daddy baths Harry
8.20pm – Noah falls asleep, Daddy gets Harry settled
8.30pm – open laptop to check emails and pick up on work missed travelling
9.30pm – start getting the bags ready for morning, sterilizing bottles for overnight, getting clothes ready
10.30pm – dying on feet, go to bed
10.31pm – asleep
12.00am – Noah wants milk