I thought being a mum was hard work, but being a working mum is bloody hard work!
Let me explain my situation a bit, for those who don’t know me personally. I work in education in a teaching role and term time only, so I get all the holidays off. Ted attends nursery every weekday from 8-8:30 and finishes around 4:30-5:45 depending on when I finish. Daddy plays football on saturdays and that takes up most the day, so that’s mine and Ted’s day.
The word ‘isolation’ is often associated with being a mum- especially a mother on maternity leave. I did have times when I felt isolated when on mat leave, but I fixed that by doing small things, such as making sure I left the house, even if just for a walk, everyday. Finding a routine was my way around that. Isolation is expected when you are a new mum. You are learning to cope and deal with the new stresses that mum life can bring. You are on your own a lot of the time with a little human who can’t converse or entertain. It’s something everyone is told to prepare for by attending classes, meeting other mums and touring coffee shops.
However, I’ve never heard anyone talk about the sort of isolation I’ve felt over the last 6 weeks. I’ve not met one single person whose situation is even similar to mine, and as a mum that is hard and not something I’ve experienced yet. There’s always another mum somewhere who knows how you feel, but not for me this time. It’s almost unheard of for a mum of an under 1 year old to be at work full time with nursery childcare and non-flexible hours. I don’t think anyone really relates to it, even when they try. I know I’m flying solo on this type of working mum journey, and that’s proving to be difficult.
Seeing Ted after a working day is completely wonderful. He really enjoys nursery and his happiness at seeing us each evening is the warm, fuzzy, butterfly-feel you dream of, and I get to experience it every single work day. I don’t get to sit down when I get home. Luckily, Daddy makes dinner while me and Ted play, then we eat dinner and shortly afterwards Ted has a milk feed, bath and then it’s bedtime. As soon as he is dreaming away, I’m putting the washing on, tidying up, putting things away for at least another hour before I get to sit down again. As my working day ends, my mummy chores begin.
Fortunately, I do get the holidays off, and I’m really enjoying my summer with Ted and Rob, as he also works in education and gets time off too. It’s come with its difficulties however. The mums you are friends with have their own routines now to prevent their own new-mummy-isolation, meaning they see this person on this day, and have that class on that day, and they’ve filled up their busy schedules leaving you unintentionally left out when your chance does arise to catch up. They’ve got new friends and you aren’t always ‘needed’ anymore. You get so swamped in all the things you haven’t had time to do at the weekends of a working week that you realise your to-do list is longer than you care to share. You’d also be surprised at the assumption others have that you’ve now got buckets full of money, forgetting the pricey childcare bill you’ve still got to pay for next term.
Being a working mum does not make you any less of a mum. When I’m at work, I’m still a mum. My brain is always on Ted and my drive everyday is him. I still give him my time and attention. I think there’s this sort of assumption that when you’re a working mum you are escaping your child. I’m a working mum because I cannot bare the thought of not having a career. My life doesn’t revolve around my child, it is far greater than that, and something I’m very passionate about is not losing my identity and just being ‘Ted’s mum.’ My wages pay for childcare and then I have a little bit left over, and I’m constantly told that it isn’t worth it to do that, but it’s still more than I would have if I wasn’t at work. It hurts when other mums talk about how they couldn’t possibly leave their babies, because I am constantly full of self-doubt as to whether my decision is the right one. It makes me feel like I’m abandoning my son for my own selfish reasons and everyone else is doing right by spending everyday with their child.
But you know what? It really is the right decision for me. Instead, let’s celebrate that some of us have the choice. It’s been the best thing for my family of three. I’m happier, I’m focused, and although the isolation of being a working mum has hit hard, I amaze myself constantly at how brave I’m being. Gone are the days of playing it safe and staying in my comfort zone, and I’m quite proud of myself for doing this and taking what others see as a risk. Go me!