Saturday, 4 February 2012

Working. And What Does This Mean?

I've been giving it much consideration lately - I was formerly a stay at home mum (SAHM) - and found it immensely tiring, but in the same breath - immensely satisfying. You got to see the outcome of what you put in, and, for me, that was my proudest achievement. Daily you reaped rewards in the form of sticky cuddles, sloppy, wet kisses, and the pinnacle of parenting - high-fiving after mastering potty training. It was full of daily simple pleasures, and sometimes it was mundane, but mostly it was full to the brim of a gentle kind of happiness.

When Matt and I decided to switch things around so he could finish his studies, I returned to the paid workforce. I had been freelancing for five years, which was getting more and more tricky with two small kids, but it had its rewards too. But it was inconsistent, so I started looking around.

I went back to the coalface, working 4 days a week, and have been there now for 18 months. It's not been an easy transition either. I am riddled by mother's guilt. I always feel like I am missing out. I always feel like my kids are missing out on their mama.

Work is satisfying and exciting, and of course there's the thrill of hitting targets and weekly wins, I get to utilise my years of experience, but it's definitely not the same as parenting.

Sure there are tantrums. Arguments. Petty office politics. But on the flipside, I do get to go to the toilet cubicle solo.

I race hither and thither so I can be doing my job to the best of my abilities, and race home so I can spend as much time as possible with my smalls.

And recently, it made me think:

What do other mums think?

Is it more important to work in a job that stretches your brain (in a good way), and let's you blossom professionally?


Is it more important to have a flexible job?


Is it possible to have both? Or is brain-stretching distinctly separate to flexibility?

I'm undecided.

PS - I don't know why I felt the need to post a picture of Tootsie. I just did. I love Tootsie. I just can't even rationalise why I put that picture there.


Jasmine said...

When we decided it was time for a baby we saved enough money to cover what I earnt for a year so we wouldn't stress about money. We only ended up spending half of it so when we have our next baby we still have that as our safety net.
I went back to work a year after I left but only work one day a week because we don't want to use childcare if we don't have to. My job is quite inane, so not much brain stretching happening and there's not much chance for advancement but I so don't want to advance.
I'm hoping we'll be ok so I don't have to work more til the next baby is in school. I love being a stay at home mum. I love watching all of the new things she's learnt and all her little ways. I think I would really be sad to miss it.

Sorry for the long reply! The price I pay is the lack of being social and tend to waffle! haha

Norbyah said...

i don't know if i have the answer, but i do know that even when i'm most stressed by work or home, i couldn't imagine things differently. i am a school teacher, which i think is probably one of the best jobs for parenthood. no super late hours at the office, holidays with kids, etc. but it's not without it's challenges either. sometimes i find that the patience it takes at school with my students saps any remaining patience i'll need at home with my three kids. and i feel bad that my kiddos get the short end of the stick. and, as you mention, there's the mother's guilt. it never goes away. i do think it's possible to have both a brain stretching job and a satisfying existence at home, but maybe i'm just hoping that. i don't have much of a brain left by the end of the day anyhow....

in any case, it's important to reflect on from time to time, isn't it?

Accidental Lentil... said...

I have a nearly one year old and for the last couple of months I have found thoughts of work creeping into my mind.

It's hard - there is no childcare available in the town we're in (Alice Springs). Even the waiting lists are closed for six months.

I doing teeny bits of freelancing (i'm a journo) and even that is hard to do (it's hard to write a feature article in ten minute blocks).

On my worst days (i.e. when she just.won't.sleep and is grumpy bum) I think I really want to be back at work. But I know I would feel that guilt big time, and I would also be mega jealous of whoever got to hang out with my bub all day and get all those cheeky smiles.

I think you're doing really well, and it's great to read some honesty on the topic.


Accidental Lentil... said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DearHelenHartman said...

I love the pic of Tootsie - the ultimate working woman! I had the best of it all, working at home as a writer as my kids grew up. Plenty of guilt there too as I dragged them to bookstores and libraries in the summer when they wanted to do other things. And worry that if I had had a steady career I might have earned more, saved more, had more security.
Now making a living as an author is not so easy and I have a real job - flexible but not creative with no room to grow or get a raise or anything.

That's to say, you do your best and don't let yourself get too bogged down, things will change before you know it.

Opportunity Knocks said...

Again I feel the need to comment. I have a three year old and a five month old. I recently went to work full time, and my husband did also. Not a day goes by without me feeling the guilt of a mother, but, I enjoy working amongst people again. My daughter is being looked after by my sister in law, and I couldn't have imagined someone more nurturing to care for my darling. My son is in daycare, and LOVES it. But still the guilt.
Anyhoo, I suspect guilt is a natural part of parenting, and the age old adage that it takes a village to raise a child runs through my mind constantly. I feel lucky to have two incredibly kind and adaptive children, and each second I spend with them I couldn't be happier.
There is no right answer I suspect apart from following your instincts.

AmeliaDraws said... A friends raw, honest thoughts and feelings on the subject.

and goodluck to every balance trying to relax into their family's balance


AmeliaDraws said...

i meant every parent: erggghhhh preganant brain

Luna Landing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luna Landing said...

Great post. Always good to hear honest heartfelt opinions on this topic. I was home with my two children for 11 years (they are five years apart) and then returned to part time study. As I have a chronic illness I'm pretty unemployable so in one way I had no choice but to stay at home all that time. i often wonder what it would have been like if i was well - would I have rushed back to work after a couple of years? One year? At times I wish I could've. Despite the divinely lovely aspects of mothering at home by the end of 11 years I was at the end of my tether - felt I had lost my sense of self and was invisible out n the real world where what mattered most was what you did for a living -ie how you earned money. Also - the constant food preparation arrrggggg! I came alive again with study, getting validation, recognition and kudos in the adult world but I still think about the whole thing a lot. For example what choices I would've made if I'd had the option to work and how that might have turned out for the family (more money!!!!) - would my kids have been better or worse off? Would I have been happier/ a better mother?. I guess every mother just makes the best decisions she can within the options available.
Dont think that answered any of your questions but thanks for letting me rant a little here in your space!!
Luna X.

Mrs Smith said...

Screw the guilt. It's getting us nowhere.

Lady Moss said...

I think it's important to do what makes you happy with the constraints of your finances. It's impossible to please everyone all of the time. I'm a SAHM but get jealous of my friends who work part time using their creative brains, hanging out with other intelligent adult and wearing high heels oh my!! But I know that for me any money I earns would all go in childcare anyway and that I don't cope we'll with chaos so is it a case of grass is greener I don't know? The only thing I know for sure is that I spend zero time caring what other mothers think of me or worrying about judgement. You are always doing the right thing by your kids even though sometimes it might not feel like it. I hate that I get tired of them and feel like a terrible mother because I loose patience after 7 days a week with them but it is what it is and I can only be happy with what I have and no more :) xLM

Retro Age Vintage Fabrics said...

Gosh - talk about meant to be...I read your blog and then I went here!

Mama Mash said...

This is something I struggle with on a daily basis... I was SAHM until Harper turned 1... he then stayed at my parents while I worked 2 days a week, this I was okay with as my job was flexible and I enjoyed to some extent working there... Unfortunately the business went belly up and I was forced to find work elsewhere. I pretty much had to find something and find it quick as we had just bought a house and now had a mortgage... I started working 4 days a week and was completely miserable and missed my baby more than anything. I dropped a day at my new job but to be honest I wish more than anything that I could be at home with him...

Mama Mogantosh said...

I do love Mrs Smith up there, and I agree wholeheartedly Lex: screw the guilt. I have been at home for five years now, doing some part-time writing but not winning much of the bread. I find it really useful to think of it as a job - with great parts and shit parts; stuff I do really well and stuff that I suck at. The pay is crap and the sick leave is really abysmal but other than that it is a really great job.

Sometimes I gthink that the payoff lies in different ways. Working mums have it a lot tougher in the early years I think. All the loving and teaching and housework and everything else still has to happen, but just squeezed in the hours that are left. A stay-at-home mum has more freedom to be crap, because we have more time tp spend, even gthough the relentlessness of never having a break from the family can do your head in.

But once the kids are school-age and a stay-at-0home mama is looking at going back to work, that's when the ground will shift. If you've been off the scene for years, how and where are you going to slot back in? Some are lucky, some have kept a hand in somehow, or can retrain, but many have downgrded themselves irreparably in terms of employment bu taking so much time out of the 'real' workforce.

And worst of all, that shitty position for women that stay at home while their partner works, and then their relationship breaks up.

But if you've been working throughout, you've done it exhaustingly tough but maybe the payoff is there when the kids are a little older, domestic life is easier, but your career has stayed on track.

There are goods and bads, as Ivy would say.

Gosh. Essay much? Hope this made sense.Can't read over. xx

Belinda said...

It's a tough one, our esteemed and elegant Governor recently said women can have it all but not all at once, and frankly i think that's probably about on the money. I am challenged in a similar way and my current way of thinking (this week anyway) is on balance flexibility has to be the key for now with kids as little as ours.. I am hoping at as the kids get older and both are at school that it will all get a bit easier. Hopefully hanging on til then will be worth it...

Tricia said...

My mind wanders in similar directions all the time.

I've come to the conclusion that there will be phases in my life where career is super important and other times when flexibility is more important.

I recently managed to score 3 days a week working from home in a job that is also stimulating. I thought I had found the ideal scenario. But nothings ideal - everything has its compromises.

I do believe its important for my daughter to see me in a job that I enjoy and am passionate about.

Linda said...

I haven't read your blog for a while, so catching up! I found this post at an opportune time. I'm due to return to work part time in two weeks time. I'm lucky enough that my husband will also work part time so we can make enough money, and not put our kids into care. But the guilt is still getting to me. This morning I was happy working three days a week, then I changed my mind to taking another year off (not that we can afford it!) and now I'm convinced that I will just work two days, for balance. This is the third time I will return after baby, and it doesn't get any easier, but I think that I'm lucky to have options, even if I still feel guilty!