Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Lesson 3: You Can't Have It All

At 8 months pregnant I was struggling to get in and out of my black BMW (the company car) without making unattractive heaving noises so with some reservation I opted instead to drive the maroon, less-guts-than-a-Kenyan-athlete Ford Focus (our 'family car' purchase) to and from work. I think this was a sign of my life to come - it was the first point at which all sense of style had to be sacrificed and my single short-term aim in life was to be comfy. The second sign was the fact that the first thing I did when I got home from work every day was to change into my husband's casual clothes to 'get settled' for the evening. The writing was on the wall. 

So long, Brucie BMW. It's been emotional.
Maternity leave, I thought, was a practical chapter where mother would bond with baby, establish the routine, before returning to work.

How massively misguided I was.

I had fully expected to return to my career in finance - full time, possibly four days - slotting straight back in to the job I had worked very hard at. I held this assumption for a good four, maybe five months, before I was all-consumed with the following realisation: I would never match up to my pre-pregnant working self. I simply had not thought it through.

Sure there are women who return to their pre-prgenant positions, fitting back in and re-joining their climb on the career ladder. I have nothing but respect (and a little jealousy) for these women. The trouble is, for most of us, something has to give. I had become accustomed to working late and logging on at weekends in the name of exceeding sales targets. I loved and hated the pressure of my job all at the same time and the reality is I chose to work myself to the bone - I thrived on it. But nowhere in this employment picture is there a 5pm teatime routine to get back for or frequent last minute meeting cancellations due to childcare issues - having a baby is so uncorporate. I could have gone back, I could have given it my 'best shot', but it would have been the best shot possible as a Mum, not the shot I knew I was capable of.

In the end I cut my maternity leave short at 6 months and returned to the world of work to take up a new role outside of the financial sector altogether. Similar rate of pay, dramtically less benefits, but it was a part-time job. Three days a week. The holy grail for working mothers.   
My new business partner
Part-time work, I was told, would be the best of both worlds. And 10 months later I still maintain it is probably the most favourable option. You have a couple of days at home to enjoy motherhood, and a few days at work to be something other than a mother. Don't get me wrong, I understand why some mums choose full-time motherhood. It's just personally, if I am to maintain any level of sanity, I need to get out of the Mum Bubble for half of my week.

So now I have it all, right? The best of both worlds? Well not exactly. Career-wise I've taken a step back from my pursuit of promotion, and home-wise I still feel some guilt when passing my child over to somebody else three days out of five. I don't do either job at full capacity but I am at least doing both.

Lesson 3: When maternity leave ends you can't have it all. Perhaps we should stop striving for the best of both worlds and settle for a bit of both worlds instead. 

The Unmumsy Mum











14 comments:

  1. It's so hard, the is a lot of pressure on us all as mothers to do the right thing. However, the right thing is different from one person to the next.. I am due to go back to work, to a job that has any prospects right now for me but I have to go back but I don't want to... But as you say, it is the best of both worlds as we wouldn't be able to afford to take the kids to different places or do certain things if I didn't. Great blog post :)

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    1. Thank you Daft Mamma - it sure is a never ending predicament! Good luck with going back :-)

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  2. It's so hard getting it right.
    My two are four and nearly two years old and up until a month ago I was a working mum. I am now a stay-at-home mum three days a week and I work at trying to set myself up as a freelancer two days. While I was working I longed to be home with my kids more and now I'm home I sometimes wonder if that was the right choice. Not sure I'll ever be satisfied with the choices I make!
    At the end of the day, we all do what we feel is best for our families :)

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    1. Very true. I think about working when at home and being at home when I'm at work. Always dabbling in both jobs! Thanks for reading :-)

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  3. I think 'having it all' is a complete fantasy. We should all strive to find what works for us, whether that's full time work or full time motherhood or something in between. And we should try our hardest to be supportive of other parents, non judgmental of other's choices and let go of the guilt we feel over finding a balance.
    #BYOB

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    1. Completely agree. We should be more honest with eachother that you can't have the best of all worlds. Thank you for reading #BYOB

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  4. Beautiful :) Always struggling to get it right here too! Well said x #byob

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  5. I worked full time for a year after my first & moved to part time supply shortly after my 2nd & it was absolutely the right thing to do for my family. I still get to do my job but with no pressure or commitment & I get plenty of time to be Mummy. Its a win win here. The only thing I've 'lost' is my pension x

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  6. Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all people you actually recognize what you are talking about! Bookmarked. Kindly also discuss with my website.
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  7. Hi there, just found this by following a RT on Twitter. I pretty much made the same choice as you and have settled for a bit of both worlds by working 3 days a week. This post sums it all up so well and it's so nice to read about someone whose experience of working motherhood is pretty similar to my own. I hope it's all still working out.

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    1. Hi thanks for reading :-) I am still dabbling in a bit of both worlds by working 3 days the same as you. Sometimes I wish I could work full time and 'climb the ladder' and other times I wish I didn't have to work at all - so we must have got it right by having a balance. Appreciate the comment, thanks.

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  8. Very well put and, as you say, the 'right' solution is very much a personal choice - and even then is frequently far from guilt-free. My wife also went back three days a week after each of our three kids - she stayed with the same company, but took a less senior (and more flexible role). Even then, she still works a lot of evenings just to keep up. I think you've taken the most important first step, though, which is to recognise that life cannot be the same. After that, it's a case of ensuring exactly what the must-haves are in both halves of your life - balance is everything.

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  9. It is such an individual decision to make for each mother. I knew that I did not want to go back to work after my 1st was born. I just felt that there was nowhere else I would rather be than home. I still felt the same when my 2nd came along. But I had a good friend who just did not feel that way. She wanted to continue to climb the career ladder. So I would care for her son on school holidays and half terms etc for free to give her a bit of support in her choice. I was at home with a child the same age as her son and I was home because I wanted to be, so why not help? She spent the first year buying me gifts and gift vouchers which I really appreciated but which were totally unnecessary, as payment. Now our boys are older and good mates and I'm glad both she and I got to do what we wanted in those early years. She is a great mum, so am I, we are just different.

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