Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Lesson 5: For When You Are Ill...

I never realised how easy my pre-parental poorly days were. Obviously it is awful to be poorly at any time, but Jesus being ill whilst in charge of a baby or toddler is like a 12 hour battle of will where only the strongest survive.

When my husband and I first got together, we would ride out sick days (or more often hangover Sundays) in style by getting up late, popping out to the shop to pick up only what we most needed or craved, and taking long lazy afternoon naps on the sofa. I think I am mourning those days...

This week, hubby and I were struck with a flu-like virus. Sweaty then shivery, headaches, aches all over - the whole shebang. 'Proper Poorly' as we like to say. Our toddler, on the other hand, woke up fighting fit and fully expecting a fun-packed day of activities. Mummy and Daddy both at home on a weekday - he must have thought it was going to be a great day. And we tried. Oh how we tried...to instigate as many different activities as possible that could be supervised from either sofa. Block building, 'drawing hour' on a big plastic sheet and (let's be honest here) more episodes of Fireman Sam and Peppa Pig than would usually be allowed. Having mustered up enough energy for a 'quick' trip to the park, I ended up chasing my little sun beam from one end of the park to the other after an aeroplane flew over and he tried to run after it (to say Bye, obviously). On a normal day this would have been amusing. And cute. Today, I can assure you, it was neither of those things. I returned from our fun excursion sweaty and light headed. 

My other half looked no better after tackling the state of the house during the 30 minutes 'free time' the park excursion gave him. Before you have children, when somebody says you have half an hour 'to yourself' you simply do not prioritise having a quick sweep up and putting the bins out. But when you have kids, THE SHOW MUST GO ON - even (sob) on sick days.

If you are thinking I'm lucky to have had my hubby at home to help you would be right. He had one day off, and the truth is we were better off both being ill that day - solidarity in sickness and in parenting. It did make me count my blessings that: 

1) I am not a single parent - full respect to single parents who get through a sick day without losing the plot
2) we only have one child (and yes poorlygate has undeniably pushed back any future date that we had previously considered 'thinking about another one.') Like many days, today's conversation ended with 'definitely not broody, are you?'

Lesson 5: Being ill whilst trying to look after a young person is a brutal test of emotional and physical willpower (arguably only easier if two of you are poorly together). Have a brief fond recollection of how you used to combat sick days in style if you need to, and then face the day with as many 'rainy day' activities you can set up in the living room. Oh and never EVER allow yourself to get a hangover - that goes without saying, right? 

The Unmumsy Mum

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Lesson 4: "What have you been DOING all day?"

If you've ever been woken up first thing and thought Jesus Christ a whole day at home with the baby then you are not alone. 

I look forward to my 'days off' (ha) when I am at work, and I absolutely love trips out with my little ray of sunshine, but an entire day at home with a baby (or toddler as mine is now) is a different kettle of fish altogether. A long, frustrating, cranky and quite often boring kettle of fish. 

Yes I said boring. That doesn't mean I find my son boring - far from it, he amazes me constantly. Whole days at home just us two, however, can be a real struggle. Not exactly how I had imagined them to be.

Firstly, I had naturally assumed my 'home days' would comfortably combine both childcare and domestic chores. Cleaning, tidying, phoning the bank/insurance company/tax office, cooking batches of vegetables that will end up in the liquidiser. Whilst not an entirely foolish assumption, the logistics of actually doing anything productive when looking after a small person requires military organisation and precision (or Peppa Pig on repeat).

The problem is, you feel guilty if you don't clean up the house, but likewise feel guilty for cleaning the house when you are ultimately at home to look after your child. You also feel guilty for watching TV/bidding on bundles of baby clothes on eBay/calling a friend for a chat/reading a magazine/having a cup of tea (any activity that leaves your little one to their own devices for a minute or two). Yet inside we scream surely THESE WERE THE PERKS and feel cheated to find that actually it's not all that perky. 

If you have ever tried to phone the mortgage company with a screaming toddler hanging on to your trousers or attempted to hoover only for your offspring to deliberately crush their crackers all over the carpet, then you will understand that a day at home is stressful. I must say 'for god's sake' at least 50 times a day. Usually accompanied by a sigh.

And then there's the nap. I sometimes wonder if anybody else's entire level of success for the day is based on when and where their child chooses to have a snooze. 
The Nap
If it's at a convenient point in your day at home you can wash the dishes, get the sheets out - if he or she passes the expected half an hour you may even have time to treat yourself to This Morning with a cup of tea. Imagine! Usually, however, they nap in the car/in the pushchair at the Post Office/when the plumber has turned up/when you are expecting your Sainsbury's delivery - basically any time you are unable to take advantage of the nap. These are the naps of wasted opportunity.

In all honesty, I tend to find that the best way to survive a day at home is to GO OUT. Go to the park, feed the ducks, brave the supermarket (though probably not to do the 'Big Shop'). 
The Shop
The day goes quicker and the pair of you get less narky with each other. This does mean, however, that you may have left the breakfast dishes, neglected the washing and not phoned Direct Line so be prepared to face 'what HAVE you been doing all day?' when your other half gets home. Mine wouldn't dare - he knows he'd have to face an hour by hour breakdown of my day which let's face it is not a massively exciting account. 

Lesson 4: A day at home is not for the faint-hearted, and can go either way depending on The Nap. Probably best to get out of the house or admit defeat that you can't be a nanny, cook and cleaner all at the same time without feeling endlessly guilty. 

Unmumsy Mum

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