What’s it really like to do it all?
It’s hard work. It’s guilt inducing. It’s never sleeping properly unmedicated because your brain can’t shut off from everything you’ve forgotten to do. It’s an open door to negativity. It’s leaving an open goal for judgement. It’s failing at everything at some point. It’s a slog. A long, hard, tedious, never ending slog.
But? It’s also the best of all words. Whilst being the best of none.
Going back to work as a mother of two young children was a daunting task. What at times seemed insurmountable. Getting a job after 6 years of being out of work, with only 3 years valid experience before that break. Working out how childcare was going to happen. What would happen if one of the children was ill. How I’d find the time to fit in everything. How the home was going to run smoothly. How would I cope with leaving the children. How would they cope with suddenly not having me there all the time. How would it still be possible to maintain a happy relationship with us both working full time. How to afford to work and pay for childcare.
And all that without taking into account completing a degree that I desperately want. And my well documented mental health problems.
At times it felt like it just wouldn’t be worth it. And when I have to leave my daughter when she’s vomiting into the toilet, it still seems like that. Handing the reigns to my husband, who is a wonderful father and contributes fully to the running of the home… but knowing that it wouldn’t be quite my way….it’s hard stepping back from that.
But I did it. Because the positives are always higher. More money coming in was actually the least important part of going to work. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face. There is more to being a woman than being a mother. And more to being a mother than wiping noses and holding hands. The top three reasons to return to work? Me. Me and again Me.
Selfish? Yes. Essential? Definitely.
I want my daughters to grow up knowing that in this life you work for what you want. A car? Work for it. A good job? Work for it. A nice home? Work for it. Nice clothes? Work for it. Weekends away? Work for it. Latest technology? Work for it. See a theme here? Everything worth having is worth working for. And it’s not about working hard, it’s about working smart.
I want to know that when my girls leave home, that that isn’t it for me. That’s not my whole lifes work gone and left. I don’t want to be 50 and suddenly starting my life. I want to be 50 and handing my girls the money for the air fare for a trip around the world. Money they’ve already gone and earnt, but now they can do it in style. I want to be able to have a discussion with them about interesting places we’ve visited, and know I’ve given them that thirst for life which so many seem to lack. I want to be able to smile at my husband and say “see you later, I’m off to Tuscany with the girls” (okay so probably not Tuscany, I plan on growing old disgracefully.) I want to be able to come in from a day at work and say to my husband “wow, today was so interesting.” Not. “How was your day dear? I’ve sat and stared at four walls all day.”
I want to contribute to the world. And not just financially. For me, doing my degree and working in the area I do means that I can go onto get my Masters, and my Doctorate. It means that one day I’ll be contributing to the endless research into mental health. I’ll be helping people who, like I have, have needed meds and therapy. I want to give back what I’ve taken out.
So those nights when I come in from work, and smile tiredly at my long-suffering husband, and go upstairs and kiss the sleeping heads of my children who I’ve not seen since the day before, and I take my shoes off and take a long awaited decent cup-of-tea and just want to sleep and wonder why I bother. I think of all the things I’ve said and remember why I do it.
Why I work full time, complete a degree and raise two beautiful, intelligent, well mannered girls. Why I accept the mumblings from so called friends about how I’m an awful person for leaving my children. Why I have working mother induced guilt, which can bring me to my knees. Oh god that guilt is a hard one.
Because for all my well thought out reasons and beliefs I genuinely hold. Leaving my girls tears my heart out. Every single time. Because of course I want to be the one wiping their noses and holding their hands. Of course I miss them. Of course I want to be cuddling them and reading with them. Of course I want to be a full time mummy. But unfortunately, time doesn’t stop running whilst they grow. In fact it goes quicker. Which is why it’s vital, for me to be a well rounded and happy adult, I have to work. And I have to complete my degree.
Because in 11 years, when my degree is complete, and my masters and doctorate are mine….suddenly I’ll have all this free time. I’ll have a good job. Which means in 20 years, when its my daughters turns to be facing this same juggling act I can be there to support them, and I can tell them it’ll be okay, and it means the time you spend with the loved ones in your life is cherished. Every second. That it means that okay, it’s hard now, but it will get easier. That the guilt will end, that you’ll see your children thrive with the independence.
Because when my girls are older, they’ll look back on their childhoods and go “okay, so mum wasn’t there 100% of the time, but when she was we had fun. We went out and did things. We saw the world. We visited our aunt on the other side of the world. We did stupid things like have paint fights, and upside down picnics. She wasn’t there in person all the time, but when she wasn’t, she was out grafting to make the world a better place for us and for our children.”
So when you take into account all the negatives to working, getting your qualifications and having a family, and their are a veritable legion of negatives. The positives and the reasons for working are much much more.
So to all the people that slag me, and any other working mother off, what ever. When your children have grown up and left home. What are you going to have for you? Because that’s the thing, we are a sum of all our parts. And to me, having children is just one of the facets of my life.
I work. I study. I parent. I wife (what’s the verb for wife?). And I don’t get it right all of the time. Probably not most of the time. But my reasons are good. My hearts in the right place. And I try to get the balance right.
So to any mother out there, who can identify with anything I’ve said. Just remind yourself, you’re doing well. You’re doing a good thing. And ignore all the negativity other people throw your way.