Archive for the ‘working mothers’ Category

My husband is leaving me and I think my sanity might be hitching a ride.

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

He’s leaving. It’s not forever, but he hasn’t left yet and I’m already petrified about how on earth I will cope.

I am becoming a surfing widow once again. He is off on the trip of a lifetime and I really hope it is that; the only trip like this he takes in his lifetime. No, not really, I actually hope he completely loves it, the waves pump and he has the best time away with some awesome mates. I absolutely want him to go.

I’m just a bit frightened about what life looks like without him for two and a half weeks. You see I am the breadwinner at the moment. Not as some people think because I am desperate to get back to work, but actually so he could resign and spend some time finding something he really loves doing. So at the moment he is the main carer for the Wild Child and The Stink. He loves it, which is great. He is awesome at it, which is even better.

I have worked often in the last four and half years, I have always done the drop off and pick up and all the looking after. Even while I’m working full time, plus a few other jobs on the side, I have done a few pick ups and drop offs and dinners and lots of all the other stuff so it’s not that I can’t actually do it all, it’s that I might need some help. And this is where the main problem lies, I’m not great at asking for help. My really-amazing-better-than-my-family-because-they-actually-help friends don’t wait for me to ask, they offer and thank god for that. But even then I feel guilty.

I feel guilty that even though I can help out my friends in return, I feel bad that they offer, when my family either can’t or don’t or say no. I know that staying home for two weeks without working wouldn’t be any easier, but it might be less stressful, and financially not much different once the trip and the child care is paid for. I’m okay with feeding them baked beans, or even sushi on the way home. I’m okay with showering every second day, washing clothes on the weekends and being a bit cranky at school. I’m even okay with him being away for my birthday and having the in-laws turn up that night. (Okay I might have drunk a bottle of wine to get through that, but it’s my birthday and I can if I want.)

I just have to view it as an adventure and take the kids on the journey with me. We can all sleep in the big king bed we finally got, we can all hang out and be feral on the weekend together. And if it doesn’t work, we can all hide from the world at home, or the beach, eating icy-poles and reading books.

So if you see me in the next few weeks and I stink, look hungry, are full up to the eyeballs on caffeine to stay awake and don’t recognise you, please don’t take personally, I’m sure the madness will only be temporary. Hopefully it will come back with my surfer boy.IMG_0836

 

 

Just a little tiny ray of sunshine

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

I have a bit to do with Gen Y these days. And my oh my they are a funny bunch, but I’m starting to feel sorry for them. It seems as though every time I tap into some kind of media, even my favourite weekend newspaper magazine kind, the pages are splashed with notions of happiness. We are obsessed with happiness, finding it, keeping it, having it, sharing it, seeking it, being grateful for it.

And in the competitive nature of social media and the constantly checked in world we live in, it actually leads to far more unhappiness than we are prepared for.

Life is lots of things. It is monotonous, repetitive and boring. It is surprising, uncontrollable and delightful. It is devastating, cruel and unfair. And sometimes it is deliciously happy. The beauty of that moment of sparkling joy is its brevity. It is the contrast and the unexpected nature of the blissful moment that fulfils its promise. To stop, mid conversation, walk or chore to feel yourself fill to the brim with happiness is pure delight. Today for me it was in the middle of a kids rock concert, (okay so it was my town’s version of the Wiggles), as I watched my two, totally different little boys love the moment, I did too. I was there on my own, quietly sitting and watching them dance their hearts out. As they chased each other around and made sure they knew where their brother was, and where I was, and just lapped it up, I smiled.

For that moment, I completely appreciated my two healthy, wild, confident, unique children. I loved their energy. I loved their smiles. I loved being in a room filled with people doing something good for parents who had experienced the never-ending nightmare of losing a child to SIDS. And the funny guys on stage were the closest thing I’ve been to a rock concert for a while, so that wasn’t too bad either.I guess I bothered to notice it, or recognise that this was happiness, and that is a big deal for me.

Life is really busy at the moment. Really, really busy. Im back working full time, plus three other part time jobs and while my husband is doing a fabulous job at home looking after the boys, I feel completely stretched every minute of the day. Exhaustion makes happiness a little more elusive, but maybe it also makes it sweeter when it appears. So today was a nice surprise and it made me realise, no, remember, to just lower my expectations and keep my eyes out for the moments. We get caught up with making every thing perfect and I am terrible at just focusing on the negatives. In a long day with two little people, there are lots of moments of tension or frustration. Working full time amplifies these as I immediately regret any negative interaction with my kids, berating myself for wasting what little time I have with them in an argument.

But that’s parenting. Some days are revolting, or so they seem. When you actually think through the day, half an hour, or three separate ten minutes are revolting and the rest is pretty good. This is the bit that is worthy of my attention, not all the bad stuff. And that’s what I’m trying to remember. We don’t have to be ‘happy’ all of the time, but we do have to spend all of the time bothering to notice when we are ‘happy’.

Now if I can get that tattooed on my body somewhere, I can really start embracing the Gen Y mentality.

What full time work feels like now

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

 

It’s been three weeks since I have been back full time at a paid job. I have never stopped working full time, my other job just got longer and I stopped getting paid for a while. Now I am back in my old job. A job I used to love, but often found overwhelming, stressful and demanding. How time can change your view on things.

I still love this job, and I’m lucky to have had lots of really great moments over the last three weeks where I have been reminded of why teaching is awesome. Each day is different; you work with like-minded, but differently experienced people which means interesting and funny conversations. The boys I teach are pretty great. They are willing to share something of themselves, they are keen to know a little bit about you, and they give most things a really good go. My first week back provided two of the best lessons I have ever taught in my whole teaching career. I learnt more about those young men in 50 minutes that perhaps some of their teachers who have taught them all year know about them. They were willing to share stuff about themselves that their classmates later said they never knew, and they had been at school together for five years. It made me remember that each of these boys I teach have a pretty important story to tell, we just have to ask.

And it made me realise how important my job is as a parent.

And therein lies the complexity of this topsy-turvy time. My husband is home for three days with the wild and child and the stink, and on these days I can breeze out of the house on time, get a coffee and get to work nice and early like I did every day, once upon a time. As my mind flashes to my little boys at home, I can smile knowing they are doing something fun with their dad. It’s like every day has become the weekend for them. Holes get dug, Lego gets built, the shed is open, and there are tools out and about.

But on those other two days when neither of us are there, the stink is sick, the babysitter (mum) is too sick to mind them and the mad rush is on to get them out of the house, then back home and dinner cooked in minutes while they are tired and hungry, it’s a bit more difficult. The saving grace at the moment is my beautiful life-saving friend who has my boys with her. I know they are happy, loved, playing and fed. Once the new day-care opens its get a bit harder again, but at least then, every day will be a work day for me as my husband stays home permanently. Maybe then the shift will be easier. I hope so, because it’s about then that my other three jobs kick in to gear.

It makes me realise that this teaching gig aint that hard. Even with kids who would rather be anywhere that in that classroom reading a book. Even when meetings drag on, forty essays need to be marked by tomorrow and the baby has been up all night and I’ve got two hours of tutoring after school. It’s a nice shift for a while. It’s nice to feel like you know what you are doing and that at the start of the day you know which battle you will fight that day.

I miss my boys a lot. I think about them whenever I look at a clock and wonder what they will be doing. When I’m tired and it’s only lunchtime. But I remember that I’m just as tired when I’m at home. And anyway it’s my husband’s turn to get a crack at that life for a while. I’ve been able to juggle it all for four years and spend the majority of my time with my boys. Now it’s turn to run a house and be primary parent, and it’s my turn to walk in
the door tired after a day at work and have my boys run to greet me.

Well it’s not quite that much of a swap yet, but we are getting there.

Take that mother guilt

Monday, July 15th, 2013

I went back to work today. My first day of full time work in my old workplace for five whole weeks.

And I loved it!

For the first time since I have had my boys I walked back into my old school, that I love, and did not feel one ounce of guilt. Well, that is not entirely true, for a brief moment as I walked across the yard saying hi to people I haven’t worked with for ages, I felt a bit guilty that I didn’t feel guilty. How’s that for good old Mother Guilt.

Most of it was because my Wild Child and The Stink were home with their beloved Dad. They had swimming lessons this morning and the sun was out, so no matter what, it would be a pretty fun day. And part of it was that this was my husband’s idea. His work is an absolute debacle, so before we went on our trip he suggested we try this out for a bit and he could work part time for a few weeks. It might be the future normal in our house so it is an absolute luxury to be able to try out the switch before it might become a long term thing. And the final part was that I miss teaching, not fill in, chat to the kids and do some other work up the front teaching, but real create a lesson, build relationships and see some learning happen teaching. (The other 25 periods I can still much around on the net.)

I got to leave my house without too much crazy rushing, I even had time to do my hair, put a tiny bit of make-up on and get a coffee on the way. I got to have many, many conversations with adults I admire and some who make me laugh in a dangerous way with my wobbly pelvic floor. I got to talk about ideas and improvements and skirmishes and solutions. Someone even asked my advice, and a few hugged me in a way that made me wonder what exactly those year 10 boys had in store for me. I got to remember that this was a job filled with great people and with mostly great kids and that it was something I was okay at.

Sure, it was one day and I was a long way from the politics and kids swinging from the rafters that teaching is filled with. But it was also different. Different for me, different for my boys at home, and at this stage, most importantly it was different for my husband. I walked in the door to a happy house, everyone was a winner.

Now for tomorrow when my husband leaves at 7am and I wrangle the kids out the door dressed and fed and packed not much later to a wonderful friend for daycare. Only problem is The Stink hasn’t been there before and given he cries when we arrive at anyone else’s house because he thinks I am going to leave him there and never have, tomorrow will have a double dose of guilt. As I peel the barnacle off my leg and leave him screaming with a stranger, work might not have quite the same pleasure.

But that’s okay, at least I can talk to someone about it. And I might even get to have a cup of tea while I’m at it.

 

And the next adventure begins.

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

We made it home. More importantly, we made it all the way up to our favourite place on the coast, and all the way back.

The 5 o’clock start pretty much everyday was harrowing. It meant early bed times, grumpy, dark, cold mornings and some long days. But the rest of it was pretty good. Beaches in winter that are actually appealing, a birthday, lots of visits to lighthouses, some of the most stunning houses I have ever seen, let alone stayed in, markets, yummy food, excellent coffee, terrible coffee and playgrounds. So many playgrounds.

We all got along pretty well, most of the time. Which in some ways is surprising as it was by far the longest time my husband and I had spent together  since we travelled overseas many, many years ago. We fought and got frustrated by the lack of sleep and an overwhelming lack of time to do what we really wanted. It never ceases to amaze me that being up at 5am doesn’t give you more hours in the day to do things, it just creates more time you feel rushed and trying to get somewhere before its lunch time or sleep time or dinner time.

And while we were both on duty and pretty much shared the cooking, the packing up, the looking after kids, the coming up with what to do today I still found it hard to relinquish control. I would still keep us on schedule a bit so the kids got to have a sleep or a rest and not go too mental. I still tried to limit the treats and increase the vegies. But now we are home there a few new questions to figure out. And our jobs are on the top of the list.

We have loved so many places on that coast and seriously considered heading up there, and we haven’t totally ruled it out yet. But we are still waiting on a few things we have to make decisions about. The stress of my husbands job was the reason for the trip. We had to get out of here for his own mental health. The situation hasn’t improved since we have returned and so after the reality of being home with two little boys for two months, he is now a bit more knowledgeable about what he might really be signing up for. So we are trying to decide who goes back to work full time, and who works part time and looks after the kids.

It is a fortunate decision to have to make really. I can work, I like working, I have the options of lots of employment open to me. Many people do not have any choice about what their work looks like. But we do, and we are feeling the weight of it. The boys would love to have their Dad home. They can build cubbies, ride bikes, cut down trees and go to the tip. There wouldn’t be any dance classes, or toddler gym, or visits to the shops. But it might mean they don’t really see their friends very often. I’m not sure my husband would happily ring up my friends and invite them and their kids over for the play during the week. I’m not really sure what dinner would look like, or the washing for that matter. But it would sort itself out eventually. Wouldn’t it?

So we are having a crack at it. A trial run, for five weeks. I am heading back to my old job, to teach bigger boys, some of which actually listen to me! I get to have lunch, adult conversations, use my brains and do a job I love. It is an interesting experiment to say the least. I am worried about relinquishing control over the household. I have spent the last four years making all the decisions at home and feeling like I have done a lot of the parenting too, at least the daily grind of parenting. I am worried that the job I love might not actually be that appealing, when the best job in the world is the one I have given up. I am worried that it might just reveal how shoddy my parenting is, when they have their dad home with them full time.

There will be lots of awesome things about this social experiment. And lots of questions, and lots of changes. It will be their Dad who has to orient them into their new child care place, and finally appreciate how heart breaking it is to peel a child off your leg and run out the door. It will be me who gets to exercise after spending all day at work (one can hope) and walk in the door to the madness that is dinner hour. It will be me who gets greeted at the door at the end of the day with hugs and kisses and the excited patter of footsteps down the hall.

I don’t really know what it will be like, but it will be interesting to see. And maybe then we can really decide if this is a long term change, or just an extended holiday for both of us.

What going back to work is really like.

Monday, March 25th, 2013

It’s lovely is what it is.

I worked a fair bit last year when my bub was still really little, but it was all from home. And don’t get me wrong, working from home has many perks when you have small children, but actually leaving the house dressed in nice clothes to go somewhere where you once really belonged is lovely.

Once we all got over the trauma of those first few days at daycare I could actually enjoy being back at work. It helps enormously that whenever I pick up the little munchkin I spy on him first and he is always happy. Sometimes he is outside cruising around the yard, other times he is happily stuck in a box, and sometimes he is still asleep! So knowing that my beautiful boys are being loved and cared for somewhere else, and that they are very happy there makes me live in the moment when I am at work, instead of feeling bad about being there.

Sure, it means life is busier, not really wealthier, but with a bit more purpose to our week. It means that I have to be organised, and I quite like that. It means we have a bit more structure in our week with only three days at home to fit in all of our catch ups and activities. It means I really love those three days for the moments they present. We try and do really fun things together. I play with the boys more, even though there are a lot more jobs to do in the house, because I know I don’t have as much time with them as I did before. It means I have something to think about and talk about that is more than how little sleep I am getting. It means I feel a bit more like me.

I love the balance. I love the reward of going back and working with fantastic teenage boys who are all energy and laughs. I love talking to some adults about the world of teaching I felt like I had left behind for a while. I love being offered more work than I want because it reminds me that I am still useful. I love walking into daycare and seeing my boys faces light up when they see me too. And I love going home and sharing stories about our time apart. And on those nights I have been at work, I happily climb into bed with my wild child and tell him a story.

I realise absolutely how lucky I am to be able to have both worlds, to be able to balance and combine what I’m good at and what I love and even make a bit of pocket money on the side. I know it is a privileged choice and one I don’t make lightly. But I also know that this is how it is this year. It may not work like this next year, or in the years my boys head off to school. But at the moment it feels right for me and for my family and that is all that should really matter.

Motherhood with a capital G

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Let me preface this post with the much maligned expression that this is a first world problem. It is, I know it is, but it is my first world problem.

There are a lot of emotions that sum up motherhood, and they vary depending on the day you are having, or the day your kids are having.

Today for me it is guilt.

I dropped my two boys at daycare this morning. It is my bubba’s second day. He is only there for a few hours and it is breaking my heart. Monday he didn’t cry when I dropped him off, but when I picked him up he was sitting on the floor with his wrap that he loves, crying. I nearly started.

I scooped him up and he stopped straight away. They said he had been okay. They showed me photos of him happily playing outside, crawling over the equipment with a big smile. And then they told me that he hadn’t eaten, slept or had anything to drink. My heart sank.

Sleep, no big deal, he can go home and sleep and he is trying to drop that morning sleep anyway. Hopefully when he is there for a whole day,(next week!), he will get tired enough to sleep. Eating, well that’s a struggle during the day for me at home. He eats heaps of brekkie and heaps of dinner, but not much in between some days. Drinking, that’s a problem. Today it is meant to be stinking hot. He has to drink. I have taken his own bottle in and asked them persevere, often he rejects it from me five times before he has a drink.

So as I take the dog for a walk on my own, something I would normally love, I have to stop myself from crying. Inside there is an epic wrestling match going on. The blue team say he will be fine, so many children do this, there are many in there younger than him, there for much longer than him, some every day. One Dad who followed me out today, told me to just keep walking, its hard, but it gets better. He should know, his daughter cried for three months before she settled and now she loves it. Her baby sister who is also there, doesn’t even blink. But inside the red team are throwing some serious punches. Why am I doing this? I don’t absolutely have to go back to work yet. I can work for the rest of my life. He is only little. It’s selfish and cruel. The red team is winning. The tears well up.

As I wait in the coffee shop and look around, there are no other children, but lots of parents, not working, just hanging out with their mates, socialising. They don’t have guilty parent stamped on their forehead and their kids are obviously all somewhere else. I want to tell everyone that it’s my second day on my own, I want them to tell me its okay. I want them to share their experience and show me that down the track, their children aren’t traumatised by it. That their family is much happier for a bit of balance, a bit more money saved for the big trip, and a bit of independence from their mother didn’t hurt anyone. But their experience is not my experience, so whatever they say may not help anyway. And there are obviously lots of dedicated mothers not in the coffee shop, but at home making some kind of playschool craft with their children.

I have been down this road before. My wild child didn’t like daycare much either when he was littler and I was so lucky to find the perfect solution. He went off to a friend who did some daycare in her home. He loved it. In fact, I think he would have rathered have them as his family some days. But even then he cried when I left and then before I could get out to the highway a photo would land on my phone of my cheeky wild child happily playing with the other kids. He still talks about them all the time. And I honestly believe he is better for that experience.

Do I go back to that? I can’t afford both children to go there, so do I change daycare days, do two drop offs, pay a fortune and pack a bag with lunch and nappies and hope that my bubba is better there? Or do I persevere? Or do I quit? I don’t want my baby to cry all day, but I also don’t want a child who has to be around his mother constantly, that is not healthy for anyone. I have to work next week so he has to stay for two days. My husband can get him if he is not coping, but hopefully it wont get to this.

So instead of doing the work I am supposed to be doing, I am writing, trying to console myself. Inside the red and blue team are still in the ring, pounding it out and its only been an hour since I rang daycare to check on him. Tomorrow motherhood might be filled with joy, or frustration or pride or boredom, but today guilt takes top spot, at least until he is back in my arms, or throwing food across the room, and then the cycle starts again.

 

 

 

The bullsh*t notion of ‘having it all’

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Doesn’t everyone want it all?

Isn’t that the point? Isn’t that what the meaning of life is all about? And if this notion has inspired countless books, songs, movies and adventures then why are mothers still being challenged for embarking on their own search for it?

I don’t get it and to be honest, a bit over the amount of time dedicated to discussing whether women can have it all. And yes I do see the irony in writing a piece on it, but I have to have a say.

I am currently in the throes of desperately trying to have it all. By all I mean fitness, friendship, healthy family relationships and tummies, a clean house, a happy home, a flutter at a new career, the comfort of an old career, enough sleep, laughter, adventure and lots of love. It’s a bit of a struggle. To make some of these things happen, either for me, or for those around me,  other things have to be given up, or sacrificed or just done really badly. Friends get neglected, my heart rate only rises at dinner time as the healthy food gets piffed across the table, or just pushed aside, (see clean house and happy home above), the turmoil of leaving small children in daycare overwhelms most of the benefits of accomplishing any kind of paid work and there is never enough sleep.

But isn’t this what everyone is doing? Kids or not? Male or female? Single, married, studying, employed, young, old? Isn’t this just called life?

I have always had a sense of ‘the something elses’. You know, I am doing this but I could be doing something else, another degree, the next step of my career, an overseas adventure, a seachange. Most of which I have had a crack at. And I am certainly not alone, lots of my friends are the same, renovating houses, travelling to remote places, fitting a but of paid work in between caring for little munchkins.

I also think men do this too, and young singles, and empty nesters, everyone who wants to gets the most out of whatever opportunity they have in front of them. Whether it be chasing exotic, warm, uncrowded waves, or having something or someone to call their own, or reinventing themselves, isn’t everyone chasing the key that unlocks the next stage of happiness in their lives. And I don’t think this should have the negative connotation of having it all, I think this is what a fulfilled life is about. It is all a balance, for everyone. A balance between needs and wants, dreams and reality, the affordable and the unattainable. Sometimes we tip the scales in our favour, and sometimes we fall off in a screaming heap.

And you don’t need to be a mother with children to be walking the tightrope, you just need to get back on.

 

Working (as in getting paid by an employer rather than just do every job in the house) Mothers

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

My boss has asked me what I plan to do next year about work. I can go back to work if I like, but he can only offer me three days, not two as I had hoped for. I am really torn. It’s a much more difficult decision that I thought it would be. I’ve been seeking advice from friends, my husband and other mums about what to do about deciding what my life will be like next year.

I went back last year to teach for three days a week. I also did tutoring and managed an online university subject and on one of the days off I looked after my friends little boy as she was kind enough to do the same for me. We were also renovating our house. Needless to say, I was pretty busy. And pregnant.

Some of the work stuff I loved, some not so much. My days at home, I loved. I really enjoyed the company of my wild child and all of his adventures in between. He still had day sleeps so days were filled up quickly with catch ups and play dates and activities. When he slept, I worked. It was hard but the money was desperately needed for the reno and the paid maternity leave from my work and the government was awesome!

But now I have two it is different. We have no family so all my day care costs money. And the kind of day care I love, with a dear friend who is just beautiful to my son, in her house with her kids, is just too expensive for two on a teaching wage. And the thought of packing bags, with lunches and nappies and getting me and kids dressed and out the door three mornings a week by 7.30 am hurts to think about. A nanny has crossed my mind, but again it’s lots of effort for a bit of pocket money at the end of the week.

So what is the alternative? Commit to staying at home for another year, or more. I love my children dearly, but would we all go a little mad staying at home together? Kinder next year is only 2 hours a week for my three year old, and the baby will be that busy, five minute activity age. Summer is fine, who can’t handle going to the beach every day? But winter, not so much fun.

And of course there is the money to consider. Do I go back for a year, with the intention of hopefully having another baby at some stage? Then I can access maternity pay, extend my leave for another three years and actually stay home for the busy kinder year and even my son’s first year at school? I have my whole life to work. I’ve managed to find lots of other ways to entertain myself and exercise my mind these last three years, I could do it again. I love teaching, but not all of it. Would I regret going back to something permanently when I could just pick up a few days of relief teaching here and there? And how hard is it to make a decision in August about what you will be doing in February?

It’s a touch choice, but I absolutely know just how lucky I am to even have to face this choice. Some mums have to go back to full time work. Others don’t have the luxury of considering part time as an option. My husband says its totally up to me. I think that’s what is making it just so hard to decide.



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