I went back to work when my first baby was 6 months old – I didn’t feel at all ready to leave my baby all day but that’s just the way it was. It was great to get back to work, to some adult conversation and to feel valued again – I struggled with being a mum at times although I loved it more than anything else I had done in my life.
I initially went back to work 4 days a week and my baby girl was in nursery.It was exhausting – my days started at 6am so I could drop my daughter off at nursery and be at work for 7.45am and my day at work finished at 5pm, so I made it home with my daughter by 6.30pm.
Initially my daughter didn’t like sleep and she didn’t adjust to being away from me so she was awake until about 11pm. I was exhausted and I’m really not sure how I managed to work but I was able to. I did this for about a year when I dropped down to three days a week in an attempt to give me a better balance.
Eventually, after we had our second baby, I gave up working – with no additional support, childcare costs would have been too much and we would have struggled to juggle everything. So we entered into a life of being skint and I entered into a life of being a stay at home mum while I trained as an antenatal teacher and then became self employed. As my children have grown, my business has grown and I have worked more but it is still a battle, I still juggle and I still feel guilty for wanting it all. I love my work, I need my work and I have been very fortunate to have been able to work around my family.
The hard bits
Exhaustion and always being on the go
Huge amounts of guilt about being at work
Coping with criticism at work on the few days when my baby was ill and I needed to be off work
Coping with criticism for being a working mum (which was never levelled against my husband who worked full time and often worked away)
Feeling like I was never getting it quite right
What made it work?
I did like work so going wasn’t a chore for the majority of the time
My daughter was happy, she thrived – if she was struggling, we probably would have made different decisions
Most days I thrived on the chaos
My husband worked from home alot so he was able to cook and and get the house in order while I was out during the day so we were able to work as a team
Retraining to change my career so I could work around my children as they grew, especially during the school holidays
Some tips for juggling work and home
Try to be as organised as you can be with shopping and washing – so you have some food to eat and clean clothes to wear, everything else can wait
If there are two of you – try to work as a team
Communicate – ask for help if you need it
Bulk buy practical things like birthday cards, wrapping paper so birthdays don’t take you by surprise
Accept a certain amount of chaos and mess, sometimes you can’t do it all
Try to take some time out for you when you need it
Give yourself a break – it can be tough sometimes and guilt can take over. So a reality check can be useful to see what is working, what isn’t, what changes be made and maybe to reach some acceptance of your current situation.
Make the most of the with your baby at the weekend
Here’s what other mums have to say have juggling work with being a mum…
- Understanding that sometimes you have to let things slide – be that housework, getting a takeaway cos you can’t be arsed to make dinner or having no clean clothes!
You can’t be superwoman all of the time!
- One of the hardest things is trying to juggle around the children to the point you don’t burn yourself out.
- My main barrier is childcare – no relatives to help and as I have 3 children it’s too expensive, especially during school holidays when it would need to be full time. I’m so lucky that I can work from home through the week whilst being there for my children and I have flexible working to ensure I can only ever work weekends for my job in the NHS (when we have available childcare).
- The immense feeling of guilt – guilt about leaving my baby at home (even though it was to ensure food on the table/clothes on his back/roof over his head); guilt about being excited to have conversation that didn’t centre around feeding patterns or poo; guilt for my partner who gave up work to be a stay at home dad (even though I earn more and it made logical sense); guilt at not leaving the office bang on 4.30 to get home in time to bathe and put my baby to bed; guilt at being able to eat a sandwich in peace, or have a hot coffee! So so much guilt. But then, the reality kicked in that he was fine, he was happy, he didn’t really know I wasn’t there (or at least didn’t protest when I left because I always said goodbye – I didn’t sneak out). My partner was amazing support and dealt with my bad moods (due to the guilt) my tears and my tantrums with serenity and grace (and a couple of arguments ). But most of all, it was finally accepting myself that I CAN have a career and a family at the same time – it’s not impossible. It is bloody hard work, but not impossible. Once I accepted that, it made things a lot easier to cope with.
- The major issue for me was always finding time for everything I needed to do both at work and home. I solved this problem by leaving work but this is not without its downsides.
- The lack of a breastfeeding culture makes breastfeeding/expressing at work more of a challenge.
- Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. Overcompensating at weekends and then having clinginess on a Monday morning. Plus resentment and guilt and anger towards male bosses who think Mum means sub-effective as a worker!
- A flexible working pattern to reduce my hours plus family being available for childcare has definitely helped.
Guilt is the main difficulty plus sadness and resentment for what I am missing while I’m at work.
- I have great parents providing free flexible childcare, I have a flexible supportive employer, a fab line manager, and a supportive husband. With all of these in place my return was still challenging but manageable.
- Having my parents to look after my son when I work has made a massive difference, along with only working part time. I still feel guilty for leaving him but also struggle with not progressing my career because I work part time.
- Having a cleaner and amazing parents. Oh and M & S meals are handy too!
- I try to get a balance in life that is liveable: family time versus work time, independence versus lack of choice, money versus poverty
- Being happy with child care, having understanding employers and being able to leave work at work have all made a huge difference. Also becoming mega organised and very good at prioritising.
- Having a hubbie who puts as much value on my job and career as his and sharing the time off/ sick day requirements are the biggest things that helps me. We are a team in this – a working dad and a working mum with equal worth both at work and at home, who both suffer from the guilt thing and both share the principle that the welfare of our little lad always comes first.
- For me its not about quantity of time, its quality of time. We do loads of fun things together at the weekend and I appreciate the weekends so much more. I genuinely feel they have best of both worlds, loads of fun with kids the same age and fun family time too.
- Paid childcare can be a really positive thing – we have been fortunate to find a wonderful nursery and I now see going to work as a way to invest in my children’s early years development.
- Seriously consider whether you can afford a cleaner
- Don’t expect it to be easy but do expect it to get easier
- Remember, you are not alone – everything you are feeling we have felt before, or are feeling with you now.
- I prefer to call myself a ‘working parent’ because balancing work and children requires teamwork. It’s hard work and overwhelming at times but being strong enough to limit how much you can do can make it easier. Be proactive, when things don’t work, change jobs, childcare, hours, etc.
- Feeling like nothing gets 100% – the kids get grumpy mum who’s trying to get the house in some reasonable order; work get half of me as thoughts of everything I’ve forgotten (replying to party invites, that shoebox they need for a project, the six things I forgot to get in the shopping) creep into my head, then the massive guilt when I find myself with a hour spare and there are a zillion things to do but I just want to sit down!
- Being self employed, down sizing and making life style choices so that I could pick and choose when to dedicate time and when to take on work. For us it feels better to be skint and around.
- We have the most unbelievable set of parents who want to be with my little boy when ever they can or more. He has such lovely bonds with all of them and its lovely to see him grow and spend special time with these important people in his world. But there is the guilt of leaving of him and the guilt that some other mothers put on me, but the only saving grace for me is that he is with family – if I had to pay for childcare it would be a different story and I can see why loys of people opt to stay at home.
- We too are blessed with the most amazing, fun, loving and sensitive grandma and grandad. When ever we leave our children there for a long day or a short while they wave us off with huge happy smiles. Both my children love spending time with them. And not a day goes by when I don’t feel gratitude for that!