With all the craziness of starting a new job, finding our feet, and creating a new rhythm in our lives, to be able to continue with some making here and there truly is a blessing. The ability to be able to move my hands this way and that, twist the wool and feel it sliding through my fingers. Oh! Immediate stress buster. Therapy at its best.
“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.”
This is my last Sunday on maternity leave. I’ve been stuck in a bit of a vortex of my own making, swirling around with all my thoughts and nasty talk and uncomfortable emotions. It’s a familiar little place, but one that makes me squint my eyes and feel a bit cross to be in.
I went out for dinner on Friday night with a bunch of women (both mothers and non-mothers) working in my sector and left feeling really pumped (thanks guys). Then last night I tossed and turned until after midnight, wishing for my life to go back to maternity-leave-normal. To wake up this morning knowing I had a full week, month, year, ahead of being a stay at home mum.
This has basically been the theme of my last six weeks, since I was offered this new job. I was beside myself with excitement for about… two minutes… and then began my slow downward spiral into absolute panic. And back again and around and around and here and there and back to the start again. It’s been a blessing to have the time to get babysitting sorted (the last piece of the puzzle came together just this Thursday gone when Birdie was offered a childcare place on the one day I needed – after being on the waiting list since January – PHEW!) and it has also given me some lessons in positive self talk – and many an opportunity to practice. But now I’m ready to stop flailing around, and get into my new part-time-work life.
So here I go. Round two Back To Work. Action.
*pic above is of my three lovely mother’s group friends, walking ahead of me along a little coastal track on our first girls’ weekend away together a few weekends ago.
Pottering now, doing the slow and steady clean up between children going to bed and finally being able to sit down. This time is typically dotted with the big and the little wailing intermittently, one hitting her knee, the other hurling a dummy out of the cot. The first one needing to go to the toilet, the other missing her while she is gone… for two minutes… The time when the special teddies go missing and one cannot possibly even consider or begin to contemplate sleeping without that particular teddy (which is a different teddy to yesterday, by the way, but special all the same according to the source).
It’s the time of day when no one is really equipped to deal with any situation that arises. Least of all me!
We started reading Black Beauty the other night, and tonight I swapped it for one of the Winnie the Pooh novels, thinking it was more age appropriate… I mean, it’s nice reading classics but honestly… between Black Beauty and Enid Blyton’s short stories… anyone care to comment? I thought Birdie would be happy with the swift exchange, but no. She wants Black Beauty. Tears, yelling, etc. We finally sat down to read a chapter of Winnie the Pooh and she was fairly happy with the content. About five minutes ago (half an hour after reading books) I heard her yelling and thumping her pillow from the bedroom. I went in to find her in a furious dialogue with herself about how she doesn’t like Winnie the Pooh and that she really just wants to read Black Beauty NOW! Thump, thump, whack. The Pixie sat watching from her cot, highly entertaining stuff it seems. It was slightly reminiscent of Gollum and his Precious, just to give you a clearer picture. I cowered in the doorway until it seemed safe enough to enter and talk. Crisis averted.
Now she is out again, she wants more food, despite having sat at the dinner table for forty-five minutes refusing to eat.
Sigh. If someone invents a patience pill, please contact me.
I was brushing Birdie’s hair this morning. She stood in between my legs while I sat on the couch. I could see her poking her thigh with her finger while I brushed.
“Am I skinny?” She asked.
“You’re perfect.” I replied.
“But I can see some fat here,” she said, poking her upper thigh.
“That is not fat, it’s just part of your body. Your body is perfect and has everything it needs. If you didn’t have that bit of body, you’d only have a bone and when you tried to walk with only a bone you’d fall over, ” I replied: stupidly, awkwardly, long-windedly. She seemed to accept this answer and think it was quite the joke. She went on laughing about walking around with only a bone for a leg and falling over.
I remembered someone telling me that their daughter started worrying about her weight when she started kinder. I was gobsmacked. Kinder? Are you kidding me? I don’t remember noticing anything in particular about my body until high school.
I am probably reading a lot more into Birdie’s comment than I should. Perhaps it was just a flippant comment that meant nothing to her, yet to me held a tsunami of undercurrents about our culture and society, materialism, body image, questions about whether or not I’ve been making comments while getting myself dressed that she has picked up on, ra ra la la ha bla.
It has reminded me that I am a role model – the main womanly role model they have. They see how I look at myself in the mirror, they hear the things I might say about my body, or about how a piece of clothing looks.
It’s been a good opportunity to think about what I do and don’t want to pass on to my daughters when it comes to body image. A lot of food for thought…
It seems like yesterday that I wrote this post, when I had gone back to work after having Birdie. She was ten months old when I went back two days a week and seventeen months old when she started childcare one day a week. It didn’t go well and luckily we were able to make other arrangements and we tried again at Montessori when she was about twenty or twenty-one months old.
I can’t really comprehend why, but for some reason I thought [everything] would be easy the second time around. I thought labour would be easier, I thought breastfeeding would be easier. I thought overall parenting would be easier (I suppose in many ways this is true), I thought that dropping my children off at childcare or going back to work would be easier. I thought that being a parent the second time would be easy because by that stage I’d be a strong, ruthless, tough as guts, Real Life Capital M MOTHER. I’d be the Mum on the side of the footy oval handing out sandwiches (or oranges or something), I’d be chucking the kids in the back of the car and working and playing and doing kinder duty and cleaning the house and paying the bills and just being an overall awesome no-nonsense Mum Who Gets Shit Done.
I have to admit something. I don’t really feel like that at all.
This all comes about because I got a job. A good one. One that I really wanted. So I’m going back to work… again. For three days a week this time.
You know that feeling where you are incredibly excited about something but equally completely shit-scared and apprehensive? Yep? That’s pretty much where I am at the moment. Battling the tug of war between being a “good mum” and making choices that align with that.
I’ve been googling things like “working and being a mum”, “work life balance during motherhood”, “going back to work after maternity leave” and all variations of this that you can think of. All I’m finding are articles written by some tough-as-nails mums (mainly from a particular website) (the type I was sure I’d be by now) who are defending their positions in the nicest (yet slightly aggressive) tones they can muster. I assume because they have had some backlash regarding their choices. I applaud those mums for chasing what they believe in and I wish for them that it was easier to find a good balance. I don’t like it when people say “why bother having kids” when people talk about returning to work because I think it’s a completely nonsensical argument to say that if you want a career you don’t have the right to be a mother. Also, I don’t ever hear this being said to (or about) Dads.
I digress. For this situation, this state of mind I’m in, I was looking for something written by someone like me. Someone who is constantly questioning their role, their choices. Someone who can’t sleep at night because they are wondering if they are getting it all wrong. Someone who can’t write a post defending their choices because they find it hard to pinpoint their position. They just have a gut feeling of what they want to do, and what they think is right for them. But they don’t always have the confidence to say it. They worry that what is right for them isn’t always right for their family. Or is it? They think people are judging them. They think people think they are doing the wrong thing. And these people care about what other people think, even though they try not to. I know they are out there. I’m one of them.
The Pixie started childcare around Easter in preparation for me getting a job. All the memories came flooding back from the first time I did this with Birdie. She clings to me when I leave and I bite the inside of my lip, hard, to prevent the tears from escaping. I hand her over. Things are a bit easier this time. I can talk myself through things. I can make sense of things just a little bit more. But the separation is not. We are going to a different centre this time, and it has made all the difference. But it is still really, really hard.
The girls will be going one day a week to childcare, like when I worked two days a week. The other two days they will be with family. I know we are lucky to have this option. I’m dreading that third day. I remember working two days a week and imagining going back to work for that third day.
Unlike last time though, I really want to go back. I want to work. I was super careful choosing jobs to apply for, and have been lucky enough to get the one I wanted. I’ve had time to do a lot of thinking and I know now what I want to do. I can see a path ahead of myself that I didn’t picture before. I didn’t have that time when Birdie was a baby. I went back too soon. Pixie will be twenty-one months when I start my new job. I know now that I have passions and thoughts and aspirations outside of motherhood that I lost sight of in the early days of parenting (rightly so). I see things differently now and I am following the path that I feel is right for me. I think. See? The confusion.
Who else balances work and motherhood? I am still searching for those kids that truly love childcare and can’t wait to go. Do you have one of those kids or are you all just being nice and supporting your fellow working-mothers by saying they love it?
We have been holed up for over a week fighting off colds and sore throats and various viruses. I am getting better at this process. Cancelling everything, slowing down, sitting down, being in the here and now. Trying not to feel frustrated. Dishing out teaspoons of olive leaf extract, stirring glasses of vitamin c, slicing and grating ginger and garlic into drinks, tea, and meals. Events of late have reminded me to be grateful for the opportunities to heal and grow and cherish the present moment.
We spent the weekend at my in-laws beach house. I took just a small bag of books and toys for the kids. It was unbelievable how little mess there was to clean up! Gave me some serious motivation to clear out the toy shelves at home (again). We spent the majority of the weekend lying on the couch reading books and watching kiddy movies (Frozen, anyone?) and aside from feeling a bit wretched it was bliss.
This morning I had a job interview. Motherhood stepped in again to remind me that I was no longer in control of my own life, with the Pixie waking up at 5.30am for a leisurely spew. And another a little while later. As I mopped the kitchen floor, flicked peppermint oil this way and that and got down on hands and knees to clean vomit from the floorboards, I remembered a time when a job interview would have had priority over all other things. Thankfully I managed to exceed my expectations, get dressed, do my hair, free myself of any germy remnants and be on my way. As my Dad put it in a text message he sent me earlier after hearing of my morning: No wonder women often develop extraordinary resourcefulness.
Thinking and dreaming and writing (elsewhere!). Reading things that make my path and decisions easier. Focussing on mindfulness in the day to day. Trying not to get bogged down by the irrelevant. These are a few of the things I have been doing. As Autumn comes into focus (albeit a rather warm one) the world around us seems to slow down. The days become shorter and, if you pay attention, nature begins to wind down, reminding us that we should be doing the same. The Ashtanga Yoga I was doing over summer has merged into sporadical (read: rare) trips to the studio for rejuvenating stretching and meditation. Food has become warmer in our house, and cooked longer and slower as I follow the seasons and my instincts to fill our bellies with fresh, warm seasonal produce. In a book that I constantly refer to, I read that Autumn is a time for shedding, and not to be surprised if you cry a lot as we move into this season. I’m never afraid to cry. Are you?