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?