I wrote a post on Tuesday evening, which I scheduled for yesterday. It was called ‘The Chip on My Shoulder’.
Simply, it was just me, getting struck by a memory and a blast from the past and accepting that, ultimately, I don’t think I will ever forgive myself for going back to work when I did. I know my son doesn’t want for anything, and doesn’t know any different, but I do. And it will stay with me I think.
And ultimately, I wrote the post just to tell anyone who wasn’t a parent yet, to grab whatever time they can when the time comes.
I read the comments and lots of women identified with that helplessness in feeling that you need to go back to work. Sometimes it feels to soon, and sometimes it’s just a fair reality of life – kids need more than love.
What struck me the most was, once again, the debate that seemed to start as a result.
I think we need to remember that we are all very different. My post had no solution. Do I think that other people should pay for me to stay at home and not work anymore? No. Do I think there should be more support in the way of helping families adjust and have longer with their newborns? Yes. But I know it isn’t easy. While there is proof that providing more than Statutory Maternity Pay helps increase staff retention and results in happier employees, I know that sometimes the funds aren’t there.
And ultimately, you don’t have a child and expect other people to pay for that privilege.
But at the same time, you don’t have a child and expect to watch other people raise them. At least in part.
Some of the comments said that they didn’t like it when working mums moan about going back to work and yet they go on holidays and have takeouts.
Another said that there was something very wrong with going back to work and you should just sacrifice things, be ‘poor’ and be with your children.
Others said things like – you’re expecting other people to pay for you to stay at home.
There are things that are wrong with that viewpoint though. Not just because I disagree. But because it damages the way mothers are viewed, by society as a whole, and even by themselves.
Some women want to go back to work. A man goes back to work very soon after a child is born. He is not berated for that. Equality exists now. I suggest that people accept that, in all manner of forms. Women bloody deserve that chance to do things their way, without need for question or contempt.
Also, women don’t go back to work because they want holidays. Often, it is a mathematical affair by where you look at your commitments, your home, your bills, and you work out a way to meet them.
I was the breadwinner in my former relationship. So the choice was made for me. Work, plus children, tends to be a very all or nothing thing. And sometimes part-time seems like the most perfect balance of the two. But some jobs don’t allow for part-time work. Part-time work can end up pointless when you still have to pay for childcare. In fact, so can full-time work.
Sometimes, one wage is just not enough. And then adding another wage gives you enough and then some.
The problem is that, really, life comes in two extremes, you either work, or you don’t. And either choice could be hard, or easy. Depending on circumstances, needs and acceptance.
When I became a single parent, I wanted to grab my old self and hug her tight and thank her for providing me with a basis from which to survive from. I had to work two jobs (this blog is the second) – and I had to cut back a lot – but I was so grateful that I could afford to keep my son’s home. And that we were going to be okay.
Now, I have a partner. We both have careers. And William is coming up to three now. I would be working anyway. I have worked hard all of my life. And I will continue to do so. I won’t apologise for having dreams of my own. I won’t apologise that working a full-time job, and running this blog, means that my son gets to go on holiday.
And ultimately, as we grow as a family, we have to accept the responsibilities that come with that. Two children will need more from us, in love, and in support – whether that is a hand to hold, a parent’s advice, or the money to buy new clothes when we notice that ankles and stomachs are starting to peek out in ones that are all of a sudden too small.
What I mourned, what I lost, was a time to raise my baby. To feed him myself. And not pass my expressed milk on in packages like a dairy cow. To change the dirty nappies. To experience a mother and baby group.
I just wish I’d had more time to find my feet as a mother. Without trying to find my feet as a mother at work at the same time.
And I wanted to express how important that time is. Because it’s true what they say – they do grow so quick. And you can’t get that time back.
I want to end on this.
It really isn’t a case of us vs. them. And the grass isn’t greener, whatever side of the fence you’re on. Because I happen to think we put those fences up ourselves. They don’t even exist. It’s a level playing field.
Except raising a child isn’t a game. It’s a series of very hard, very small, very big decisions. And it can be so hard to know whether you are doing well.
It’s the hardest job you will ever have. The pay, at least in a monetary sense, is zero. So maybe you will need to make it up elsewhere.
But you are committed. You want to be the best at your job.
Because no one else can be.
Because only you can be their mother.
And no matter how you be that mother, whatever you have to do to make your children happy and raise them to feel loved, and comfortable and safe.
You are doing a good job.