It’s been two months since I finally returned to work after two years of unemployment and Stay At Home Mum (SAHM) life.
I was so excited to get back to work, not least because of the struggle to get there.
But in all honesty, the last two months have been really bloody hard.
I mean, seriously, how many illnesses can one small family get in eight weeks!?
Little Miss got croup the week I started back at work (not the best start… Thankfully the OH took those two days off rather than me!), then flu, then chickenpox, then all three of us came down with a really nasty strain of flu one after the other (that was an especially fun three weeks), which only antibiotics could shake the fallout cough from. Then Little Miss had a cold and high fever – again – and now she has a nasty cough keeping her up at night – again.
The Agency have been exceptionally understanding given I haven’t actually done a full week of work in about seven weeks.
Some of the more seasoned parents I know smile knowingly when I’ve bemoaned our situation and all have similar stories to tell of the nursery calling the day they returned from Maternity Leave saying, ‘Wilhelmina has put her tooth through her lip and needs collecting’ or ‘little Bobby has a a hugely contagious virus you must collect him immediately before he causes the end of the world…’ just before your all important pitch to the Head of Department…
The irony… I wrote this blog post last week and was commuting into London this morning editing it ready to send live when, as if to prove my point, Nursery rang to say Little Miss fallen and put her teeth through her lip.
The OH had obviously turned straight around when he got the call and was en route to A&E. I meanwhile had to wait for my train to reach Euston, run like the clappers to another platform and hurtle myself through the closing doors onto a train back out to Hertfordshire. And this is why no longer wear nice shoes and live in Nikes. Because parenthood is utterly unpredictable and heals do not lend themselves well to this lifestyle.
(As a slight aside, thank you to the ticket man at the gate who saw me flying towards the gates and opened them for me without checking my ticket, I wouldn’t have made the train without you.)
The Other Half works outside of London and drives to work while train it into The Big Smoke everyday. Because of where our nursery is situated, he bears the brunt of the nursery run each morning and evening.
I work from home on Thursdays so there’s at least one day the OH doesn’t have to worry about the run and also at least one day I get to be the one who hears about her day.
Occasionally we’ll have a conversation that goes something like this:
Me: I was chatting to Little Miss today and she kept saying she didn’t want to go to nursery, that she didn’t like nursery, etc etc.
The OH: Amie, trust me, she’s happy, I see her laughing and playing every day when I pick her up. She loves the girls, she tells me all about who she’s played with that day. If she wasn’t happy I’d know.
And it’s like a punch to the guy every time. I should knows these things, I’m her Mama.
There’s been numerous days the OH hasn’t made it into work until well after 9am thanks to traffic and there’s been plenty of evenings we’ve had to rely on my mum being able to do pick up (thank you Mama!).
This was one of the big pulls for us moving out of London back in January. My mum is about a 15 or 20 minute drive from us now and she works about 30 minutes away as well, meaning there’s a third person ‘on call’ if needs be. She also looks after Little Miss every Wednesday, which gives us at least one day in the week when neither of us are worrying about us leaving on time, one to man bedtime while the other gets our dinner on, sometimes before we have to log back in to finish off our workload from the day.
Wednesdays are also a relief for Little Miss; a more relaxed day that doesn’t start with a mad rush, a battle to get dressed, a battle to get her out the door, etc. (And she adores her Nina, which helps.)
But aside from the logistical nightmare that is working parent life and sheer lack of sleep due to illness (my god, we are more exhausted at the moment than the newborn days), it’s been hard for all of us adjusting to the new routine.
Having been used to pretty much all my time being with Little Miss for the past two years, I feel as though nursery now gets the best of her each day.
Due to our commutes, she has a long day being dropped between 7:30 and 8am and usually not picked up until between 5:30 and 6pm. She usually struggles to nap longer than an hour at nursery, meaning that by the time she gets home, she’s tired, pretty grumpy and not really the best version of herself. To be fair, neither am I or the OH after a long day at work. But it’s frustrating that the fleeting moments I have with her during the week, often only a half hour slot at each end of the day, are often full of tears (hers, not mine… most of the time).
I manage my work day as best I can to ensure I’m ‘present,’ getting the job done when I’m there and that I can leave at a reasonable time to get home and help the OH with bedtime and also to spend some time as a family. For example, my contracted hours are 9-6pm; I usually get into the office between 8:30 and 9am and almost always skip my lunch hour so I can leave between 5 and 5:30pm instead. I basically dash off as soon as is acceptable. I manage it probably three or four evenings in a week at the moment, which isn’t bad going.
But the real kick in the teeth that I can’t control is the trains. On Thursday last week the trains out of Euston were cancelled and delayed. Having left the office at 5:15 to catch the 5:40 train, getting me home for 6:25, I didn’t end up home until 8pm.
Little Miss was still singing to herself in the cot so I snuck in and gave her squidge and quietly asked her about her day. But that’s hardly quality time, not to mention, most nights she’d often already be dosing off if not asleep already.
Around 90% of our evenings at the moment are stressful for all involved. And I can feel the resentment creeping in.
I’m enjoying being back at work. I feel useful, I’m thriving on the challenge again, I’m contributing to household bills fully and feel like the OH’s equal once again. (NB: this isn’t a reflection on what I think of Stay At Home Parents in general, merely how I felt as a SAHM not by choice.)
But when the day starts with a time pressured battle to get dressed and ends with the kitchen covered in food because Little Miss is overtired and didn’t want veggie fried rice tonight, is too tired for a bath (again) and just cries until the sweet release of sleep arrives, I do feel the doubt creeping in.
Have I done the right thing?
I mean, financially, we didn’t have much choice and I wasn’t really cut out for SAHMness. I’m not a patient enough person!
But after two years of unemployment, I wasn’t being ‘picky’ about full or part time offers. I find myself wondering if I should have tried harder to go freelance. Maybe I should have tried harder to come up with a viable business idea I could run around her. Maybe, maybe, maybe…
I really look forward to the weekends and I’ve had a tantrum or two on more than one occasion when the weekend doesn’t go to plan or I feel like I don’t get some quality family time just the three of us. We make pizzas from scratch every weekend and it’s probably my favourite time of the weekend. Just a really fun evening when we all chip in and have a giggle. And they taste awesome, which helps, obv.
There isn’t really a closing to this blog post. It’s kind of a work in progress. I have no answers, no pearls of wisdom for other parents in similar situations.
But if you have any, please do share. I’m all ears.
You can follow what my mum (Nina) and Little Miss get up to each Wednesday on Instagram by searching #NinaWednesdays.