Going back to work….

I thought I’d leap in and write a blog post about going back to work and putting my daughter in nursery following the great posts of my gorilla mums friends.  It’s so hard knowing what to do and each solution has to be the right one for you and your family.  It’s been a while since I’ve posted and that’s precisely because I just haven’t had any spare time and when I do have a brief moment of opportunity I try to use it sleeping!

For me and my husband there really was no option.  I had to go back to work and I had to go back full time – we both did.  For us, when I became pregnant, the most sensible thing to do was to sell our cute flat and buy somewhere that could happily accommodate a baby, so we moved and bought a house.  That increases the mortgage, the outgoings, paying for the baby etc….  Anyway enough of the justification.

We were incredibly lucky to have found a nursery that we were happy with when I was just 5 months pregnant because (a) the place for her didn’t become available for over a year later and (b) I knew it was an excellent place and just the kind of care I wanted for her because my nephews had gone there before they moved to Singapore. 

She’s there 4 days a week; I look after once per fortnight on  the remaining day (I work full time but work compressed hours) and my parents or my husband looks after her once per fortnight.  It’s exhausting but it’s the best solution for us and I can honestly say that it’s one of the best things we’ve done for her.

I had a melt down about a month before my maternity leave ended and ranted to my friends about how unfair it was that my baby wasn’t ready to be separated from me and that I was an awful mother, but in fact I think the reverse is true.  It’s me who wasn’t ready to be separated and actually I think I’m turning out to be a pretty reasonable mummy – and our daughter is turning out to be a happy, feisty and well developed little girl.

The days are most certainly long – she’s waking up at 5.30am and since I mentally don’t switch off properly until about 10.30pm that usually adds up to a very tired woman pretending she doesn’t have bags under her eyes and trying to pull off the impression of a diligent and capable senior policy manager.  I am without fail on the 7.38 train every day, have 20 minutes for lunch, and around 4 policy/personnel meetings per day. Yet my 8.25am – 4.30pm working day (with top ups in the evening) is not the longest part. The longest part of my day is undoubtedly the walk from the station to the nursery – it takes 15 minutes but as I turn the corner to the road where it’s located I break into something of a frantic walk (I must look like a mad chicken on speed and dressed in a suit) and reach my hand out to knock on the door long before it is able to make contact with it.  I’m not kidding – I’ve tripped a couple of times.  And there I am, excited and giddy as a schoolgirl and with arms outstretched, at 5.40pm  to cuddle my girl.  The walk home is fun – she’s excited to see me too and we have a play at home for about 30 minutes before she’s ridiculously tired and it’s bed and bath time. We don’t see her much during the week but those 30 minutes are magical and those bedtime cuddles are the best in the world.

Weekends are precious.  It’s not just us who love her and want to see her, and we have the usual household stuff to do and people we want to see too, so packing everything us and having family time is difficult – there’s no two ways about it.  And I miss seeing my friends and their babies too, and having a tidy and ordered house, and spare cash to spend on this and that.

I tell you what though, I wouldn’t change it.  Yes, of course I would love to see more of my beautiful daughter and yes, I could definitely do without all of the stressed that I’ve just described above. The Fridays I’ve had off with her are brilliant.  But to be honest I enjoy work and, for me, I want to work and see that as part of being a positive female role model for my daughter (nb I know there are lots of positive female role models).  I’m mentally stimulated, I have friends at work that I can whinge to, and I believe I’m more rounded and fulfilled for being there.  But – crucially – the most important benefits are my daughter’s.  She absolutely loves nursery – she’s very very happy there.  Yes she is excited to see me when I pick her up, but I’ve also seen how happy she is when she thinks I’m not there too.  She spends her time there being cuddled, playing, copying the older children and having regular sleep and healthy food.  She’s learned to stand, crawl and cruise far more quickly than we expected her to; she’s communicating more confidently; and she’s learning far more social skills than she would have done if I had been caring for her full time.  She’s not as dependant on me or my husband and is generally much more tolerant of new people, she sleeps without a fuss (usually) and eats like a trooper.  She goes for regular walks, feeds ducks, learns about flowers and trees… the list goes on.  I know I did some of this with her before when it was just us, but rather than seeing nursery as a childcare solution I now see it as an investment.

My heart breaks every time I leave her.  I spend all day at work wanting to see her and missing her.  I think about her all the time and, frankly, just don’t care very much about things at work that used to stress me out.  . As I type this she is being cuddled to sleep by her daddy and it’s images like that which come to mind and almost make me cry when some idiot is being annoying about a deadline at work. Every day, the best part of my day is seeing her. I adore my girl and the best part of my day is seeing her.  I applaud those women who stay at home to look after their little ones.  Their reasons are as valid as mine and if being a mother has taught me anything it’s that one size does not fit all – mothers and their babies are all different.  But for us, this is the best way.

Deciding to stay home after maternity leave, my YOUNIQUE experience!

This has been one of the biggest decision of my life. Deciding to put my career as a corporate lawyer on hold to stay home with my daughter. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly and I knew that in making it, I would need to find ways to supplement our income and help support my family. What would I do? What would become of my career? Would my education go to waste? Would my daughter suffer for not having the experience of socializing at nursery school everyday? These were all questions running through my mind. It was not going to be an easy decision…

After months of thinking about it and speaking to everyone I could think of that would have insight into life as a stay at home mum, I made the decision to put my career on the back burner and stay home with my daughter. I decided to enroll her in as many baby activity groups as possible that she and I could attend together which meant we could both socialize with other mums and babies regularly. This has been great as I have not only made great friends, but Izzie is getting used to other babies and I find she is learning to be less possessive of me. 

In terms of my career, I am very fortunate that I had this as an option as I know many mothers out there would love to be able to stay home but for whatever reason cannot. I also know that there are many women out there who are grateful for the respite and adult socialization that their career provides them so they choose to return to work. For me it was definitely a toss up, I love being a lawyer and I LOVE being a mum. It was not easy. I would still need to earn a supplemental income to help with our monthly outgoings and I needed to figure out how I was going to do that and fast.  

Once Izzie and I had settled into our routine, I began thinking about all the ways I could contribute to our household income. I spent a lot of time focusing on home based businesses and asking all of my friends their opinions on the different possibilities. It needed to be something I could do in my spare time when I wasn’t chasing a little one around, feeding, changing and bathing her.  I have focused a lot of my time on researching home based businesses and I am even looking into the possibility of developing on some of my entrepreneurial ideas. It’s been a lot of fun exploring all the possibilities and coming up with my list of options. What have I chosen to do?! Well, I have decided to put my business mind and entrepreneurial spirit to good use and start my own businesses! Yep! That’s right! business(es!). My main source of income at the moment in my business with Younique Cosmetics and Skincare. I absolutely love working with and selling Younique! In addition to Younique, I am also in the process of launching a number of other businesses. It’s an exciting time and I love that I am taking control of my future and building my own dream rather than someone else’s. 

I never thought I would be able to do it. I have completely surprised myself and I am so proud to say that I am now well on my way to finding success in my own right. It’s amazing!

If you are interested in learning more about my YOUNIQUE journey, please feel free to contact me through my website: http://www.youniqueproducts.com/breejamiesonholloway

 

 

 

 

GUEST BLOG: Going back to work after having kids

Before I became pregnant with Robyn, I had always thought that I would go back to work full-time, put my child in nursery, and be able to progress with my career as I had planned. But soon after I became pregnant and my research into said-childcare began, I discovered the ridiculous costs that would go into sending my child into the care of people I did not know and who would eventually spend more time with her on a weekly basis than I would… and I had a slight panic attack.

‘How will my one year away from work affect my career progression? Do I want to go back full-time? Can we afford childcare?’ These were only some of the questions running through my mind before going on maternity leave… and then something I decided to put on the back-burner once Robyn was born, as I had a few other pressing things to think about (like a new baby that I had absolutely no idea how to take care of!).

About six months into my maternity leave, I began to think about what I really wanted. I had launched into a home based business which was doing really well for mums that I knew, but I struggled to keep this going for myself. I originally began this venture to give myself the option of staying home with Robyn, and it really appealed to me. I wouldn’t have to pay for childcare, I would be around for all the major events in her life, and I wouldn’t have to worry about a commute into London.

Unfortunately, our financial situation dictated that I went back to work, and this led to a frantic search for childcare. The cost of child-minders and nurseries in my area is astronomical, and would not have been worth me going back to work. Fortunately, my mum-in-law who lived only 15 minutes away, was happy to take care of Robyn, and at a much lower cost than any other childcare option. It was a win-win situation – Robyn would get to spend time with her nan, and we could save money on childcare while also supporting my husband’s retired mum.

My first month of work was a struggle, both emotionally and mentally. Robyn was not used to being away from me so when I would drop her off, she would burst into tears, reaching for me… and the guilt I felt was almost unbearable. However, I needed to put that feeling to the side so I could get back into the swing of work things… and while some things I was able to pick up easily again, other things at work took a bit of a learning curve to get back into. I do not know if it was the fact that I was away for a year or if my mind was just preoccupied by other priorities, but there were certain aspects of work that were more difficult to grasp than they used to be. This then led to the feeling of insecurity, of whether I was still actually good at my job and whether I did deserve to be there… And after a day of work like that, I would then return home to my child who spent the entire day crying for me. Oh the guilt.

It was that constant battle – trying to be a great employee while at the same time trying to be a fantastic mum. And if I succeeded at one, it was at the expense of the other. How exhausting… It is true that mums do go through a lot of guilt going back to work. We feel guilty putting anything else above the priority of our families, but at the same time, we try to be the best at work, but feel guilty when we have to leave right at 5pm to pick up our child.

The first few months (well, really the first year) back at work was a struggle. My team had increased in size so I was supporting double the amount of people and work than before, the pace of work was much faster, the amount expected of me was much more and I was not meeting expectations… and to top it off, I was struggling with a toddler who was having problems sleeping through the night, trying to get housework and a social life and time with my family all squished into three days…

My struggles at work definitely impacted my home life. I would come home in a terrible mood, and I hated the way I was with my husband and daughter. I was not liking this person I was becoming…

But eventually, Robyn settled in with my mum-in-law, her sleeping habits became regular (or else I became accustomed to interrupted sleep), work began to get better… and life began to have a bit of balance.

Would I ever give up work to be a stay-at-home mum? I see so many of my mum friends who love staying at home and are so grateful that they are able to, and I am happy for them. For me, personally, I do like having a job to go to where I can use my brain and have time dedicated to thinking about things other than, ‘What activity should I do with Robyn today? How can I keep her occupied? Why isn’t she eating today? Why is she having such a tantrum today? Can I get five minutes to myself?’

I feel that I have achieved (or on the way to achieving) that balance of work and life. I am now at a new job working closer to home and for only three days a week. I have a job where I do feel appreciated and acknowledged and challenged. I am so much less stressed than at my previous job, and even my husband has noticed how much of a good mood I am in nowadays. I get Mondays and Fridays with Robyn AND the weekends, and I get to indulge her in things like JingleBops and Baby Bear Ballet as well as playdates (which I truly enjoy and cherish), and still get time to clean the house (obviously this is never going to be 100% perfect but it’s the effort that counts!) and see other friends.

I almost feel bad saying I need time away from Robyn, but all of us parents do think it. We do need some time away from our children in order to recharge ourselves and our sanity. We were adults and individuals before we had children, and it is important to be able to keep hold of at least part of that. And now, because I do have that time away from Robyn, each moment I do spend with her is that much more special. I pick her up from her nan’s and we cuddle on the couch at home for a half hour before I bathe her and put her to bed, and she tells me about her day (as an almost three-year-old can do).

And I do feel grateful that I can have the best of both…

The generation game

I was reading the two guest blogs and they got me thinking about the differences between having a baby now and when our Mums and Grandmas had babies.  You would think, really, that there wouldn’t be too many of them – after all, babies are still babies (they haven’t evolved in some Darwinian way to feed themselves or anything) and mothers are still mothers.  The human race continues and women have babies every day – apparently there were 138 million births in 1980 and there have been around 134 million each year since.  Just think how many nappies that is….

That brings me to the first difference. Nappies (diapers, that is.  We Brits call them nappies, which make me laugh because in other parts of the English speaking world a nappy is a napkin. Believe me you wouldn’t want to wipe your mouth with one of my daughter’s nappies…..).    Disposable nappy, how I love thee.  Not because of your contents (although bizarrely I do get pleasure out of changing the smelly ones) but because you can be thrown away when used.  Now, just before I had by baby I had this vague fantasy that I would be some kind of eco mother and use reusable ones.  HA HA HA.  Frankly I don’t know how my mother coped with the old terry ones.  My poor Nana had 5 children – I can’t imagine the amount of disgustingness she had to go through with those bad boys.  Earth, I am very sorry that I am clogging you up with my daughter’s skanky poo receptacles.  I will try to save you in a different way.

Next difference – support.  I mean human beings, not boulder holders/bras (although actually things have improved in that department too).  I suppose my Mum had relatively little of this; she is an only child and lived miles away from her family when I came along, and my dear Grandma died when I was just 8 months old.  She had her friends of course, but I think that most women of her age, and certainly most women of my Grandma’s age, lived fairly close to family and friends they had known for years.  So if the darling little baby was screaming its head off Mum, Grandma or the next door neighbour (whose name and clothing size you inevitably knew in the 1980s) could relieve you, or at least cook you a nice stew. The world is more mobile now and it’s not always the case today, so there aren’t as many people to help out – though to be fair it’s easier to chat on the phone and computer than it used to be.  So now we have various groups that we can join and this fantastic blog to help us stay in touch and get that vital support we all need.

We are also blessed with a far more developed health care system.  When my parents were born expectant Mums only went to hospital when their baby was coming because there was something wrong.  Everyone else was born at home – National hospitals were a really new thing. In fact my Dad remembers his brothers being born in the room next to him – now that would be some scary stuff for an 11 year old boy to listen to….. Now, whether you choose a home birth or not, and whether or not you think hospitals could be better, and whether or not your midwife is bonkers, our babies have a far greater chance of survival simply because of the decade they were born in.

Another thing which I am personally very thankful for is fertility treatment – that’s how we ended up with our little girl.  It didn’t exist back then (mind you neither did contraception in any great way) so if you couldn’t have children you were stuffed.  The world will certainly be thankful when she grows up to be some fantastic inventor of wonderfulness that saves the planet from all of the nappies that she filled that got sent to landfill.

I could go on and on and on about the differences but, when it comes down to it, I’m not really convinced that having a baby in the 2010s is actually all that better.  Life was simpler and more straightforward then, and it seems that modernity and choice just give rise to complexity and confusion.  Take childcare, for example.  Mother who stays at home vs mother who goes to work – what’s best?  Should Daddy stay at home instead?  Should Mummy work part time?  Get a job closer to home?  Who looks after the baby when she is working – nanny, nursery, childminder, grandparents…. I understand from my Mum that when she was a little girl my Grandma expressed an interest in finding a job and Grandad had a really hard time understanding why- her job was looking after my mum and the house and although Grandad’s job wasn’t fantastically paid it was enough to keep them all in food and clothes and have a drink at the weekend.  I can just imagine how the conversation would go now if I said “Husband, I want a job” and he said “Wife, no”.  “WHAAAATTTTT?  WHYYYYYYYY?  I HAD YOUR BABY, I NEED SOME INDEPENDANCE, I DIDN’T MARRY YOU FOR THIS, I AM MORE THAN JUST A BABY MACHINE YOU *SSHOLE!!!” (I hasten to add that this isn’t an actual conversation). Stuff might even get smashed and there would definitely be an argument.  Actually I don’t have a choice now – kind of ironic when you think that when I was born you would have to resign from the job I’m in if you got pregnant – though I still think I would work if I did have a choice.

Anyway enough of my ramblings.  We don’t, of course, have a choice in all of this unless someone has invented a time machine.  But I think that, for me, there are a lot of advantages to having a baby now as opposed to back then that’s only because we have learnt from people who have done it before us – so perhaps it’s worth reflecting on it a bit more before we have to learn the hard way…..

Let me know what you think about which era was best for having a baby in by voting in this poll….!

 

Separation Anxiety

Babies, when they are around 6 months old, often start to get anxious when their mother or father leaves the room. They will reach a stage where they will scream until she comes back, wailing as if the world will end just because she has gone to the kitchen and then hold their arms up desperately as if they have been waiting all day to be picked up. This is something which is, for the parent in question, upsetting, annoying and probably slightly gratifying at the same time. I say probably because, though I have seen several other people go through this, Hannah hasn’t reached that stage and hopefully never will. But this post isn’t about Hannah. It’s about me.

I think my baby is the most beautiful baby that was ever born, even more gorgeous than Prince George, and he is seriously cute (I wonder if Hannah will ever have to wonder whether it’s wrong to fancy the King …) and I am totally in love with her. She is the best thing that has ever happened to me and we have been together for 15 months- longer than some marriages. And while I started this journey not having much of an idea at all about how to look after her, I am pretty sure I know what’s best for her and would bite the head off anyone who told me how to raise my child. Raising her is the sole responsibility of me and my husband and always will be.

I don’t want you to get the impression that I am some kind of over protective lioness; I’m really not. The first time I left her – to go to the hairdressers over the road- I briefly cried and then an enormous sense of freedom came over me. In the end, while I didn’t enjoy leaving her, I was comfortable with the people who were looking after her and knew that I would be back in 3 hours. On that occasion I was more upset about the disastrous highlights I ended up with that I had waited a year for. I’m very happy for her grandparents to look after her, and made the decision about 2 months ago to join a gym and leave her in its crèche while I worked out (you wouldn’t know it to look at me). That was weird but I knew that it was a good crèche and that I would be back in a couple of hours. But the other day I took her for a settling in visit at her nursery and I think that is what has set me off….

The nursery in question has an excellent reputation and I am totally convinced that the staff there will take great care of my little girl; more so because they did an excellent job with my wonderful nephews who are growing up to be happy, confident and capable young men. I want the same for her. So why was I getting tearful when they started to look for a date for a home visit? Was it because my house is a complete tip? No. It was because putting her in nursery is now getting very real. There’s only a month to go now. I know I’ve written blog posts that are along similar lines in the past but as D Day approaches I find myself feeling more and more guilty, more and more like I want to kiss her all the time and less and less like I want to leave her with anyone- even when she is being a complete toerag and I feel like putting my head on a blender. Even today at the gym I couldn’t get into it as much as I would usually and I think it’s because she was crying when I left….

I clearly need to toughen up and accept that while no one will love my daughter like I do, no one can ever love me like she does either and that other people can enrich her life and advance her development far more than I can alone. So my fervent hope is that we are now bonded for life- me to her and her to me (at least until she leaves home) and that when she comes home in the evening she will still need me and love me as much as she does now. It will be OK because it has to be OK, and if so many other women can rear a happy baby and bring home the bacon I know I have that capacity too. But I tell you right now, one of the hardest things I will ever have to do will be that first drop off at nursery, and I pray it will get easier. My boss had better prepare himself….!

Perhaps you have had similar concerns or could even offer me some pearls of wisdom…..?

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