The theme for this month’s Experts series is Work. I think I telepathically chose it a few weeks ago to chime in perfectly with the Kirstie Allsop debate that is currently raging on social media. Less about that though and more about our own experiences.
As always, if you’d like to join in then please link up your posts about work (new or old) below and I will share it as part of this series. If you don’t have a blog or would prefer to be published here then please send me your post to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hand over now to the quite magnificent Cathy for her experience of work and parenthood –
Before my first daughter Cherry was born I told everybody, including myself, that I’d return to my role as a deputy editor after maternity leave and put her in nursery.
But as my pregnancy progressed this idea seemed more and more farfetched. I deeply wanted to be a full-time mother. So I handed my notice in when Cherry was six weeks old to set myself up as a freelance writer.
I was soon earning more than I’d earned in full-time work, my third book was published, and I remained a full-time mother to Cherry, working during her naptimes, in the evenings and at weekends and without the assistance of TV as a babysitter.
Everybody told me what I was doing was brilliant and I agreed wholeheartedly.
I completely glossed over how hard it all was on Cherry, on me and on my husband Noel. We didn’t have a lot in the way of family time and I was tired, stressed and irritable a lot of the time, a natural consequence of my chosen lifestyle. I dismissed the impact upon all of us as to be expected and pointed to the amount of money I was bringing in any time it was questioned.
20 months after Cherry, along came Violet, 8lb4oz of baby-shaped straw that broke the camel’s back.
I barely worked at all for four months after her birth, with backdated invoices keeping us more than ticking over. Then I thought it about time to start up properly again. I landed a few new clients and settled Cherry into a nursery for two morning sessions a week. Everything was set for me to just get right back into the swing.
After two weeks ‘back in the swing’ I was exhausted, barely present with the girls, glued to my bastard phone, falling behind with work, tearful, snappy with Noel and shouty and stressed with the girls. Cherry didn’t seem happy at nursery and I got nothing done while she was there anyway as Violet still needed constant attention.
I told myself to just dig in and push on. I took Cherry out of nursery and hired a mother’s help for two mornings a week. But after just a couple more weeks and more tears and snappiness I knew this wasn’t working either.
All I could think was – this isn’t what I want.
Why was I paying somebody else to play with my toddler and cuddle my baby while I was upstairs working?
Why was I checking my bloody phone twenty times a minute for more emails I didn’t really want to answer instead of focusing on my two incredible, fast-growing, constantly changing children?
The last five months have been a process of slowing down, soul-searching and rebuilding myself. I have found the impact of a second child absolutely shattering on the persona I so happily occupied as a mother of one. It has splintered the illusion of myself I held into a million pieces.
The illusion of myself as a breadwinner as well as a parent. Gone. The idea of myself as a good mother, particularly to Cherry when it was just she and I. Smashed.
I was, in many ways, but the constant phone-checking, the idly half-listening to her as I scanned emails then leaped onto my computer to respond, the refusal to stray too far from the house in case she fell asleep in her buggy or the car and I missed a nap and didn’t get to work is not the hallmark of a mindful and present parent.
And as it turns out I want to be a mindful and present parent to my children more than I want anything else in the world. Including a relatively glamorous, fast-growing and well-paid career. And so I have cut right back.
The odd freelance assignment, one solitary regular client.
My income has quartered, my happiness levels have quadrupled.
Is it fair that I had to choose between my family and my career? I’m sorry, I don’t really care. I consider myself lucky that I got to choose at all.
I speak for no woman but myself when I say that being a full-time mother is what I want and I want it more than I want any career accolade in the world.
It wasn’t even a difficult choice. I never liked office life. I don’t miss adult conversation. I don’t miss high heels. I brush my hair only under duress. I don’t care about being taken seriously as a professional. I hate offices, I never wear makeup, dresses, suits, necklaces and skirts, I don’t like being indoors sat on my backside at a desk, and I don’t crave intellectual stimulation.
Perhaps I’m not that bright, but I find day-to-day life with my charming, funny, challenging, entertaining, adorable, hilarious, strong-willed, loving children plenty stimulating enough.
I take it very seriously. It’s important work. It matters, and I matter. My levels of self-confidence and self-care have rocketed since I chose to let my career go. I have come to understand my own importance, something I never really grasped until now.
This isn’t a full stop. My children are very young and these years at home with them are short and precious. They’re not an ending, they’re a beginning.
Having children has reconnected me with the values with which I identified so strongly when I was younger, but which drifted and corroded as life became about passing exams, getting jobs, getting promoted, proving myself. (I’m not even sure to whom.)
Values of caring, compassion, empathy, positivity and motivation. These values will inform what I do in the future. Motherhood has been a rebirth for me. I couldn’t be happier about it.
Cathy, as always, is inspirational. She writes in various places, here is a good place to start.
<div align="center"><a href="http://bornin2011.com/" title="Born in 2011"><img src="http://i1146.photobucket.com/albums/o528/Emma_Cantrell/Addalittlebitofbodytext_zpsdf99add2.png" alt="Born in 2011" style="border:none;" /></a></div>
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