Sunday, 29 January 2012

Working mum - is it worth it?!

It's Sunday night again and once more I am thinking about tomorrow, about dropping V off at my mum and dad's and heading off to work, and asking myself, "is it worth it?".

I am a journalist and on bad days, when people are quibbling and moaning about the slightest little problem as if using the wrong abbreviation will cause the world to fall apart, then I have to say "it's not" but for the most part and on balance, I think it is - maybe!

OK - so why did I return to work?

Well, there's the money of course. We decided that we could manage if I was a "stay-at-home-mum" but it would be tight, and in all honesty, we didn't want to live like that, or bring our daughter up like that when I had the opportunity to work.

So with the help of my parents, who have her two days a week, flexible working, and, just recently, a day at nursery - we manage.

People may say she would rather have me around than the money or material things, but what sort of "me" would I be? Which brings me onto the other reasons why I work.

Until maternity leave I had worked solidly, without a break, since I was 18, so nearly 25 years, plus during that time I also did two degrees, a BA (Hons) and an MA. When you are so used to working, it's hard to just stop because it is part of who you are. Whether that is a good thing or not is another debate but for me it was a fact that I couldn't change.

Besides, I like working, I like the adult banter of an office and I not only do I enjoy what I do - for the most part - but I believe that it actually does some good. Not in the same way as a doctor or a nurse but in its own way, it's important to investigate stories and tell the world what is going on.

Maybe it's another older mum thing? If I hadn't been working for very long before I became a mum, it might have been easier to give it up.

Much as I adore my daughter and love every second I spend with her, I would find it hard, I think, being at home all the time knowing that I wouldn't have at least one day at the cut and thrust of the "coalface" so to speak.

I am lucky in that I work on four days and do odd shifts on the other days so I do get to spend a fair bit of time with her during the week and because I work, I think I appreciate that time more and make the best of it.

Rather than drift from day to day without a real plan, which is what I know I would be like, we DO stuff together - be it going to groups, the farm village, soft play or just wheeling her round the supermarket in a trolley - which she loves.

I enjoy the little conversations the two of us now have together but there comes a point when you want a bit of in-depth discussion about life, and not just with other mums who, I have discovered, eventually bring the conversation back round to their offspring.

If I was a "stay-at-home-mum" I would probably be a combination of somebody stressed about money and frustrated that news was happening and I wasn't there to cover it - all of which would not make me a good mother.

And then, there's another very important reason. I think it's vital that V sees a mum who goes out to work to help to provide for her family. I was brought up in an environment where you worked - and if you wanted things you had to work for them and I want V to have that instilled into her as well.

It's not always easy. I used to work all hours to get stories done but now, if I have to go, I hand them over. Unthinkable in the old days, letting someone else finish off my masterpiece, but now I have other priorities and getting home to give V her tea is number one!

It's hard if she's not well. Thankfully, this doesn't happen very often, but I do feel bad leaving the office when I am perfectly well myself. Not because I don't want to rush to V and comfort her, but because I know what others might be saying because I used to say the same! I just have to put this out of my mind.

However, in some ways I think it makes me a better worker. I may not be able to work all hours God sends but I am more relaxed and while things still wind me up, I find it easier to let some things go because I know that in the wider scheme of things they are not important.

I think if I won a massive amount on the lottery, I know I would still have to work in some way, but it would give me the freedom to work for myself as a freelancer, where it wouldn't matter if one month I made a pittance - although it would need to be when V reached school age because trying to string a proper sentence together on the screen with a toddler running around is nigh on impossible!

I realise, reading back over this, that it sounds like I am wracked with guilt every day and that this is the justification that I reel out to myself all the time. Well, maybe it is?

The truth is I do feel guilty, I won't deny that, and sometimes colleagues may get short shrift from me when I am in a "why am I putting up with this when I could be reading The Gruffalo to my little girl" kind of mood.

I am a Catholic, I will always feel guilty about something, it's in the job description, but at the moment my reasons for working over ride that guilt. The moment that they don't, I will know it's time to stop.

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