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.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Cutting off my right arm - I survived!

When I woke up at 5am I had that feeling you get when you know that you have something to worry about but for a brief moment you can't remember what it is - and then it dawns on you and you feel it first in the pit of your stomach.

It came to me as I was still remembering the emotion of the twins being born yesterday, today was a big milestone for Verity - and me - her first day at nursery.

We had decided to put her in a day nursery for one day a week as my shift patterns were going to be changing, and also because we thought she would benefit from it, but given the choice and how I felt this morning, I wouldn't have been doing it!

Firstly, there was the guilt of leaving her. Should I really be working rather than looking after my child for this one day?

Even though I knew I was working so that she could have whatever she needed, what if needing me was more important than anything?

I had been through all this when I first went back to work, even though we were able to manage by leaving her with my parents for a couple of days and using flexible working for the others.

Now I was going through it all again, but was suffering not only the guilt of leaving her, but leaving her with people she didn't know for the very first time.

She is not a particularly clingy child, she is fine when left with family and is quite confident at the groups she goes to but I had no idea how she would react being left where absolutely no one was familiar.

What if she hated me for doing this?

Then there was the fact that this was the first day of years of other people judging my child that will continue until she is at least 18 - and beyond - if she becomes that lawyer or vet that I am banking on.

What if she displayed some of the toddler traits that are beginning to rear their heads - everything she touches is "it's mine", and if you try to take it away there's trouble. We even sometimes have full scale throwing herself on the floor drama queen moments - but most of the time she is a very happy and amenable child but what if they only see the bad bits and think she is "difficult" or a whinger on just one meeting?

They would probably also be judging me. I found myself wondering whether I should change her trousers when she spilt a small drop of porridge on them at breakfast in case they thought I was a slummy mummy. I didn't. There wasn't time!

I then thought I should make a note of what she wore so that she didn't turn up in the same thing every week.

I also worried that they would judge me on the remnants of the bad teething nappy rash that she had last week.

Will they blame me for her fussy eating when I am tired of telling people that I have offered her anything and everything since weaning started but she just isn't that interested in food.

But near the very top of my list of worries was "what if she loses "toppy"? This is one of my old tops that she needs when she wants to sleep. If it were to go missing - we would be stuffed!

So with all these thoughts in my mind, I phoned them at the beginning of the week to confirm what we needed to bring etc and they began to prepare me for upset.

They said that as she was only going for one day a week it would probably take her a while to settle but not to worry as it was only to be expected.

They suggested I stay for a bit while they went through her routine etc with me so she could see I was happy chatting with them, then to go home and phone whenever I wanted.

There seemed to be no doubt that she would be upset as it was pointed out that leaving her with other family doesn't count as "being left" so she wasn't used to it. I take took their point but I had only been confirming that she hadn't just been with me 24/7 and is used to me working.

On the "toppy" front, it was suggested I cut it in half "just in case". Brilliant - why hadn't I thought of that before, instead of guarding it while out as if it were diamond encrusted.

n the end, I cut the arms off to keep safe at home, and then wondered if could cut my own arms off to leave with her at nursery for comfort as I felt I was losing my right arm anyway - why not go the whole hog?

So, armed with the change of clothes and the infamous "toppy" we set off. I explained to her that she would play and have lunch then mummy would come and get her.

I had a heavy heart, why on earth was I putting her in a situation where she was likely to be upset. I had spent 23 months trying not to do that so why was I walking straight into it now?

In the event, I could barely get her coat off before she was playing. She came over while I was talking to the manager because she wanted to show me things but basically she zoomed around excitedly, trying to play with everything at once.

I sloped off - I didn't/couldn't do the big goodbye - and phoned when I got home. She was still happy as Larry. I started to feel a little bit miffed.

I phoned an hour later and there hadn't been a single whinge or moan. She had been playing solidy and was completely happy.I was so relieved and delighted - but there was a small twinge of doubt inside me, why wasn't she missing me, is she THATfed up of my company?

We decided not to push it so I collected her at midday - after lunch and before her nap - so that she would leave happy. She didn't eat, but she doesn't eat at home so that was nothing new.

She didn't want to leave. She smiled at me when I walked in but the Railway Children-esque "Mummy, my mummy" never came, nor did the slow motion run to me with outstretched arms. Instead, she said hello but then ran past me and dived head first into a ball pool! When I asked her if she enjoyed nursery she proceeded to say "I want to see it again" all the way home!

So I am very, very proud of my happy, confident and independent little girl but does this mean I am now surplus to requirements? She didn't even ask for me FFS!

Don't get me wrong, I didn't WANT her to be upset in any way and I hope she continues to be happy there but a little "Where's mummy?" would have been nice!!!!

I know I would have been more upset - beside myself in fact - if she had cried at any point so I am really not complaining, I just hope that the fact she was settled is because she is happy and secure and not because she is bored of me!

Am I broody? Surely not!

OMG! I think I might feel a bit broody - although I don't think I have ever felt it before so I'm not sure!

Yesterday, my sister-in-law gave birth to twins. A gorgeous boy and girl (6lbs 14oz and 5lbs 14oz respectively) born by elective C-section. All is fine, the little girl was checked over in special care for a while as she was a bit wheezy, but she is out now and they are both doing well.

I visited them and got a very strange feeling, basically I feel rather emotional about it all and I am not sure exactly what these feelings are?

Firstly, they are gorgeous, and excellent weights for twins, really tiny, but both bigger than V was when she was born (5lbs 11.5oz) and I realised that I couldn't remember her being that tiny. Then I realised that I wouldn't be doing it again and as I cuddled the little boy and he opened his sleepy little eyes and looked at me, I felt a bit of a pang.

I know that all the reasons for us not having another are right and sensible. I am just shy of 45 and I was really lucky with V that with high blood pressure, I didn't develop pre-eclampsia or have a placenta that struggled, or for that matter get any other age-related pregnancy problems.

To try again would be pushing it, and at my age it might not even happen so I could just be setting myself up for a fall but I remember those first heady days with a newborn and the excitement of getting to know your new little baby and have to admit I felt a little envy.

But I think what really got to me though was a very special moment. I took my niece, the twins' older sister, over to the hospital in the afternoon to meet her new brother and sister and the excited and happy look on her face was priceless. "This is E, your big sister" said my brother, "she's going to look after you!"

I felt the tears coming as I realised that V wouldn't have that kind of wonderful moment and I felt bad that can't give her a sibling and just hope that she doesn't come to resent it.

So I think that maybe I'm not broody in the sense that I want to do the baby thing again - especially if I bring to mind how hard those first few months are - but I am just feeling guilty that I can't give V something when I always want to give her everything she needs.

On the plus side though, I can give her my full attention physically, mentally and emotionally and I know that another child would take some of my attention away from her - it would be inevitable - plus completely exhaust me so I wouldn't be an effective mother to either of them. I know that a lot of people have small age gaps but it's really not for me - or V!

Meanwhile, I can't wait for her to meet her cousins and I'm sure that there will be a similar "special moment" when they are first introduced. We bought V a toy baby doll for Christmas to get her used to the idea but as she is fond of "slam-dunking" it, I think we'd better keep an eye on her!

And at the same time, I am looking forward to lots of baby cuddles from the twins and helping out whenever and wherever I can. Hopefully I can be a bit more use now, than I was when they had their first as I know a lot more.

I am already planning what to say to V when she asks about a brother or sister and I think I will just tell her the truth.

She is already close to the cousins she has and I know she will love the latest additions as well so she won't be short of pals.

Of course, I could always try and persuade my brother to let me have one of his twins - but that is not an option - I've seen Blood Brothers - and that really doesn't work!