This week has taken some getting used to.
Gone are the heady days of rolling out of bed at 7am, leisurely preparing for the school run by throwing on some jeans and having time for some breakfast with the boys, returning home for a day of pottering around the house, watching daytime TV and enjoying snuggles with Jake, maybe popping out for a coffee with other mum friends at home with little ones, before picking up Joe at 3.15 and being home and settled for the evening by late afternoon. (OK, maybe every day wasn’t so rose-tinted).
Yes, my maternity leave has come to an end.
Here are the days of being rudely awakened by the alarm at 6am, showering and making myself presentable for the office, getting the boys ready in between straightening my hair and getting nursery/school/work bags together when Daddy goes to work, leaving the house 45 minutes earlier than we had to when I was off, dropping Joe off at my parents’ so that they can take him to school (and leaving Jake with them on a Monday and Friday), if it’s a nursery day spending at least 20 minutes negotiating morning rush hour traffic to drop him off, hopefully getting to work in time to get a parking space, finally grabbing a coffee and instant porridge for breakfast at my desk, bungling through a day at work as my brain attempts to restart itself after 10 months off, wistfully noticing the time at 3.15 and missing seeing Joe’s little face as he runs out of school, re-negotiating the traffic again to pick the boys up, getting home some time before 6pm to spend an hour with Joe before bedtime, and wearily waiting for Jake to fall asleep so I can properly put my feet up before I pass out in front of the TV anyway.
What fun to be back in the world of work. In fairness, while the new routine is a bit of a shock to the system, I’ve experienced plenty of pros as well as cons this week. Joe has loved spending extra time with Grandma and Grandad, and Jake is lucky to be spending two days a week with them, as we are lucky to have them help with the childcare which would otherwise be an expensive issue. I’ve returned full-time but we only need Jake to be in nursery three days and there is no need for breakfast or after school clubs thanks to my parents’ help.
While it has been difficult leaving Jake properly for the whole day, I know he’s in great hands at the nursery Joe went to, and the familiarity with staff and routines has made it much less guilt-inducing than it could have been. Joe thrived there and absolutely loved it, and Jake has already settled in well after only a couple of days.
And if I’m totally honest, it’s been nice to get back to being ‘work’ me, wearing my smart clothes and having grown up conversations about important stuff (even if that important stuff is about NHS restructuring and budget cuts – I’m lucky to have a job to come back to). I’m free to sit at my desk, have a hot coffee, and write a blog post on my lunch break, not hastily thrashed out during naptime.
I have found returning to work a second time to be much less of a wrench than the first – which is not to say I don’t sit here wondering what the boys are up to, hoping Joe’s behaving himself for his grandparents, keeping half an eye on my phone in case nursery should call. A working mum never really switches off from being mum, even when she has no children to look after. They are are never far from her thoughts. Fortunately the weekend is never too far away either.
So, to mark the occasion of no longer being free to watch Homes Under The Hammer every morning, I’m opening the doors to The Working Mums Club. The Club was an idea I had a while ago when I had only one child to worry about but then fell pregnant again and didn’t really see it through while I coped with being a working mum who was also expecting – how ironic.
All are welcome, provided you ‘work’ either from home or by going out to work in addition to all the child-rearing stuff that every parent doesn’t get paid to do anyway. And before I raise the hackles of every proud stay-at-home mum doing a fab job devoting her time to her little ones, I do not mean to say that you do not work hard and it is not tough sometimes. I am simply saying that maintaining a balance between paid employment and parenting brings its own challenges that a lot of people will identify with. I also don’t wish to alienate dads, but the working dad is still seemingly more of a cultural norm than the working mum, for no good reason that I can fathom.
Using the hashtag #WorkingMumsClub, I’d love for you to share your posts about any aspect of being a working parent – pregnancy at work, maternity leave, breastfeeding ‘on the job’, childcare, finances, education, managing your commitments, coping emotionally, family life – anything. I’d love to read your experiences. I’ll do my bit by sourcing interesting articles and information that might be of use to you and share them via the hashtag on Twitter and on my Facebook page.
I’ll also be running a series of interviews with other working mums to get a feel for the different roles they have and how they manage their routines – I already have a couple in the pipeline but please let me know if you’d like to take part!
Back to the grind then eh?