This week I’m celebrating a milestone.
It’s not a huge one. To be honest, I expect most people wouldn’t even count this as a milestone nor an achievement.
But you know what? I’m hailing it as both.
3 years ago today; October 15th 2014, I started a new job.
So what? I hear you cry. People get new jobs all the time.
They do, you’re right. However, there are reasons, personal to me, that mean this little anniversary is quite a big deal.
When I started my job back in 2014, I wasn’t in a good place.
I was in denial that I was suffering from Post Natal Depression, I was also convinced that starting a new job, returning to work after maternity leave would be some sort of miracle cure for how I was feeling. The depths of despair would disappear and this new focus I had would solve all of my problems.
I was wrong. Things got worse. More on that later though.
Being a working Mum has taught me a lot. About myself, what I’m capable of and how much I respect my fellow Mothers. I’ve written before about how us women can never get it right when it comes to societal expectations. If you’re a stay at home Mum there’s always someone waiting in the wings to condemn you. And if you’re a working Mum there’s plenty of condemnation for that lifestyle choice too. We can’t win. So don’t even bother trying.
Here, listed below, are all the things I’ve learnt and come to realise over the course of the last 3 years.
10. Half term panic
It creeps up on me that half term panic. I work in education and have the dates of each term in my calendar. Yet still, I totally forget I’m hurtling towards a half term holiday at the speed of Mo Farah in the Olympics and haven’t made provisions for childcare.
It’s likely that during the latter part of the week prior to the half term break my Mother will receive a panicked phone call from me listing all the times and dates I’m hoping she can help out. Of course, she’s already prepared for it. Because she’s been a Mother for years and knows just how unprepared I often am.
I am extremely lucky. In many ways I am not, however. Take yesterday for example, by 1pm I had been party to a piss explosion, a sick explosion and a hand soap explosion. Oh and the new work coat I’d treated myself to (as part of this celebration thing) had the security tag left on it. My Friday the 13th came a day late.
However, all that said. I am profoundly lucky. Although my job can often be demanding and mean I work long hours, it also offers a huge deal of flexibility I don’t think I’d find with other employment.
I can work from home, something I take advantage of 3 times per week. I’ve recently changed my hours to fit in with school, meaning I now have the majority of the afternoon free. And I’ve never had to pay for childcare. Which, lets be honest, is bloody expensive.
I appreciate this luck. I appreciate the people who help me do my job without having to stress about childcare and I appreciate the fact I can work the hours I do without having to deal with a daily commute. Because if you work in Bristol, you’ll know exactly how damn awful that commute can often be.
8. Me time
I crave it. I need time to myself daily, just to stay happy. It’s one of my ’10 Happy Non-Negotiables’.
Just having a bath and ridding my body of last week’s fake tan. Or catching up on a week’s worth of TOWIE instead of cleaning said bath.
This one doesn’t really fit in with the working Mum thing. However, I need to mention it because it’s something that has played on my mind a lot over the last 3 years.
As aforementioned, I work in education. I’m not a teacher or anything front line, but I do work in the education sector. It’s a rewarding job and leaves me with nothing but utmost respect for people who choose teaching as their profession.
It also leaves me regretting my poor grades. I wish I’d applied myself more at school. Working in the industry I do has taught me how incredibly important education is. I just wish I’d realised that 20 years ago. Instead of treating my secondary school years as one big joke.
I laughed once, during an earlier appraisal of mine. My manager said I was organised. I wondered whether she meant to say disorganised instead.
Organisation is key when it comes to being a working Mum and let’s just say that’s a work in progress for me. I’m definitely more organised with my job than I am as a Mum. The best way to describe my home life is ‘Haywire’.
I love my job. Yeah there are days when I don’t exactly feel the love, I think that’s the case for most people. But on the whole, I love what I do. Come Christmas, this will be the longest role I’ve ever had.
I take pride in what I do, I enjoy what I do and I love the praise I receive. It’s important to me to feel a sense of achievement at the end of a working day and I get that quite often.
4. Plate spinning
There have been too many occasions over the last 3 years when I’ve felt like the plates I’m desperately trying to keep afloat are going to come crashing down around my ears.
My busiest months in work are May – mid August and then the first few weeks of the new academic year. These are the times I’m stressed, anxious and feel like my world is going to implode. “There aren’t enough hours in the day” I’ll cry. But I get through it. I manage. And usually it’s just one plate that falls off the stick. That plate will be my emotions.
I mentioned, during the introduction of this post, my post-natal depression/anxiety I was suffering from in 2014.
It was a horrendous time. And starting a new job compounded that. Instead of it being a new outlet for me, a distraction if you will, it made me feel worse about myself. I wasn’t coping with the pressures of a new job, I couldn’t get my head around what I was doing and was still struggling with being a Mum.
It all imploded in the New Year when I had a breakdown. I couldn’t cope.
But I got through it. I got the help I desperately needed, opened up to my supportive boss and things got better. Looking back on that time, I feel proud for my resilience. Every day I’d wake up and announce I was going to quit my job. And I’m so unbelievably glad I didn’t.
There’s nothing like it. It’s bone-crushing exhaustion.
Sometimes I might work 40-45 hours per week. I might have an event on in the evening that I need to attend, or I’ve travelled up to London for a meeting where I’ve left the house at 6am and not returned until 8pm. Those days are hard.
This, for me, is the worst part of being a working Mum. In fact, I think guilt is commonplace for all Mothers. Regardless of whether you work full-time or part-time, you’re a stay at home Mum, a Mum of 1 or a Mum of 5. Guilt is always there.
I’ve written before about how it’s futile. That feeling gets you nowhere and it’s never going to have a positive effect on your wellbeing.
Yet still, trying to escape it feels like a mountainous task.
Those days, as rare as they usually are, when I don’t get home until 8pm and my son is already in bed make the guilt almost unbearable.
I just have to remind myself that my son is happy and healthy and that if I didn’t work, we wouldn’t have the life we do. In our household, there’s no way we could rely on one income and that’s just a fact. It’s also important for me to have my own money, my independence and for my little boy to see that you have to work for your money and for the life you want to lead.
That said, I still can’t manage my finances at the age of 31. But don’t tell him that.
A little throwback snap from my first day. Taken just as I was about to leave. I remember the “Baby Jake” theme tune popping up on my iTunes shuffle during my journey in. It left me with a lump in my throat and also relief that I wasn’t going to have to watch it for nth time that day. Fucking Pengyquin.