Can I really have it all?
My husband and I jokingly call our daughter a ‘happy drunken accident’, which means that she wasn’t ‘planned’. Heck, she wasn’t even close to ‘being’ had things gone differently! I’d always imagined being a Mum is something I’d do when I was bored of work, 10 years into my career- we were young and definitely NOT in any kind of hurry.
Not to go into the dreamy details of how we made her, it was the evening of July 17th, we were drunk from a party and the ONE time we forgot to stop the ‘swimmers’ they went for gold!! BAM 31st July: knocked up!
Immediately, I made plans and decided that since this was all 5 years before MY plan, the only way to tackle this was to be practical, like I always am. I was hell bent on returning to work and definitely wasn’t interested in spending any more than ‘required’ time with the baby. I was doing extremely well at work and as excited and happy as I was about the pregnancy and my daughter’s impending arrival, I was scared to turn into a ‘Mum’. The practical side of me believed in planning and decided that to return to work at 5 months, I would need to book a nursery place asap. So I did that and told my boss, very categorically, that I’d be working till I popped. I did that as well, signed off 10 mins before they put the first pessary inside me. My pregnancy was a breeze, I loved being pregnant. I worked in a fashion house so getting new clothes was no issue and everyone was so impressed- I hardly took days off and seemed to be as happy and fresh faced as ever. I did the whole NCT thing and everyone there called me a ‘baby’ at 26 and already knocked up with her first baby. They were all very supportive and kind, as all mums-to-be are but expectedly shocked at my very dismissive ‘I’ll be back at 5 months and everything will be fine’ prophecy.
Moving on, on 12th April, my little lady was born and I changed as a person, just as she destroyed my pelvic floor. From the moment I laid eyes on her, I think I have had a personality transplant and some days I hate this soppy, mumsy part of me. For various reasons I needed to be induced and it turned out my daughter had to have 10 days of IV antibiotics. The first 10 days we were in hospital, I didn’t sleep a wink. I was awake and staring at her, changing her, feeding her and just mainly, in awe of her. She was pink and perfect. For the first time in my life, my plans had shattered and how!
Fast forward 3 months, I had become everything I feared, I was a convert – this baby malarkey was addictive and fun. I was having fun with my little one and hating the thought of leaving her at 5 months; time was flying and I was not coping well. I’d cry in the toilets at the thought of being away from her for so long. I was going back full time and was just not ready. Any conversation with my husband basically ended in ‘it’s your decision, I’m not going to say anything’. At 4 months, I took her to my office and they all looked like aliens to me…and, to be fair, I think the feeling was mutual. My boss was happy to see me and quickly went over a return to work plan and jokingly added ’I hope you haven’t changed your mind, we really need you back here!’ That was it. My dilemma began, I had never given up or gone back on my word before. We needed the money as well, I decided to go ahead with how things were planned and to not overthink all this.
Fast forward to the week my baby girl started nursery – there was a ‘settling in’ period. I explained to her key worker all of her routine ‘bottle – nappy change – cuddles – sleep – bottle – nappy change’ interspersed with tummy time, sitting up and random staring at me and just chilling out in general. Oh, and she loves Bollywood and hard rock music – Mummy and Daddy have very different music tastes. Looking back, that settling in period was definitely more for me. Ira took to nursery happily, ignorant that her Mummy was abandoning her for 11hrs and then coming to pick her up after all the grown up work was done. Boy, was settling tough?! My hubby arranged for an afternoon tea for me and my aunty when Ira spent her first day full day at nursery. I’m not proud, but I’ll admit I cried 5 times that day – in the toilet of course, heaven forbid someone saw me! I was the picture of happiness for everyone – so free without a baby to drag me down and slow me! When I went to pick her up, I must have pulled her out of her key worker’s arms – this girl was a diamond, she didn’t say anything except tell me what an easy child I have! I made a decision that night – I was going to call off going to work that day and stay with my baby FOREVER. I told hubby who rolled his eyes, kissed me and went off to bed.
My first day back at work, Ira had a fever. So much planning had gone into my first day back that hubby decided to stay back. I cried on my way in, feeling my heart tell me this wasn’t how it should be. I should be happy to go back to a job I loved. But now it seemed so small and insignificant. My child was ill and I was OUT?! Anyway, the day went alright. I was happy to be back and had a good day. Hubby kept me updated- his last text: ‘She hasn’t eaten anything yet’. WTF?! I got up, picked up my stuff and walked out. We took her to A&E and I was home for a week after. It was a flu and a cold. Unsurprisingly, I caught the same and then hubby. I was off for 2 weeks after my first day back.
At first, the team was very sympathetic and understood that I would need to stay home whenever Ira was unwell but they were all young and unattached or childless. They didn’t KNOW. Ask any working parent what the worst phone call to receive in the middle of a busy day is and they’ll answer ‘a phone call from the nursery telling you, your child has fallen ill again’. The nursery is basically a place where all babies (plague carriers imo) live together and exchange germs through snot, saliva and toys! She was poorly for a long time and my absence was noticeable and frequently commented on. I took this to heart and the guilt crept in. It was at both ends; not doing enough for my child and not doing enough at my favourite thing; my job. The final straw that proved I wasn’t doing enough was when I was subtly ignored for a promotion. I was burning the candle at both ends and was exhausted anyway. This deepened my guilt and my self-esteem plunged. I would dread going to work and having to face my boss. Unfortunately, I was a key person in the team and so while I was guilty and wanted to hide, I couldn’t. There were other signs, I had a cold that refused to go and I was getting quieter at work. Slowly, I would only talk when asked and needed. I was still competitive, just not fun. A few things went downhill at home and I was just lost…I wasn’t sure I wanted to do the same job anymore. The weird part though, was that I was good at it and despite the lack of self-esteem and other things, I was too comfy to want to move on. Hubby and I had rows about this and I sunk lower. If it wasn’t for a couple of friends, I would have been depressed. I needed to move on, but first, I needed to get back my sparkle. I met the wonderful Ali and she reminded me of someone who vaguely resembled myself – a person who I thought was lost in this whole working Mum malarkey.
I turned over a new leaf and applied for jobs.
I spent hours agonising over the interview questions. Would they ask me about my family? What about flexi working? What sort of job did I want? Should I lie about having a baby? What about when she’s poorly? Will I be ignored again? Sleepless nights followed. I checked in with the mums of Mummy’s Gin Fund and they all supported me, right down to wardrobe consultations! They told me to be myself and to be confident. Besides, would they ask a man about his child or whether he wanted more kids? I would kick ass, they assured me. I took the plunge.
I’ve never obsessed over interview questions before, preferring to take every interview as a challenge. Not this time. I agonised over every question, thinking about every answer to the question ‘do you have kids?’ ‘How do you divide your time?’ Or worse, we are not flexible with times, how does that suit you?’
I role played interviews with my husband and no matter how confident I was, any question about my personal life and my confidence would plummet. Professionally I had everything going for me but I wasn’t willing to compromise more than 10hrs away from my little girl.
Week 1 of job interviews and unsurprisingly I passed onto round 2 of all the interviews I attended. Round 2 is where things get serious and I was paranoid as hell. In the nights before my interview I berated myself for wanting a career, it would be so much easier to just be with her all the time. I said this to my husband who told me that not working would mean I wasn’t being myself. He said I needed to find a place that appreciated my work AND my commitment to our child. He said that the correct employer would see the added value I bring from being a mummy. I rolled my eyes and said who cares about that?!
Week 2 / round 2 I was all pumped up and had the best answer to any family question around babies and kids – ‘Would you ask this to a man?’ As usual, I breezed through round 2 and no question around family..
End of week 2, 2 job offers in the inbox! I couldn’t believe that throughout no one asked me a single question about personal life, other commitments and what not. I accepted the offer that was closest to what I thought would be best for me. It was pretty much my dream role. They were a friendly bunch- not corpy or pretentious. Best of all, they valued family time and were a lot more friendly. I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and I’m so glad I did.
Lesson learnt: agonising over a major part of your life and other’s opinions about it mean nothing. I realise now that my commitment to my daughter is non-negotiable; if she needs me I’ll be there for her in a heartbeat and no job can me stop from this. It’s only a matter of finding like-minded people and then it all falls in place!
Whilst being a Mum and working will never be easy; I’m glad I changed my job. I’ve realised that I DO put a lot of myself in everything I do and if there’s no return on it, I deflate. I love being in charge and taking charge of my life when I was going nowhere has helped me become a better mother. The tug of war continues and I may never have it all but I’m happy and content with what I have right now.
Ira sees that I love my job and that I’m independent- hopefully, she’ll aspire to be the same for her ‘happy accident!’