Last month I started a new job three days a week, after spending just over a year at home with Mole and Hedgehog. The transition, in truth, has been hard.
I spent much of my maternity leave with the question of work hanging in the wings. The basic conundrum being of a desire to keep my ore in with the working world, maintain some sort of income and personal reward versus the overwhelming instinct to curl up in my nest with my children and hold them until they’re twenty one.
Childcare costs, commuter costs, the local job market, lifestyle aspirations and grandparent willingness to help all became factors in swaying the balance between whether it was worth it or not. I also never remotely appreciated how complicated and fraught with conflicting emotions being a working parent would be.
Like when you’re washing up for the 14 millionth time at the kitchen sink, and Mole is having her third tantrum of the day, while Hedgehog decides this is the perfect time to spill a whole packet of porridge on the kitchen floor, and you want to cry because at that moment your carefree pre-baby days of financial independence and personal freedom seem well and truly gone, and your previously 21st century life has turned into some kind of 1950’s provincial nightmare of your own making.
At that moment you’d give anything for a fairy godmother to swoop in and take over so that you could go and do a job that you actually get paid for, with some outward status and recognition to boot, maybe even time to drink a coffee before it goes cold. When you’re employed by two little people the terms are shit.
Then the day comes when you have a job again, you’re coming home on the commuter train after a long day in the office and you’re missing them like crazy, resenting every last minute that you’re apart from them. You walk in the door and they’re either happy in the arms of granny, in which case you’re paranoid that they’re getting more attached to granny than they are to you, or they are having a meltdown, in which case it feels like chaos has reined in your absence and you worry about how well they’ve been looked after. Poor granny, she cannot win.
So it seems that regardless of whether you “work” or not, there will still be days that go well and days when you want to cry. Much like the rest of life then.
So far, Mole and Hedgehog seem happy and are surviving well. Mole asks me “Mummy, are you going on train today?”, then she watches me from the window with a grin on her face as we drive away. She takes her plastic phone and her little handbag into our bedroom, arranges them around her and says “I do work”. Sometimes she is wakeful in the night and comes into our bed. I secretly welcome this because I figure it makes up for the cuddles that we’ve lost, like cuddles in lieu.
I can notice very little effect on Hedgehog. She continues to keep her thumb firmly in her mouth at all times like Pebbles out of the Flintstones, practices her stair climbing and her walking any chance she gets, or sits and has snuggles with whoever is passing.
As for me, I appreciate my home days with them about ten times as much. I am already plotting to work from home as much as I can, just so I can join them for lunch. And when I walk to the office from the station, past the shops, the cafes and the bars with carefree people spilling out of them, I am reminded of another life. A simpler, going solo life without little people attached, that just for three days, is quite liberating.