A mothers guilt. There’s nothing quite like it. And nothing makes it rear it’s ugly head quite like the subject of going back to work.
Full time working mothers are Guilty. Guilty of caring more about their careers than their children. Guilty of handing their kids over to virtual strangers which is no substitute for a mothers love and time. Guilty of weighing up the realities of financial pressure and coming up with an impossible decision. Guilty of wanting other challenges in their lives than the terrible twos. Guilty of looking for themselves inside the guise of Mummy.
Full time stay at home mothers are Guilty. Guilty of ignoring the hard work of our feminist sisters. Guilty of relying on their partners for financial stability. Guilty of wasting all those years of education. Guilty of feeling fulfilled simply by being a mum. Guilty of not caving into the immense social pressure behind the words “so.. when are you going back to work?”
This impossible decision means that no matter what your choice is, you are inevitably going to come up lacking. In our generation, the perfect compromise of part time work is becoming an ever more elusive dream which less and less of us can grasp, forcing women of all ages and qualifications to make the impossible choice.
In my case, I love my son and I love my work. My work drives me crazy and my son drives me crazy. So I try to do the best I can to satisfy both. I send my son to the childminder as little as possible, (and try not to wonder why he eats and sleeps better with her and never seems that bothered when I come to pick him up) and I do my job to the best of my ability, (while attempting to steer my colleagues away from the pile of books I accidently had sent to myself instead of an author because I’ve been up since 5am.)
My initial plan to combat this work life balance was genius. Working From Home. I see my baby, I do my work. How can it go wrong? For a little while, R felt the same way. “Dont worry about me Ima” he would call from his playmat. “You get an hours work done and I’ll just look at these lights.” “Thanks bub” my distracted reply as I fired off emails, not knowing how lucky I had it. “I’m just going to have a two hour nap Ima, why dont you have a really loud and long conference call?” he would say on a daily basis.
Then he started moving.. a blessing right? And everything changed. “Uggg” I hear as a tiny little man is pulling himself up on my skirt and launching himself at the computer, deleting the finely edited press release I was just about satisfied with. “Umm umm mm” I hear my happily munching son from another room, and I drop my manuscript to run around the house searching, arriving just in time to rescue the apparently delicious bathroom sponge from between his 5 teeth.
So I’m left checking my email at 11pm, and getting frustrated with my baby for wanting my attention. But I cant stop working, I cant afford to. And if you can suspend your judgement for the remainder of this paragraph, I dont want to. I like the part of me that gets listened to on matters more important than how much protein R has eaten that day. I like waking up with the distinct possibility of an adult conversation and some money making of my own. But if we woke up tomorrow with a windfall, I cant imagine sending my happy little fellow off to the childminder every day either, because you guessed it-I dont want to. I love the smile I get when I walk in after his nap. I love the knowledge that I am responsible for this tiny person who relies on me for everything. Both parts of my life are just wonderful. They just jar occasionally. Ok, often.
This is the part of my blog where I come up with some great compromise that makes both parts of me happy and ties up all the loose ends.
No dice. I think our only hope is to remove the guilt. You have to work? Ok. You want to work? Great. You have to stay at home? Alright. You want to stay at home? Also fine. Embrace your situation for all its plusses, and try not to let the minuses drive you too mad.