I have received hundreds of messages since my original post, from all types of people – they have come as far as Sweden and Australia.
These are mums who stay at home but yearn to work, from dads who work too hard and too far away from home, from women who are now Grandmas that have carried an endless guilt for choosing a career & not spending enough time with their now grown-up children, time now they will never get back.
When I was pregnant with my second baby in 2009 I was offered a new work package, one that at the time I felt I couldn’t turn down financially. It would mean that we could afford things as a family such as holidays and a nice car – things that we had never had before.
I made the decision, whilst I was pregnant, that pretty much as soon as my baby was born I would return to work full time. I remember at the time, in my pregnant messed-up brain thinking it would all be fine.
My mum and mother-in-law would help with the babies and I would see them in the evenings and at weekends – how hard could it be? So I agreed instantly. Along she came and back to work I went.
The hours were long – so long – for me and all my colleagues. We had all taken over new areas and needed to be committed, meaning I worked a lot of the evenings and weekends I envisaged spending with my children.
As much as I loved my new role & the fact I was ‘doing right’ by my family earning this money for lovely things what I struggled to cope with, and still do now, is my guilt.
The guilt at the time I felt towards my tiny baby when three times a day I would express milk in my office to take home so my mum had the ‘supplies’ she needed to care for her the next day. I would get called out of a meeting to take an ‘emergency phone call’ from my mother-in-law squealing in delight that the baby had rolled onto her tummy or taken her first steps. The mixed feelings of me praying that she slept through the night because I was just so exhausted but also wanting her to wake up because I ached to nurse her back to sleep. As she got older I would listen to her scream for me as I was driving off in the car for work, whilst I was also sobbing, convincing myself I was doing this ‘all for her’. The embarrassment of having to ask my mum on a Friday night whether I spoon fed her the pasta or she preferred it as finger food, or if she had one or two yogurts after tea because another week had passed and I hadn’t been at home before dinner-time to feed her.
Then I had to cope with the knowledge that my eldest daughter, who wasn’t even five and had been at primary school for less than a year was the only child who’s mummy never collected her. I’d secretly peer through the window when I dropped her to breakfast club in the mornings knowing deep down she was too tiny to be in that queue, that I should have been the one burning her toast or sprinkling sugar on her weetabix at home. Apologising repeatedly to her that I couldn’t make it into her class on a Thursday afternoon for group reading or help on the trip to the zoo. Feeling an absolute failure that I had to re-arrange parents evening at least twice at the last minute because I just couldn’t leave work to get there in time.
Then there’s my ‘now guilt’ where since Edie came along I made the choice to work half the hours – but I now earn half the pay.
The guilt I get when my elder children see their baby sister do something new, like put her own shoes on or feed herself and they ask how old they were when they did this – and I can’t answer because I wasn’t there to see it. I already feel horrid that in September I’ll be able to settle Edie into her first year of primary school – taking the time to wave her off and pick her up yet I never did that for my elder two. It seems now like all their friends are booking holiday villages in majorca or a splash park in Spain and we struggle to afford a weekend in term time at Center Parcs. When we can’t go to Crealy in the holidays because we’ve just spotted the car needs 2 new tyres and a brake light.
When you don’t earn money you’ll feel you should and when you’re out earning a full-time wage you’ll feel like you should cut back to spend your children’s childhood with them. There’s no right or wrong way and having done both I’d never judge anyones choice on whether they work at all or if they work too hard.
I don’t think any parent feels they’ve got the work thing right; Everyone questions whether they could do things differently to better their children’s lives….
….and so we keep going – doing what we hope is right, that our babies have the best outcome because of our choices, and I believe because we worry so much about that they will be just perfect 💜