Monday, 30 September 2013

Being a full-time mum whilst keeping those doors opening...


It has been a while since I last wrote a blog post. Normal life things have got in the way; adjusting to the endless pre-school drops offs and pick ups, sorting out the massive crack in both the living room wall and my mobile phone screen. The much-loved family cat dying. To cheer me up, I have got addicted to HBO box sets - Homeland and Girls. So there really has been little time to pontificate about life.

I also went to an interview recently. Yes I applied for an actual job. This filled me with nervous tension. Should I apply for the job? Was I ready, were the kids ready? Should I go to the interview? Did I really want the job? How many hours could I feasibly work without the kids being ferried from pillar to post? In the end, after 3 weeks of angst, they wanted a minimum of two 10-hour shifts a week. I did long shifts first time round, leaving my baby asleep in the morning and returning after her bedtime at night. Deep in my soul, I knew that I wasn't prepared to sacrifice that time with the children again.

This was actually quite a landmark moment. No longer someone who has just over-run their maternity leave a bit. No longer just treading water until the right job comes along. In clinical nursing terms, that was the most family-friendly job I could probably get. I am actually now a full-time mum.

As an able, young woman, with feminist ideals, this was not part of the career plan. And it has been irritating to discover that after spending my 20s working out what to do with my life, I landed on one of the jobs that is actually pretty inflexible when it comes to family. You can work anywhere in the world but you cannot nurse from home for example or do flexitime. There are patients, there are needs to be met, services to run - all part of a massive hierarchical institution that is about clocking in and out at rigid handover times. It's a similar situation for my husband, a teacher. There is no give if you've been up half the night. Which my husband and I invariably are.

Part of me feels liberated. I am very lucky to be able to choose to not work for a while to be with the kids. I have an irrational fear of missing out on things - I know that they don't stay this little and cute and infuriating for long. I can't bear not to be there practising watering with the little man as he totters about at gardening club or not to be the one collecting my little girl as she waits expectantly on the mat at playschool, ready to jump up and down with delight when she sees me. I don't have to miss that and that is an amazing privilege.

But of course part of me is thinking, what am I going to do??? What happens when they go to school? It will just be me and endless piles of laundry. By devoting your life to your children, you lose a sense of your own self and your own worth. I already feel my confidence slipping...I used to be a person with potential. Now I don't even have time for a hobby - you know, a passion, an interest. I'm just going to end up boring myself to tears, living vicariously through my kids. As I take them off to gymnastics, part of me is thinking, I want to do gymnastics!

So I need to make some goals, develop some feminist resolve! How am I going to improve myself, as well as nurture them? There are a hell of a lot of domestic skills I could brush up on - I am going to refuse to cater to the lowest common denominator and start cooking some interesting things. Sod fishfingers and pasta pesto. I want to get making things again. I want to print off some of the millions of photos in the ether and get them into albums. I need to refresh my driving skills. But these are all terribly useful wife and mother things to do. They aren't things that will enliven and empower "me" as someone who can also exist outside the domestic sphere. I am hopeless at organising these because I feel guilty at being out, inconveniencing anyone, not doing something essential that somehow contributes to some kind of master plan. I like a plan, I like cohesion.

This is an opportunity to do some learning. I love learning new things. I am going to get myself a CD and learn Spanish so I don't idiotically stutter in default French when we go on holiday! Maybe add a skill to my CV which would broaden the scope of my employability - something parenting or natural health-related perhaps.

It is also an opportunity to meet people, interact, network. So many people with different talents and skill-sets end up knocking around a playground on a Sunday afternoon. Sometimes meeting an inspiring, funny, eccentric person is all you need to revive you and make you feel like anything is possible.

Most importantly, it is an opportunity to be brave and think outside the box. I come from an academic background - it was always about the next exam, the next hoop to jump through. Not how to think creatively. Where we live, lots of people work in their sheds, start up businesses in their garages...If we could find the confidence and the niche, there is no reason why we couldn't forge a new way of working that suits our skills and allows for family commitments.

Maybe we have watched The Apprentice too many times! But I think the most important thing right now is a positive mind-set. I am the Queen nay-sayer, talking myself out of brave new directions or taking the plunge. But I want my children to respect me not only as their mother but as someone who has something to contribute in my own right. So it is definitely time to stop looking at doors closing and think about doors opening...

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