Mummy stuff

Miffed

miffedEquality and emancipation in parenthood is an interesting theory. But at closer inspection, I can’t help but feel betrayed. For decades, I had bought into the propaganda. However, after four years of nappies and pear purée, it has dawned on me: When push comes to shove, I am in this alone.

As much as I’d love to have a scapegoat, I can’t even blame it on the husband. Big M does what he can and more to handle his share of childcare and household (I refuse to say ‘help me’, as it shouldn’t be my responsibility alone). But still, it’s not enough.

Growing up, I have been sold an image of equality that I would yet need to come across in real life. In general, women are still the ones expected to take career breaks. It’s what our society anticipates and what we are willing to accommodate. We wouldn’t even think of asking a man to take a couple of steps back, maybe even risking never getting into the game again. Of course, there are the odd ones out. But they are just that.

When Little L was born, I suddenly faced the decision between staying home and putting my child into the hands of strangers to go back to work. I had the luxury to choose to stay at home. But I didn’t choose to be deadlocked in this situation forever. And deadlocked I am.

The list of house & home responsibilities got longer over time and even longer with the expansion of our family. If I now want to work (I am doing bits and pieces of freelance work), I am struggling to create some ‘free’ time to make it happen. I love my family and I love my life, but sometimes, this whole conglomerate of offspring, husband and house feels like a millstone around my neck. How am I ever going to get back on the career track, if I am also the one left to deal with the organisational mountain that a family of four entails?

Of the women I know who went back to work fulltime, the majority now has to deal with said mountain on top of everything work related. They are having it ALL. Not a very appealing concept.

Now that the breastfeeding fog has lifted (please tell me I am not the only one who suffered from lactation related stupefaction) and I am no longer getting up ten times a night, I am revelling in newfound energy and drive. But what to do with it? Bake bread? Gardening? Baby food?!?!

I have never been one to sojourn in a situation (relationship, city, country…) that didn’t make me happy. What frustrates me most about the current situation is that I know that despite my misery, it’s perfect for us as a family. Me, the one that was always quick to jump from one big decision to the next, can’t change anything.

I will just have to wait until the girls are a little bit older.

 

27 Comments

  1. What an honest post. Do not worry as a lot of Mums go through this pathway. When a family grows so does the responsibility. Would love to have you share your voice and story in our Motherhood Exhibition, we are meeting this Wed evening and Friday morning in the place I bumped into you, so please let me know if you can make it. Until then, keep up the good spirit and lets all put the mmmm into motherhood xx

  2. Really moving post that everyone who reads will no doubt relate to. It’s so true that women tend to be mostly responsible of the family and the pressure is on them/us to hold everything together. I have a lot of help from my family-tonnes and a child in nursery 4 days a week, and still it’s a juggle. I don’t think it ever won’t be, but I too think great creativity, work and opportunity can be bourne from limitations and short spaces of time. Seriously. You want something done, give it to a busy person. We can have it all. ‘All’ just might not be as quick as we’d hoped (whatever all means-some days just happiness with sorting general life and relishing in happy children, other days finishing a script/chapter and the above), but it can happen and it will. You are doing an amazing job by the way and look you’re writing, connecting through it all. Story is conflict…a bit like life x

  3. Kelleyn says

    Yes, it is a big fat lie! You can’t have it all. You can have one or the other, but not all. If you choose to work then you have to be content with someone else raising your child and the home front a disaster. Life then becomes two jobs because even the best husband rarely does 5o percent of the work on the home front or childcare when one child gets sick. While I miss wearing fancy clothes and stimulating work I would never trade being home with my children. I have 4 and each one is a blessing.

  4. Caroline says

    i feel the same – mine are 6 and4 and i’m back working full time – i feel pulled in every direction and rushing everywhere. i’m doing the school runs and all the washing/cooking at home – so much for equality! historically men died before women – reckon there will be a shift in this soon – women have far more responsibility and work load juggling home/work/kids/husband than ever before. On top of that add sleepless nights and its relentless…..

  5. Totally empathise with this, totally. I’ve no idea what to suggest, I feel trapped, lonely and I cant do anything on my own. I’ve been out once with the husband this year on our own and that was to parents evening. This isnt the life I wanted AND im still up at least twice a night!
    Things will work out for you soon i’m convinced of that. xxx

  6. You know my situation – my mother lives with us. It’s not ideal by any means but I honestly wouldn’t know how to do it without live-in help. So now at least I have someone to take the kids to school and pick them up but that doesn’t mean my days are less hectic! I pack their lunches, go to work, come home, feed them dinner, give them a bath, do homework with them, read them books and then when they are in bed I cook dinner ahead for the next night and/or go to the shops because the fridge is empty 😐 (husband comes home anytime between the bath time and when I’m already asleep, not by choice, I should add) But somehow in all this we have found a rhythm and most days I don’t feel as overwhelmed as I did in the first few years of having two kids. So I’m sure you’ll get there too 🙂 Give it some time and I’m sure you’ll find your groove again.

  7. Modern life for women is no less of a minefield than it was before- I think the problems are just different. They’re also not ideal if you don’t have children- or you’d quite like to have them but know that really you can’t afford to have them unless you, as you say, basically only see them for 15 mins morning and evening and at weekends- when you’re probably exhausted- and they probably prefer their Nanny.

    You do have an awesome My Little Pony t- shirt on there though!

  8. Mummy Plum says

    I can identify with this. My eldest will soon be 4 and starts school in September but my youngest is only 5 months. I love my children and my husband, I have a lovely home and I have the luxury of not having to work and it is a luxury, BUT, some days, after 12 hours of looking after the kids/ managing the house/ sorting out every aspect of our life- I feel quite low – and exhausted. The constant monotony of it and the lack of adult interaction and creative stimulation gets me down. (Although I must say this is where I have found blogging enormously helpful.) Theoretically, there is nothing stopping me going back to work, but it would still be me who has to do everything, the kids/shopping/manage house/ etc so it would just make the situation even more stressful. So like you, I feel I must wait, until they are older – and it gets easier. Anyway, just wanted to say, you’re not alone. x

  9. So honestly written, and I’m sure there are many of us out there, myself certainly included, who feel exactly the same way. The world may be changing, but it’s changing way too slowly. I worked full-time for the first five years of motherhood, and I was exhausted and bitter most of the time. I am now staying at home for a while, and it is working better for all of us, but I must admit there are times I do miss working and wish there was a better answer. In another year, I plan to start work again, hoping there will be a part-time or very flexible situation out there that will enable me to balance it all. But it doesn’t necessarily get easier as the kids get older – if anything, there are even more commitments to juggle. Sigh… I wish there was an easier answer. For all of us.

  10. My mum packed in work when she had me and my brother and often bemoaned just what you are above.l She was the one that pushed me on in my career and was the one who was devastated when I chose to stay at home with the boys.

    I am not going to pretend that everything is rosy, as it isn’t, but as you say this was my choice.

    I realised pretty early on that I like to give 100% and if I was working family and work would lose out. Believe me when I say the girls will be at school before you know it.

    If finances allow why not look to have a day to do your thing if possible. Sometimes if you can not reframe the situation, you just have to reframe yourself.

  11. I love your honesty. What you describe is absolutely the reason why it was never an option for me not to go back to work after having the Biscuit.
    Staying at home I felt like I was falling further and further into a big whirlpool – and I wasn’t enjoying my time with her. Now, when I’m with her, she has a mummy who is 100% there instead of clock-watching and waiting for bed time. I am also extremely lucky that my husband took voluntary redundancy around the time I went back to work – and that he now not only has the flexibility that comes with working for himself, but is also absolutely happy to deal with the larger childcare burden and also housework. I guess it is different for every couple – and you have to find what works for you and your other half. I suspect if I was married to the sort of Alpha male who would resist this sort of role swap I would be in a very different position.
    I know this sounds slightly crazy given you stated you wanted to stay at home with them, but can you arrange nursery or childcare for a couple of mornings a week to give you space to ‘work’?
    Btw – your little one is utterly beautiful

  12. I love this post. Particularly your comment about ‘having it ALL’ – so apt. I’ve been both sides of the fence (albeit with only one child when I was still employed outside the home) and I really don’t know what the answer is – but like you, I rail against the fact that it is almost invariably the mother who ends up in this situation.

  13. OK, here’s the answer from the old woman. You CAN have it all – just not all at once. If you have the choice to stay at home while the kids are so little, do it. Not because you need to devote yourself 100% to your family – I don’t believe that’s necessarily good for all mothers, but because it is no fun trying to have the career when you have little babies. Just chill for a while, knowing that when they’re at school, or even when one is at school and one is at nursery, you can dip your toe back in without feeling completely overwhelmed.
    I didn’t become a writer till I hit my forties, and before that had switched careers twice (and studied for a Masters) while having the older two.
    Just try to look at this as one phase in your life. You are not deadlocked! However, if you want to get back into the career that you used to have, you need to sit down at some point and have a serious conversation with your husband about the division of responsibilities. There’s no reason why the mother has to be the one organising all the doctor and dental appointments etc. It won’t happen by itself, but I know quite a lot of couples who split the domestic stuff.

  14. Ingrid says

    I can really relate to your frustration! My advice is: find a gym with a good childcare. It really helps svetting out some frustration and getting a break from the little one.

  15. First time i’ve commented on your blog- hello there by the way!

    I totally get where you’re coming from. I also live in London, and previously enjoyed a fast-paced career. My two children are 2.2 and 11 months, and (sort of) by choice i’m a SAHM, but now my daughter is nearly one, i’m getting itchy feet, BUT I just don’t see how going back to work and having a ‘full time’ career is going to happen any time soon. Childcare costs for two tinies is ridiculous (ok, so we did choose to have two close together), and as you say, even if your fella is pretty hands on, I’m still running EVERYTHING with little time to even LOOK for a decent job, even if I wanted to. I’d love to do some freelance stuff in the evenings or even on a Saturday morning but at the moment i’m too fucking knackered- even blogging is taxing my brain sometimes which is worrying! I love my life overall, but at times I feel washed up career-wise at 29- if I think about it too much it’s scaring and a tad suffocating. HOWEVER I do think there is light at the end of the tunnel. Once the kids get older, I believe things will get easier in terms of the exhausting physical grind of looking after them, and then the brain will have more clarity to think what I want to do long-term. My problem is that even though I moan about the above, I want to be in control of it all, when really I should be delegating more, so it’s not always my partner’s fault. Apologies for rambling, but want you to know you are NOT alone!

  16. Having children is the ultimate self-sacrifice. You give up what’s good for you for the good of the children and the family. Like you, I have a husband that works horrendous hours so if I went back to work, it would just mean me having to cram even more in my day. He wouldn’t be able to pick up any of the slack and I wouldn’t expect him to. I’ve accepted that I just have to give in to while the boys are small and savour the odd few minutes I get to myself. It’s hard though.

  17. I hope you dont mind me commenting as I dont have children (yet) but it is on the cards very soon, however one thing that does realistically worry me is just this. It’s nice to see someone being so honest about the mis-conception of ‘having it all’ don’t get me wrong it doesnt put me OFF having children, but alas it makes me wonder whether and how I will cope when the time comes and I have to perhaps give up my career in favour of looking after children. All I have ever read is stories about how you CAN have it all, but realistically these so called ‘handy hints’ they give out and probably NOT written by women with children…

    Food for thought.

    Excellent writing lady…

    Scribbs xx

  18. I hear you! I have been battling with this since the day that, nanny hired, I was made redundant two weeks before returning to work. At first I thought it of a great opportunity to have some more time with Little G, but now I see it also as a big trap.

    Funnily it happened to a few of my girl-friends too after their first kid…what a coincidence. Everyone then started to tell me that I should have a second kid straight away to make the most of the ‘career break’. Thanks, but no thanks.

    The one thing that consoles me in this career limbo between the past and the future is what some wise person told me on Twitter: when they will be older and we will be back at work, jumping on planes and in important meetings, we will never regret taking some years off to see them growing. I visualise this scenario and try and live this moment in time and enjoy it. (Well, most of the time that is) Having said that, I have no desire to bake bread, garden or cook. None whatsoever.

  19. This really touched me because I could have written it. It’s all so very true.

    I’ve started gardening, an activity I had zero interest in before! It’s…. OK.

    Oh god, and I also bake bread. Please tell me it doesn’t count if I do it in the bread machine?!

    Sending love xx

  20. Expat Mum has a lot of wisdom in her comment. Don’t try to get it all sorted out overnight. In my experience, when the kids are the age of your ones, a little can go a long way. So you don’t have to jump into a demanding full-time or part-time job straightaway. Maybe just put one or two things in place that feed you – do a course, take up a new hobby… I really think just one or two mornings a week can make the WHOLE difference. Think what it is that really energises and excites you, and make it a fixture.

    Would be my advice.

  21. My other thought is that we have all under-estimated just how much time, effort, mental input and emotional energy is involved in running a house and being there for a family. All the labour-saving gadgets and all the ready meals in the world (if you want to go that route) can’t reduce it to zero.

  22. Oh, and one last thought. I disagree with your penultimate paragraph. If it’s making you miserable, then it isn’t working for the family. I really do think that a happy mother = a happy child. At a deep undefinable level, nothing to do with clean laundry or organised medical appointments, a child thrives when a mother thrives. I am increasingly aware of the need to model self-nurture for my kids. Otherwise the cycle never breaks.

    But I admire the patience in your final paragraph. Yes, sometimes we have to wait a little.

  23. It’s hard to feel worth when you’re a sahm.Had you gone back to work you’d be feeling guilty for not staying at home.Find some other mum’s to have a chat with, NCT, church whatever.I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but you know you could come up with some genius business idea that you could all join in.Or just getting out might help.

  24. Jackiekiddle says

    Hi, found this so pertinent. I had a fab career but chose to stay at home as my little boy has a rare disease and I want to be the one to look after him. I’ve got over the clothes and designer handbags but I really miss the social interaction you get from working in an office. The loneliness is the trickiest and I don’t get to keep my brain active. I feel that as lucky as I am to stay at home and look after my children, that there has to be another chapter and deadlocked is precisely the word.

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