So this is it.
I am nearing the end of the last week of what my Dear Husband refers to as my “paid holiday”. Come Monday morning I shall be, once again, one of the thousands of cold, sleepy workers making their way to their place of employment. I am going back to work.
Lots of people (ok, a few…) have been asking me how I feel about returning to full-time work. It is complex (just for a change…). I really enjoy my work; yes I may have the occassional off-day and have a good moan, but in general I am extremely lucky. I have an interesting job, a great boss, nice offices and work with a team of truly dedicated professionals. What’s not to like? Well…
- My working day is 09.00 – 18.00. My commute is around 45 minutes each way, so I tend to be out the door as the kids are getting ready for school/daycare (Dear Husband takes them as he is a freelancer and so has much more flexibility) and don’t get back until around 19.00, when the kids are having their dinner (or are about to). This leaves me with about half an hour to cuddle/talk/play with them before they have to start getting ready for bed. Great…
- The above scenario is on a good day. Sometimes I have to get in earlier that 09.00 and very often I have to stay later than 18.00. Sometimes much, much later. Before I went on maternity leave with Son #2 in April last year, there were whole days when I barely saw the kids at all. Utterly depressing.
- Because of my working hours (and so that Dear Husband can also work) we have to have the kids in full-time daycare. Dear Daughter is in school from 08.15 – 12.15 (13.15 on Fridays) and then she goes to the daycare facility where Son #1 and (as of Monday) Son #2 are looked after until 18.00, when Dear Husband picks them up. This is a looooong day for kids their ages (5 years, 3 years and 8 months). Granted, it is mostly play for the boys, but still…
- I miss out on so much to do with the kids; so many milestones. I might not be the first person to see Son #2 crawl or walk or say his first proper word. Son #1 might finally learn to speak in whole sentences while talking with his carer, not me or his father. Dear Daughter might learn to tie her shoelaces or lose her first milktooth at school or daycare. Oh, the guilt!
But that, the guilt, is what makes me really angry (**WARNING: I am getting on my soapbox**).
Why are working mothers made to feel guilty (and we are, it is not entirely self-imposed) about being working mothers? No-one has ever made working fathers feel guilty! No-one in the history of mankind has ever stared open-mouthed as a father mentions that he will be going back to work after the birth of his child. It has always been taken for granted. But I regularly have (mostly other women) stare at me slack-jawed and goggle-eyed, disapproval seeping from their every pore, when I say that I am going to be going back to work full-time.
It only gets worse if I mention that I am actually quite looking forward to it (quite apart from the fact that mine is the stable, regular income so I bloody well *have* to go back to work!)
But I wonder, does it really have to be a case of “miss out or give up” when it comes to motherhood and employment? Are there really no alternatives out there? Is it really so socially and economically impossible to change? There are so many highly educated, professional women who have been forced (one way or another) to choose in this seemingly either/or situation. And it doesn’t matter which option you pick, you are still wrong and you still end up feeling frustrated and guilty. If you do go back to work, you are a terrible mother. If you don’t, then you are wasting your education.
Answers on a postcard please…A solution before Monday would be lovely, thanks.