Last Week of Maternity Leave…

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…

  1. 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…
  2. 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.
  3. 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…
  4. 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.

 

Budget Christmas Blues

We still have a couple of weeks before Christmas and I have less (much less) than EUR 200 in the bank account. Dear Husband is also broke. Christmas Day is fast approaching and we are asaulted on all sides by adverts and expectations.

“I got them budget Christmas blues…” (cue soulful harmonica music)

Like many, many other families this year, it is going to be slim pickings under the tree for Darling Daughter and Son #1 (Son #2 is too young to remember, thank goodness). Everyone outside of the Inner Sanctum (husband, kids) will be getting homemade presents. I have been doing homemade gifts for many years, so hopefully no-one will notice (unless they read this blog…hmmm…)

At this point, I would like to have a rant about the pressures exerted on families via the horrendous advertising that is foisted upon us on television, radio, via mail (yeah, thanks a lot local toystore, I really needed you to dump a massive, colourful, tempting catalogue of all your children’s toys through our door…) and on every high street. I would like to, but I just don’t have the energy. We all know it happens. The question simply comes down to whether we can resist or not. But when you are broke, the choice is pretty much made for you.

Sorry, this post is sounding a bit whingey and sorry-for-oneself. We are by no means in the kind of dire straits that requires, for example, food bank usage (hats off, by the way to Jack Monroe and her campaign #JACKSPETITION) and although I have been trying to sell some of my clothes (suits that (I hope) I will never need again) on eBay, it is not an act of desperation; more one of  frugality. We will be able to buy one or two nice new presents for our kids for Christmas (because, let’s face it, kids do not need a pile of pressies the size of Mount Everest…will save this for another post). And if I am brutally honest, I do have a tendency to spend money on things that are not absolutely necessary (see, for example, my nice shiny new Shellacked nails or that nice new kitchen gadget for biscuit decorating…). But it does seem that no matter what we do, no matter how we do try to budget and cut down on the uneccesary, there never seems to be enough money (particularly at the moment when I am on only 75% of my normal salary..ah, maternity leave…).

Three kids are not exactly inexpensive to raise (but we chose to have them and we will always make sure they have what they need, if not always what they want). If we did not have them in daycare then it would be a lot cheaper for us (a hell of a lot cheaper, it must be admitted). But if we did not have them in daycare, I would not be able to go out to work (Germany still has a very retro attitude to working mothers…again, I will save this for a separate post…) and as I am currently the major breadwinner in our family, this would not be a good thing. We were also really screwed over when we took out the mortgage on our current house (well, the land our house happens to be on) as we were not actually resident in Germany at the time, so had to agree to horrendous rates of interest (which really bites, now that interest rates are so ridiculously low). We are half way through the 10 year mortgage now and if we re-negotiated the terms of our mortgage we would have to start all over again. Which we really don’t want to do now that we are actually starting to pay off the capital. Damnation.

Have you ever done one of those Facebook quizzes that purports to tell you what literary character you are? I don’t need to, I know who I am: Meg, from Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women“. Poor, but old enough to remember the good times… It’s all in the name.

*slap*

Ok, enough wallowing. It is in my nature, but I will not allow it. When you have kids and it is the festive season, no amount of worry for Christmas/life Future is allowed to dampen the spirit of Christmas/life Present.