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Friday, 26 August 2016

The working mum experience: Part 2 - What two weeks in the workplace taught me

The working mum experience: Part 2 - what two weeks in the workplace taught me

You can see part one hereFor those that can't be bothered to read it, I'll attempt an American drama series-style summary. (Please imagine this in a Hollywood Voiceover accent).

I had made the decision to become a stay at home mum, however in order to keep my maternity pay - which, given I was hoping to return to work and then was denied the chance at the last minute, I was fairly set on keeping - I had to return to work for two weeks.

Obviously childcare was my primary concern. 

The small one had never been apart from me for any length of time and I wasn't convinced that it was worth settling him with a stranger for the sake of a fortnight, if anyone would even want the gig. I love him, obviously, but he really can be a right whingebag, especially when teething or ill which is basically all the time. And don't get me started on trying to get him to sleep.

Daddy took holiday and covered the first week and, as I suspected, he is a much more fun stay at home parent than I. He sent me pictures like this:

Because shopping with daddy is just too much fun, unlike shopping with mummy:
No: my children did not miss me at all, and to add insult to injury the house was tidier.

Fortunately, my sister and parents were able to pick up the second week.

Aside from sorting childcare I was about as unprepared as I could have been.

I had nothing at all to wear having spent the previous three and a half years either pregnant or on maternity leave, and the time before that being significantly thinner. Being the fashion-forward mum-about-town that I am, rather than face a shopping trip and waste money on new stuff, I spent the fortnight in old maternity dresses.

I hadn't even considered how I was going to get to and from work, and upon realising that I no longer had a parking permit decided to get the bus.

I could probably write a whole post about the people you meet on buses (and, specifically the ones that sit next to you when there are lots of empty seats and try to start a conversation about G Plan furniture. I genuinely don't have a clue), but's let's just say in the second week I decided to take the car, sit in traffic for an hour each way and pay an exorbitant rate for parking. It was worth it.

Of course, the children were impeccably behaved as only children being looked after by relatives can be.

On the first day with her auntie, the big one was on best behaviour all day until the moment I pulled up in the car. On day two she threw a bit of a fit when I went to leave the house, which was excellent for the mum guilt...
But was, as they always are, absolutely fine not two minutes after I left (late) for work.
The small one even decided that naps weren't actually the devil.
Yea, seems about right (he has since reneged on this. This week he has had two days when he has not napped AT ALL. You know what the opposite to fun is? That).

There were some things I enjoyed about going back to work.

I drank hot tea at my leisure. I took lunch breaks, during which I went out to eat, sans children, and I even got my hair cut. I travelled at a speed I had quite frankly forgotten was possible; a speed unfamiliar to mummy me who has to wait for the toddler to inspect every rock, bug and piece of rubbish. I consistently overestimated how long it would take me to get places unencumbered.

It was a little bit like a holiday really (but a lot more successful than my actual holiday).

Of course had I the stress of deadlines, back to back meetings and people demanding my time it might not have been so jolly and, even with a very relaxed attitude to actually completing any work at all, by the time I schlepped into week two, the cracks were beginning to show.

My house had inch of dog hair covering the floor and crap everywhere. To be fair it's not always that much better, but I certainly noticed.

I missed the kids. 

Kind of. Going from being with them (all day) every day to being away for eight or nine hours was strange. Receiving pictures of them having fun (and eating ice cream) when I wasn't was a bit rubbish.
Yep, the small one had one too. A WHOLE one.
The little one learned a whole host of new skills; one being using a pencil, which meant I was not prepared for his attempt at wall art while I was having a shower (which I rubbed off the wall before I took a picture like some kind of blogging noob).

With no trip to the supermarket, there was no food, milk or toilet roll left in the house and I may have, at 5am, panic bought 45 bog rolls from Amazon* (Sadly, they were lost in transit, so my plans to build an extension to house them proved unnecessary).

Above all, I was completely shattered, despite not really exerting myself. Really tired. The small one was teething, which is always fun, and the big one decided to wake me up on my last day at 4.30 am singing, loudly. I'm not quite sure what, but it wasn't what I wanted to hear at 4.30am.

Was I sad to leave? 

Well, I was sad it hadn't worked out the way I had planned, but although I had some great colleagues who I will miss...not really. My boss didn't even pop in to thank me for my seven years of service, and that kind of summed up the whole experience for me. Looking after kids all day might be a thankless task much of the time, but at least they are toddlers so they have an excuse for being ungrateful buggers.

What does make me sad is that my story is not uncommon. Those who commented with positive stories of how well their workplaces had responded to their requests for part time work after maternity leave were few and far between. The news this week that the gender pay gap is biggest immediately after a woman has a baby (and keeps going for 12 years! Yikes!) couldn't be more timely, or more relevant to me.
It seems intelligent, hard working women everywhere are being denied the flexibility to work around their children and if not forced into giving up work altogether, are being skipped over for promotion, or taking worse paying jobs just to get them that work/life balance. You start to see now why so many get sucked into the evil clutches of an MLM. It's not right, and it's not fair.

So this is a shout out to the working mothers. 

To the ones that get out of bed every single day, make themselves look presentable, get the kids ready for childcare, and then go and work their bums off only to return in time to argue with their toddlers about what they won't eat for dinner, all the while clinging on to the last threads of their sanity. It's bloody hard work.

Stay tuned for the next chapter; the 'Stay at home mum experience' begins now.

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  1. 'my children did not miss me at all, and to add insult to injury the house was tidier.' OMG THIS! I think they do it to prove a point - like "oh it's so easy why do you moan all the time?" But absolutely raising the glass to those full-time working mothers! Sorry it didn't work out for you and how wrong of your boss not to say thank you! Enjoy the next chapter lovely - I know you'll make it work for you x

    1. Thank you x

      Hahaha I know what a bastard eh?! Looking after the kids and cleaning the house in his spare time. Whatever.

  2. Thank you for writing this. I've followed both parts (strange - I also did a Part I and Part II last week(!)) avidly as I WILL be one of the ones returning after my mat. leave with NC comes to an absolute end the week after next. For four days a week, I'll be doing exactly what you say and it will be f***ing hard work and the insult to injury is that the childcare costs almost completely swallow the cash made. Something is desperately wrong. I will miss my children. I wish there was an easier way as four days is too many days in my opinion but the flexibility just isn't there to make it viable. Good luck - I'm sure it's the right choice. x

    1. It's obviously the cool thing to do! Actually I just wrote so much I couldn't keep it as one part ;)
      Good luck, I hope they are nice to you!

  3. I had the same back to work struggle. Part time it seems is 4.5 days a week?!? I didn't really think that it would be difficult going back I naively thought they'd snap off my hand for my kind offer of 2 or 3 days a week. So I have somehow become a stay at home mum too...bit of a surprise. urgh we need to think of a new term for SAHM. Homemaker and housewife makes me natch...any ideas let me know!

  4. I never know how to feel about this whole situation really. I have to work full time as I'm the only parent, so I generally feel insanely jealous of SAHMs, but at the same time I don't think I would want to work part time or give up work, as I'd feel as though I was sacrificing my career and letting down Gloria Steinem, or something. We can't win really! Good luck in your new role as SAHM. x

    1. Thanks Min. Yes I guess the saving grace is that we can (hopefully) afford to live off of one income - annoyingly though not the income of the one with the uni degree. What a waste of time that was.

  5. It sucks!
    I remember your first week. ��
    To be fair.-You did well to put up with them for that long.

    seriously ... It's unfair. But sadly not unusual!

    Enjoy the next chapter.

    1. Haha I do too! I know, seven and a half years almost... Goodness.
      Thank you x

  6. Standard Deviation27 August 2016 at 10:13

    Yup. I'm afraid I remain exceptionally cynical about these invigorating statements of modern women being able to 'have it all'.
    Maybe those who do have found a way of duplicating themselves so they have double the resources to cope with the more-than-double the workload that having young kids and working entails?

    1. Now that I would be interested in. I hope science is at least working on it.

  7. I thought I did quite well first time around when I returned after Mouse - a bespoke part time role was created for me and I got the hours and days that I wanted. All good, and I worked SO HARD. Easily chipping in four days worth when I was contracted to three. I made my new job my own and gave it my bloody all, often working late into the evenings and on my days off to prove that I was game on for being a career driven working mum. I took my work mobile everywhere with me and I was never off limits, even at weekends I'd do a couple of hours to get ahead. While all this ball-busting was happening, the guy who had been drafted in to cover my mat leave, and who had stayed on in my old role, was moving up the ranks. As it stands, he's had a mighty fine promotion and is now on approx £12k MORE than the full time salary I vacated when I left first time around. He's my buddy and he works hard, aims high, and fair bloody play to him. But I work hard and aim high too. It isn't fair. Errrrm....anyway yeah, #Chucklemums!

  8. I have absolutely no idea how women work full time with children at home, I take my hat off too them. Although I'm still on mat leave so I may have to become one! #chucklemums

  9. I am still stuck back at the fact that they actually made you come in for those 2 weeks. Anyway, glad it all finished up...well..pleasantly for you. I am definitely needing to get back into work, but marginally terrified as the longer you are out, the more confidence you lose. All the best at home with the kids. #chucklemums

  10. There definitely are perks to going back to work such as being able to speak to grown ups and wear an outfit without getting sick on it!! #chucklemums

  11. There definitely are perks to going back to work such as being able to speak to grown ups and wear an outfit without getting sick on it!! #chucklemums

  12. Ah don't they always prove you wrong and behave better for EVERYONE but mum? Look forward to reading about your next adventure! #chucklemums

  13. Popping back for #chucklemums ... still a good read and still very much in awe/a little bit envious of your decision ;)

  14. The closer I get to my rtw date, the more jealous I get 👍🏻 #chucklemums

  15. I feel like workplace flexibility for women is a really big issue, and your story isn't uncommon. There's a real lack of professional part-time jobs out there - believe me, I've looked. #chucklemums

  16. I'm sure your blog / writing career will soon earn you more than you ever got at work! You never know when that book deal is just around the corner! #chucklemums

  17. Oh I so understand your pain about having to find a new wardrobe.. I mean seriously. How hard can it be to find an article of clothing that is somewhat respectable for work.. Right?!?! :) #chucklemums

  18. I got made redundant on maternity leave. The laws to help working mothers are not worth the paper they are printed on. Did I write the same comment for Part I? I get ranty on this topic! I hope to be a working mother soon, but in the meantime I salute them. #Chucklemums

  19. He may have managed it all for a week, but I guarantee things would soon have slipped...! ;)
    I am relatively lucky as I work for a flexible employer that "allowed" me to work 3 days per week. However, it was soon made clear to me that if I ever wanted to progress I would need to go up to 4 days per week. I'm someone who would find it really hard to just "settle" in a role, so I felt like I had no choice...I'm really struggling with working those hours, though, whilst single-mumming and all that involves...
    Feminism is still very much required in this day and age!

  20. I was lucky when I returned to work after maternity leave in so far as my employer let me work the hours I wanted, although they did sit me at a desk at the far end of the office without a phone as I was 'only part time'. They are a small firm and I don't think there was any malice in it - I think it was just insensitivity and ignorance (which of course doesn't excuse it!). After about 8 months I left to become a SAHM, primarily because I missed my daughter, but mostly because I seriously failed at being able to get organised. I think any woman with young children who works and manages to hold it all together is doing an amazing job! I love being a SAHM although I miss my peaceful lunch breaks! Enjoy your new chapter and good luck! #chucklemums

  21. I'm a working mum but my job as a sales manager is very flexible, I can work from home so ideal for juggling everything. I know I'm very lucky as lots of jobs just aren't like that. If anyone is updating their work wardrobe and has a child under the age of 3 Black suits are the devil!!! #chucklemums

  22. The kids don't miss me but my house is never tidier! No danger of any stay at home dad's round mine. I can't believe your boss didn't thank you either, how rude!

  23. It really hurts when in a department of 12 women, the one man, who is the newcomer, is the one that is being groomed for a promotion. Just can't live that one down. #Chucklemums

  24. The very last paragraph literally summed up my life! Why do they always behave impeccably for others? It's so unfair!! #chucklemums

  25. Dads are only more fun because they only have to do it once in a while and therefore it's all a bit of novelty for the kids ;) But still nice he stayed home to help out. My kids always behave better when I'm not around. What's that about??? And I totally agree with your end statement. It's really hard work just to break even in most cases. #chucklemums


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