What a difference a week makes. My carefree maternity existence is well and truly over. Now juggling three jobs and a baby who I miss terribly in full time nursery with household chores, a neurotic dog, a partner I barely see and ten hours of commuting a week makes me long for trips to the park and coffee morning play dates. I’ve only been back at work a week and I can honestly say that if nursery wasn’t so expensive I’d be popping out another baby already, just to get another year off (and secretly because I’d love to do it all again!)
This week has highlighted to me how modern life’s perception that women can have it all and do it all, is entirely counter productive because of the pressure it loads onto women to do just that. I genuinely thought that after I had my baby I’d want to return to work but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Every shred of me wants to be with him all the time, literally every second I can. But, it’s almost assumed now that women who work or have forged a career for themselves will return to work, usually full time as if nothing has happened (bloody equal rights!) Of course, financially most of us need to return to full time work and our hands are forced on the matter. But the amount of people who, even when Seth was only a few months old, would say to me “when are you back at work?” was astounding. I never realised how much having a baby would change me, but it did, it’s just a shame that it couldn’t change my lifestyle.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are probably millions of women who couldn’t wait to return to work for lots of valid reasons: personal identity, adult conversation, finances, boredom, loneliness – I could go on and on. Feeling any or all of these and choosing to go back to work does not make you any more or less of a mother than those who choose to stay at home. In fact, although women who choose to stay home face all the above problems, women who choose to work face them and all new ones too (guilt being the worst! They don’t tell you about the perpetual guilt in ante-natal classes do they!!) I keep telling myself that I’m hopefully raising somebody’s husband and somebody’s father and that I want that eventual Man to respect a woman’s right to choose her own path without prejudice or assumption.
If going back to work has taught me one thing it’s that the little time I have with him has to count. The second I’m through the door, I’m on the floor reading and singing and playing with him. The relationship with my partner has changed into a well oiled house keeping, child rearing machine, pre planning meals, money and events to the minute (How long we can maintain this military state remains to be seen!) Everything has changed and will continue to change. But the continuous constant in our lives is our love for our little boy and our need to do what’s best for him. It’s a personal choice for our family and it should be a choice every family and every woman can make without assumption or pressure. All I can say is that I’m sorry for all those times I took being off work for granted, complained to people that I was bored at home, got stressed with the baby playing up and assumed that those endless hours of fun would go on and on. Now I find myself flying up and down the motorway desperately trying to claw back a few short hours a day. But it’s worth it. It’s made me appreciate the smile on his face when I walk through the door. It’s made us plan events to experience things with him and make memories, like our trip to the fireworks yesterday, the first he’s ever seen. And I may not be there every morning or afternoon, but I’m always there when he wakes up, I’m always there when he goes to bed. And when he’s grown and towers over me, I hope he understands why we did things the way we did and that we may have been short on time, but we were never short on love.