What impact has being a working parent had on you? I think it’s made a massive difference – I am a completely different person at work. I work with children so I think having my own child has made the way I work a lot more nurturing – I would go as far to say I understand the children a bit more, especially emotionally. Until having your own child I don’t think you can realise how a child’s mood can differ dramatically from day to day, for absolutely no reason at all and that as an adult, the best thing to do is just to go with it and ride it out! I’m also a lot different with the people I work with. The lack of sleep I have had in the past 21 months is probably the reason I am a tad more snappy. When people used to say things I didn’t agree with before having a child, I wouldn’t speak up, I would just let them carry on talking and in my head I would be disagreeing. I’m quicker to speak up now, which I think has actually done me a favour.
I work 3 days a week, Wednesday to Friday. Every Tuesday I have a horrible guilty feeling in my gut because I know it means I’m nearly at my working week and that means I don’t get to see Polly much (I rarely see her before I leave in the mornings, and I only see her for 30 minutes tops on an evening) but once I get to work, I get into work mode. I enjoy being with the people I work with and I’m pretty lucky that I work with two of my best friends. I like having adult conversations, and I especially like how much I can’t wait to get to the weekend to spend another four days with Polly. I believe it when they say ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’.
We are really lucky that my parents look after Polly when I’m at work, and it’s great for her because they take her everywhere, meet lots of different people, and they get to spoil her rotten! It goes a long way in easing any guilt I have.
Did you always know what you wanted life after having children to look like? Yes!! Since before I can remember all I have ever wanted was to be a mummy – I was obsessed with baby dolls, my baby cousins and anything baby related. When I met Bobby (my husband) I was 19 and I told him there and then that all I wanted was a baby and luckily he felt the same. We had a plan; finish uni, buy a house, get married and have a baby. Amazingly that has played out for us in the way I hoped. Don’t get me wrong, we have our hard days, Bobby and I argue over how we parent, I get upset if I leave for work and she is crying ‘Mama’, (even though my Dad always texts to tell me she has stopped crying, and this is usually before I have even left the driveway!) we have had some pretty terrible nights where we have been up 10+ times with her screaming and she isn’t a great eater so like any typical parent I stress about how much she has consumed each day. However, every single night, I go into her bedroom before I go to bed, and I can’t explain the feeling I get, the love I feel for that sleepy sweaty baby fills me up, I could stare at her forever and the pride I feel for myself is unreal – I made that curly haired, crazy, adorable and happy little whirlwind!
What’s the best thing that parenting has taught you? Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s so hard sometimes to not think about the mountains of washing, or that you have to eat toast off a piece of kitchen roll because all the plates are piled up in the sink. I was never the kind that could ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ but I am the kind that makes sure that I chill out a bit when she sleeps, whether that be to have a cup of tea and watch a bit of telly, procrastinating on my phone for an hour or even have a shower/bath. Some days I do have to do some housework, but I make sure I either have a 10 minute sit down first, or watch something on my iPad while I do the washing up, or prep some food for tea later.
I also make sure that when Polly is having a meltdown, having a bad ‘witching hour’, throwing her food all over the place or waking up screaming for me 6 times in the night etc, I just take a breath, smile and try to see the funny side. My husband will happily tell you that I am the good cop, the pushover, the one that lets Polly get away with murder. While I agree I can be a pushover, I also want my girl to learn things on her own. When she gets food everywhere, I hope that next time around she will have better control with her spoon. When she cries because she wants to watch Trolls or Moana again, I hope that she will learn that sometimes we can’t always have what we want, but that her Mummy will always be there to cuddle her and distract her! And when she wakes up screaming my name in the middle of the night I forget all those people that suggest I should let her ‘cry it out’ (it might work for some but not for me) I go into her room, I tell her everything will be okay and that Mummy is here now, so when my baby isn’t a baby anymore, she will know that it doesn’t matter how inconvenient it might be, Mummy will always be there for her.
What happens when work and home collide? How do you cope? To be honest I am damn lucky as this rarely happens! I am very good at leaving work at the door when I go home at 6 o’clock, and I know that when I am at work, Polly is either with my parents or my husband so although I worry about her and how she is, I know she is with people that adore her. The one thing that does make it home, is my mood! If I have had a bad day at work, I tend to need to vent when I get home and sometimes a nice big glass of wine or a G&T! However the day that Polly is poorly and only needs me will be the day that I ring work and tell them that her needs will always come first.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself when you began juggling kids and working? Chill out a bit sooner! It has taken a while to get to it but I realise that stressing does not help. Taking working and parenting day by day and not expecting too much.