Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Being a modern mum... can we have it all?


Today I am meeting my work colleagues for lunch, and I am taking the bambini with me. I have now been on maternity leave for just over four months, even though Hugo is only 10 weeks old, as I have always chosen to have at least six weeks off before my due dates. The big question in my life at the moment is: When do I go back to work?

With Siena, I chose to go back to work full-time when she was three months old. I am told this is the norm in France, and I think women in other countries may even return to work sooner than that. But here, in the UK, it is fairly unusual and many people did not understand my decision.

To me it was simple. I like me in work. I enjoy having my caseload, learning new things, and being all professional. This then allows me to enjoy the down time at home all the more (I am very much a walk-through-the-door-swap-pencil-skirt-for-yoga-pants kind of girl). I enjoy being called Fiona rather than "Siena's mum". I love having an excuse to wear heals and makeup and pretty office clothes. And I love talking to people without constantly having to keep an eye out for Siena with the occasional interruption to tell her off (I hate it when parents do that but I am guilty of this daily!). At the time, I was also desperate to qualify in my area of work, and back then, I still had three years to go which seemed like forever!

People would often ask me whether I would miss Siena and the fact I would miss out so much of her development. Now, quite frankly, this always made me a little angry. Would I miss my child? Of course I would! What parent would not miss their child? Furthermore, I think that as a parent, the fact is that you are always going to miss out on some of your child's steps. I don't intend on watching their every single move their whole life... We have to let go at some point, at least a little.

But in order to be a better mum, I need to be a happy mum. And at the time, my decision to return to work made me happy for the reasons stated above. Additionally, I love the nursery we send Siena to. The staff are great, and as Siena started so young and was there five days a week, I think she always had a special place in their hearts (that and obviously because she is simply awesome! ;) The staff were also great at pointing things out to us with Siena's development. And I have to say that it was rare that when they did, we had not already noticed it. However it helped ensure that we knew exactly how well our little girl was doing. I therefore don't feel like we missed out on anything. Furthermore, the nursery has been amazing for Siena's development. She got to spend her days surrounded by other children. Her language skills are rather impressive for a two year old (especially as the rumour is I didn't speak till I was 4!). And she is generally a beautiful, loving, outgoing, fun little girl.

Also, the fact that I would be in work five days a week would definitely not mean that I was able to fully switch off from being a mum. Whether it is from remembering something Siena said the morning before we left the house, desperately wanting a hug after dealing with a horrible client, remembering to make non-work appointments or the fact that my phone is permanently on my desk should the nursery call because Siena has caught chickenpox (this happened the week before I left for maternity leave when I had sooooooo much work on! typical!), my mum hat is almost permanently on. And a word of warning: Don't ever say to my face that a stay-at-home is a full-time mum. That will make me angry! In my opinion, all parents are full time parents, whether mums/dads, at work, at home, anywhere! Each type has its' own pressures and each type is hard for different reasons! Afterall, I work 35 hours a week in my job but I am still considered full-time. So does that make me full-time lawyer, part-time mum? Erm.... no! (aaaaaaaaand breathe!).

Have you seen this film? I could really relate to it (as did Barry!)

Anyway, now I am off with Hugo, things are a little different. I am about to qualify (the first of the two forms were sent out yesterday!) so I do not have the same urgent need to return to work.  My priorities have therefore changed. The cost of childcare is also horrendous. We were quoted over £1700pcm for our two if they go to nursery five days a week, which in including the various reductions we're entitled to. Therefore I'll almost be working for free as my salary will disappear almost immediately in the childcare/mortgage/etc.

This tends to me on a daily basis...
I know I want to return to work. The question is whether I go back full-time or part-time. This is will primarily depend on whether I am able to work part-time in my role as my employer does not need to accept my request should I make it.

This would help reduce the cost of childcare!
I could decide to become a stay-at-home mum. I am really enjoying being on maternity leave this time round. The house has never looked so good, I love it! But I am mainly enjoying it because I have a much stronger support network this time round, whereas I hardly knew any other mums when I was off with Siena. Having mum-friends this time round has made a huge difference! I would definitely recommend making an effort to go out and meet mums in your local area before and after you've had a baby. However the job market being what it is at the moment, I would worry about my prospects of returning to work later on and wonder how difficult it would be. I have also spent over ten years studying and working to be in the role I am today, so part of me will always feel a little guilty that all that time and money has gone to waste.

Overall, I know I will go back to work. Just need to figure out the finer details. In the meantime, I have until 24th May 2014 at the latest to stay at home. I doubt I'll take the full year off but I do plan to enjoy every moment until then. But it is really difficult isn't it, whether you decide to go back to work or to stay at home, not to feel like you are having to compromise on something major... whether it's your career, your finances, your children.

Do you believe the modern woman can have it all once she becomes a mum? I would love to hear your views and how you get by!
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PS: This made me laugh...
*All images unless otherwise noted are my own, so please do not use them without my permission.*
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