Those of you who read my ramblings on a regular basis might have noticed one or two posts where I’ve spoken about how tricky I’ve been finding balancing everything – work, kids, creche viruses and just generally trying to keep all the plates spinning more, and my head spinning less.
Spoiler, the plates weren’t spinning very well at all.
Cue a lot of complaining from me. Feeling sorry for myself, feeling the constant guilt that I’m not putting enough effort into one thing, and even less effort into the other. I get like that sometimes, I suppose everyone does, feeling sorry for themselves. I wasn’t happy, that much I knew. But eventually I had to ask myself, what was I going to do about it?
Do I want to give up my job? No. Not that we’re even really in a position for me to give up working, we could probably get by on one wage but there wouldn’t be much wriggle room for the unexpected things. But money aside, do I want to give up my job?
Still no. I like my job, for the most part at least. I’ve worked there for a long time now and giving it up wouldn’t just be giving up the day to day work, it would be giving up the career I’ve made for myself, the friendships I’ve made there.
But let’s assume I was ok with giving up my job, would I want to be a stay at home mother, full time? Again, it’s a no. I honestly don’t think it would be for me – I think I’d probably enjoy it now while they’re this age, and they’d be home with me all day and I’d get to see every single one of the cute little things they do and things they learn. But fast forward five or more years and they’re at school all day – then what? What would I do? The thought of leaving work for so long, then having to try and go back terrifies me. It was hard enough building up to go back after a year of maternity leave. It would mean starting all over again – there’s no sabbatical or career breaks available to me, it’s all or nothing.
The only option I was left with was part time. I’d often thought about it but brushed it off as a ‘they’d never go for it’ or, ‘we couldn’t afford it’ or just plain old ‘it probably would never work’.
Ever since I finished Alex’s maternity leave, I struggled a lot with the amount of time I was leaving the boys for. I’d put them to bed on a Sunday night and really feel sad, sometimes to the point of tears if I’m honest, that I more or less wouldn’t see a whole lot of them again until the following weekend. All the things I’m missing that can never be repeated.
‘I’m not alone’ I would reassure myself, comfort in solidarity helps. The creches are full to capacity up and down the country, I know our own one has a waiting list of families trying to get their kids in there, because parents for the most part, have no choice but to work. The cost of living is extortionate and the pressure is just growing. There’s little to no support – no encouragement, no assistance to speak of (I think we get €4 a day or something for Alex, and Rian gets the 3 hours of ECCE pre-school – but that’s it.)
The costs of childcare for us, and for countless other families, is more or less another mortgage. Why am I doing this?
We had to ask ourselves; is it worth it?
It doesn’t stop there either, there’s a wider problem. Just having families for our generation is completely dependent on economic factors. Our own personal fertility issues aside and the costs associated with that alone – we have to consider, could we afford three children in childcare? For example, could we afford another full maternity leave, which involves months of no income for me? Maternity & Paternity leave is another big issue that really needs to be addressed – a baby at six months old is so young to be expected to be left while its mother returns to work and yet, mothers just don’t have the choice a lot of the time. Not every job even offers extended maternity leave. Yes, things have changed since previous generations when the patriarchy decided that women should be fit and healthy and ready to return to work a mere six weeks after growing and producing a whole new human, (six weeks!! I barely knew my name at six weeks post partum!) but still, a lot more work needs to be done. Paternity leave is an absolute joke, and for a great insight into the reality of this, have a read of this fantastic post by Parenting Pobal blog wife and husband team Karen & Derek – Derek gives a scathingly honest review of that situation from a Dad’s (often overlooked) point of view.
So, back to the original question. Can we really have a balance – can we really have it all?
Maybe, but at a cost. Like most things in life, there’s always a compromise. Personally, I feel I’m choosing now between my work and my children – it’s not an all or nothing though. And God, I want to stress that this is purely my personal choice – there is no right or wrong, only what is right or wrong for you. So, I took a deep breath and asked my manager if I could apply to move to a three day week.
As I spoke, I felt as if the ball of guilt, stress, anxiety and constant doubt over whether I was doing the right thing, were leaving my body along with the words I was speaking, telling him that I wanted to apply for it. It felt immediately right. Right for me, right for us.
As I write this I’m starting into my last week in full time work. My last Monday morning commute that will be any further than just downstairs, my last Tuesday lunch break with my fellow IT pals. Next week begins my first week as a part time worker – HOWEVER – let us be under no illusions here, I firmly maintain I will be just working more in the home than I will be outside of it! Raising kids is not the same as ‘days off’!
For now though, it feels right. There’ll be compromise, perhaps I might be overlooked for this project or that at work, not intentionally but I guess now that I’m officially part time, it will naturally bring its own changes to my working life. We won’t know until we try though, I hope I can do it all, still be me at work, and just more of a Mam at home. Now, I’ll get to do at least some school drop offs, some collections. Some help with homework ( yeah right I can barely remember the 6 times tables), but for me, it feels worth it already.
On to the next chapter we go.