I’ve long been an advocate for continuing to work after having a child. After SB was born I went back to uni and straight into work. When I’ve left previous jobs, the job hunt has started again straight away. I don’t judge stay-at-home parents in the slightest – I just didn’t think it was right for me.
When she was smaller, I didn’t really think anything of going out to work. I was setting a good example; providing for her. Besides, she had Daf. A dad is every bit as worthy and suitable a caregiver as a mum; we never went for the whole “daddy is babysitting” shtick. If anything, he was the primary caregiver; I was the novelty parent who appeared at weekends and evenings. I could cope with this while she was younger; smaller; quieter.
Then she started to speak, and it got a whole lot harder.
I have absolutely loved the job I’ve been doing for the last six months. Really and truly, I’ve never found a team I’ve slotted in with so well. Even at uni there were teething problems until we all settled down, but at my current job, it’s like a little family. There’s banter, there’s a whole lot of laughs and we work together well. They’re lovely people, and the customers we see are lovely too. The job is great.
But I’m burned out.
I can’t remember the last time I felt truly healthy. I’ve bounced from virus to virus with the odd coeliac attack thrown in for good measure (I’m getting better at managing it, but you’d be amazed at the “surprise gluten” foods that you don’t realise contain the stuff until you’ve eaten it). I’m exhausted and stressed. I come home and rather than spending time with SB, I curl up on the sofa feeling rough.
And that’s not a reflection on the job in any way. It’s a reflection of the way I’ve lived my life for the last few years; rushing from one project to another, never pausing to appreciate the life I left behind at 9am every morning. Not even pausing to appreciate the amazing things Daf has done in all the time he’s spent caring for SB.
Add that to physio and occupational therapy every couple of weeks to try and stop my joints from going their separate ways, realising that much of my life has been affected by a disorder that has knocked me for six and the general outside stresses of living with a two year old, and you’ve got a recipe for burnout.
I know how self-centred this reads right now, so bear with me. Don’t think for a second that I don’t appreciate the opportunity I’ve been given. Lots of women fall into the automatic, assumed position of stay-at-home mum when they would love to work, for a variety of reasons, and I know I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to go out and work, and I’m so thankful for everything Daf has done for SB, to enable me to go and do that.
If I’m honest, I could have coped with all of the medical problems and the tiredness and the toddler tantrums. We’ve coped with worse in the past. What made it difficult was when I realised that SB was being affected by me heading out to work every day.
“I miss you mommy”.
If ever there were four words that can drive a stake right through your heart, it’s those. It started as a very occasional thing – she’d say it when I was getting out of the car in the morning to go to work, or coming home at night, she’d snuggle up to me and say “I missed you mommy”. Realising that my little girl has spent so little quality time with me since I went back to uni when she was 5 months old was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to face up to.
Which is why a decision has been made.
My notice has been handed in. I’ll be leaving my current job at the end of August, and I won’t be straight on Indeed looking for new ones, desperately filling in applications and attending interviews. Daf and I are going to do a swap – he’ll look for work, to fill the gap in his CV and bring some money in, and I’ll take over as the primary caregiver for SB.
I’m gutted to be leaving work, I’ll be honest. It’s a great job – interesting, educational, with plenty of scope for career progression – it’s just not right for me right now. I’m ready to spend some quality time with my daughter. I’ll be doing my OU course alongside – I never do anything by halves! – but my absolute priority will be enjoying the next however-many-months with SB, watching her grow and develop and play.
It’s a decision I’ve battled with. At times I feel selfish for choosing to do this; at other times I know I’d be selfish if I continued to work. This is no reflection of my feelings on parents who work or stay at home – I think you’re all freaking awesome, fighting your own battles in the best way for you -, just on what is right for our family. Right now, that means me staying at home with SB – for my health and SB’s happiness.
We can’t predict what the future holds, and it might be a struggle for a while, but I know we’re making the right decision for now. I have a month until I leave work, and I’m nervous and excited in equal measure.
Until then, at least when SB cuddles me in the evening and whispers “I miss you mommy”, I can say “Not long now, baby girl”, and mean it.