Pre-baby, I had a full time job, a mortgage, bills, a house to keep, food to buy, a husband to spend quality time with, family to visit, friends to entertain, you get the drift. In my job, I had always strived for perfection, I regularly gave myself a hard time about not being good enough, which actually helped I guess, it pushed me harder to achieve more and I certainly never became complacent. And achieve I did, by the time I fell pregnant, I was in full stride at work, loving every stressful, demanding minute of it, and, if I do say so myself (which I don’t often, so indulge me) I wasn’t too shoddy at it either. I thought I had it all.
Being pregnant only spurred me on more, I refused to let my standards slip, not wanting people (or myself) to think I was shirking my responsibilities whilst simultaneously growing a human in my belly. Multi-tasker, that’s me! As my belly (ankles, face, hands) got bigger, I did begin to concede by going home on time each night, which I hadn’t done for years (poor time keeping or undue pressure, mainly from myself?) and in the final weeks I worked from home once or twice a week, which to be honest was a bit of a pain as the systems were “sticky” but by the end it was better than traipsing to the City every day. By then my commute was bordering on 2 hours each way, mainly because my 15 minute walk between the station and the office had become almost 30 minutes, although I think my belly arrived at our destination a few minutes before the rest of me, such was its size. Still, I was producing good work, I was proud of myself. I thought I had it all.
I finished work 3 weeks before my due date, with feelings so mixed I couldn’t quite make sense of them. I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself, I was worried I would get bored, I didn’t know what to do without work – not in a workaholic kind of way, but honestly what do we have, 2 weeks at most off work at once? This was a minimum of 9 months, how would I fill the time? During my first week, I busied myself with buying some plastic food containers and making batch after batch of bolognese and chicken curry for the freezer. I had heard that newborns could be rather time consuming in the first few weeks, so this was my attempt to save some time. Once that was done, I took every wine, beer, spirit and cocktail glass out of the dresser and washed and polished them (because the baby would really care about that!). This felt fine, I could do this, it was just like being on holiday. At home. On my own. The second week, I would continue to get up each morning with my husband at 6am. Once he’d left at 7am, I would sit in bed and watch dvd’s. By 8am I was usually asleep. And so, for the second and third week off I would spend my days sleeping, watching dvd’s, and wondering whether to put a towel in my hospital bag (honestly, this bothered me for a couple of weeks!). But I was close to the final hurdle, I had got through my pregnancy fairly unscathed, maintained a good job, great home, loving husband by my side. I felt content and excited. I thought I had it all.
By the Friday of the 3rd week, 2 days before my due date, I decided I would put a towel in the hospital bag. The next day I went into labour, I think the baby knew that the towel dilemma was now resolved and it was time for the grand entrance. Debut appearance made, the baby took over our lives like nothing before. The first two weeks were spent in special care, nothing life threatening, but not a great start to motherhood either. It wasn’t how it was supposed to be and it was all out of my control. For the first time in a long, long time in my life, I felt lost. I’d had it all, and now it was being taken from me and whisked off to an incubator and hooked up to a machine and made to cry through relentless heel prick blood tests. And there was absolutely nothing I could do. I had stolen moments, in between doctor visits and nurse checks. When I think back, I suppose that’s what made me so determined to breastfeed, which can be hard to begin with anyway, but harder when trying to negotiate your way around wires and tubes. The whole thing felt like an out of body experience. I didn’t have it all. There are some times in your life that you just can’t put a positive spin on.
But let’s not dwell, let’s jump ahead to motherdom at home. By the time baby was a few months old, routines set, social calendar, such as it was, in place, and I could see myself getting used to the suburban housewife life. I wanted to be a Stepford wife (without the weirdness). I just wanted to be the perfect wife and mother. I’d researched just how to keep on top of the housework whilst raising a small baby, and I put routines in place for myself, which worked and made life so much easier. I even started a blog to share my new adventures! I was so taken with my new lifestyle, I thought I had it all.
Then the countdown back to work went from months to weeks to days. I am so lucky that I love my job. The thought of leaving my baby was unbearable, I can’t even imagine what it must be like if you don’t actually like your work, or your colleagues! I have an amazingly supportive boss too. I do not underestimate how lucky I am to be able to work from home 2 days a week, it has been a lifesaver in terms of my working hours and childcare. If I had to go into the office everyday, I honestly don’t know how I would afford the additional childcare. Once I was back at work, I settled in remarkably quickly, and knowing that baby was safe and sound at the childminders, and that the childminder is his Aunty, meant that I did not need to worry about how he was settling in. Each morning is a well oiled routine between husband and I to get out the door (or logged on if I am working from home) by 7am. Being back at work has been good for me, and apparently I am still good at what I do. I push myself as hard, probably harder, than before. I work 30 hours a week instead of 35 (45 if you include the no lunches and never leaving on time) and I don’t want anyone (myself) to think I am shirking my responsibilities just because I’ve got a baby (insecure much?).
When I am at home, I am Mum. Not a perfect Mum, but the best Mum I can be. I have a part time job, a mortgage, bills, a house to keep, food to buy, a husband to spend quality time with, family to visit, friends to entertain, you get the drift. In my job I strive for perfection. In motherhood I strive to be a good role model. I don’t think you need certain things to Have It All, I think it’s about appreciating what you’ve got at that moment of your life, and being the best you can be. That’s all you can do, it’s certainly all I can do. I am blessed, I know I am, but that’s because I choose to feel that way. I could dwell on the things that haven’t turned out as I would like, and honestly there have been a few. But I prefer to see the positives. I choose to Have It All.
Have you chosen to Have It All? What are your tips for balancing life’s demands?