Long term readers (are you still there?!?!) will know I’ve been an unconventional working mum for a long time. I’ve always been at least partly at home with my children and fitted working in around them – or sometimes the other way round. I was asked to write about a course that aims to help mums change from employment to self employment. Lizz has produced a video which is at the bottom of the post. I’ll admit, I found some of it painful and difficult and provoked a defensive feeling in me. I’ve not had to go ‘out’ to work for a long time on a daily basis, partly because I feared the impact of it on the girls but that doesn’t mean that I’m unaware of how guilt and anxiety can play on people who have to do so. Nor should anyone feel they HAVE to stay at home either. We are all different.
I’ve written recently about how I’ve had to change my own personal circumstances to suit our changing needs; it has pushed me hugely out of my comfort zone in all sorts of ways. For one thing, learning to work for other people again has had some massive challenges after being self employed for so long and for another, we’ve discovered that any idea I initially had of ‘going out to work’ to earn the money the family needs is a pipe dream I can’t achieve alongside a family business that depends on Max and just one staff member. There is no such thing as an ‘average’ day and if staff illness, a technical hitch and a contagious child alongside 3 hospital appointments can all happen at once, you can guarantee they will.
I’ve had to accept that what I need to do is find a hybrid working life of part time, flexible and with understanding clients – and that hasn’t been an easy start. 5 children and a business take more ‘running’ that 2 working people can manage.
That’s far from the biggest challenge for me though. I’ve had to put my precious rainbow baby into nursery and leave a ‘slightly unhappy’ child in school. This is so far from what I believe in that it has been painful; I was that over-zealous home educating stay at home mum who thought I had it all sussed. I built the business when hardly anyone else did similar. I was successful, clever, go-getting and possessed of an energy that created success – and I did all of that with 4 little home educated girls at my knees. Intimidating much?
I know I hacked a lot of people off back then. I didn’t mean to. I just felt I had it right. And, if I’m honest, I still do.
I’m far more accepting and understanding that things can change now, that circumstances weave in a way that makes leaving work hard – or leaving the school system hard – but I’ve not changed my opinion, even if I don’t practice what I preach. I still think that home with a parent is the best places for little people to be. I don’t rate school at all. I have a slightly higher opinion of good early years provision. I don’t think I can venture an opinion on what it feels like to have a burning drive to have a career and work somewhere full time because I have simply never felt that way.
My children live roughly in the model I grew up in – one working parent and one parent who works from home. It’s all I can imagine. Our current ‘2 parents working 3/4 of the time each in an ever changing balance’ barely feels manageable. I honestly can’t imagine us both being out all day every day.
From being in the position of my ideal – and indeed what the focus of this post is about – I’ve found myself spun into a position I don’t really believe in. I know Josie would be better at home with me and I’m absolutely sure reception is not a place I want Bene to go. I appreciate and understand that some people are absolutely best suited to a full time workplace life and far from critical of people who choose it. But it isn’t for me. I know, all the time, that even with a fairly flexible balance, we are all short changed by me not being a perfectly balanced work at home mum.
I worked for myself from when Fran was really small. I found very quickly that I needed a challenge, a target, something to work on. Full time parenting of a baby or toddler was not for me and I found it tedious, lonely and fulfilling. Doing party plan, weight loss consulting and a number of other thing was perfect for me. Owning my own small business and driving my own success would have been brilliant – if it hadn’t spiraled out of my control by being (at the time) too successful. But I always liked being home with my children. I’m absolutely sure, with all the imperfections it produced, that was better for them.
We were probably right at the end of large-ish young families being able to live on one professional wage. We certainly couldn’t do it now and both of us earning has become a necessity if we want the kids to have the opportunities that are making them remarkable people. Every time I see a face fall because I can’t just sit down and listen to them RIGHT NOW, I feel guilty or frustrated. I feel as if I am always thinking ‘I could do x,y or z better if I had time’ and that includes parenting. But I have to remind myself I’m doing my best and I’m here more than I might easily be if I had made other choices. Perfect would be one happily and perfectly fulfilled full time parent and loads of money- the reality is we do our imperfect best.
This last year the older girls occasionally let themselves in; it happens rarely enough to be a novelty and I’m glad it didn’t have to happen earlier in their life. They don’t seem to mind but they prefer to come home to a parent. This year I’ve been more stretched when it comes to being at every school event and ever pick up but I know one of us can always go and collect a poorly child if needs be. This year I’ve had to ask Josie to stay in school when she doesn’t want to but I’ve been able to flex that to a single day at home with me a week while I work alongside her. It’s a balance, a stressful balance, but it more or less works for them.
This is a sponsored post about the impact having 2 working parents can have on children. The video upsets me because I don’t particularly enjoy knowing something will press the pain buttons of people paddling to manage on just the other side of the fence I’m paddling madly on. I’m uncomfortable with it having a ‘neglected’ feeling because I’m not about making people feel guilty particularly and I don’t know that pulling on heartstrings and pushing guilt buttons is a good thing. I know that full time workers bust a gut to make sure they meet their kids needs. I do know that at least one of my children currently feels a bit like the child in the video and is trying her hardest to understand why she isn’t getting the life her older sisters got. However, Mums 30 Day Business actually about finding a way to change the situation if you and your children are not happy with the status quo. Sometimes it takes something uncomfortable to make us do that. That’s what Lizz wants to achieve with her video; the metaphorical kick in the backside to challenge the people who aren’t happy into doing it differently. She’s been there and done it and changed her life to one better suited to her family and wants to help people do the same. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.
The irony is, here I am sitting at my desk during half term, writing a work post while my kids entertain themselves upstairs. Working from home, working for yourself – that’s tough too. Life has to be about balance.
What would be the perfect balance for you? Would you rather work for yourself or do you prefer working out of the home or for someone else? Is the video a realistic interpretation of what being a ‘latch key’ kid can feel like? Were you one? Is it fulfilling enough to make everything else in a family secondary? Is it mostly about the money and not choice at all? Tell me?