Thursday, 19 September 2013

Go back to work they said, it’ll be fun they said

Last week I learnt a few lessons. And those lessons were about combining paid work with motherhood. I had the chance to earn some cold hard cash on a project that was facing tight deadlines. It would necessitate late nights and gritted teeth, but it would be a good ‘in’ with a new client and give me the chance to see if I’ve still got it.

True, I’ve done a bit of work here and there since having kids, but mostly I’ve been a stay-at-home mum. I was happy to take a career break while they were small, play tea parties on the floor, take them to toddler groups, sing Baa Baa Black Sheep in front of strangers, then get them to and from pre-school and infants as they got a bit bigger, attending all the assemblies and shows, and generally being hands-on and hassle-free. But now my days (well, 9am to 3pm!) are my own and the writer/editor/grammar Nazi inside of me is beginning to stir. And there was job on offer…
Barbie is up against the clock...literally.

But, the transition from SAHM to Working At Home Mum was not as easy as I thought. This was not an ideal job scenario granted – I needed to put in a full working day for a complete week – including some weekend work. My hours had to be split into working until the kids came home from school and then getting back into the office once they were in bed. Working until late, or indeed early the next day.

Get your game on

Suddenly I realised just how much I’d let my ‘home office’ slip. I used to run my own business, but somehow the office is also a junk room now, my printer needed replacing and I have enough glare on my screen to summon Batman. So before I could even earn some money I had to lay a whole load down on some new equipment and – horror – tidy up the place. I also had to quickly learn how to cheat my way around an outdated version of Word (I love you Internet forum nerds), hook up a second monitor and talk to strangers. I basically had to be (or at least appear to be) professional. That was a shock to the system I can tell you.

Ask for and accept help

My days were basically going like this: get up, get kids up, take kids to school, work, pick up kids, feed kids, put kids to bed, make packed lunches, tidy house to prevent flies from colonising kitchen, work. Occasionally I would treat myself to some toast – or a few hours of sleep – nothing crazy though – there were deadlines to meet. I did make the gym a couple of mornings too, which slotted into the client’s timeframe nicely – honest!!
Take it Mummy - 'cos Santa's sack ain't gonna fill itself...
Since my husband was away for the entire week and most of the weekend too, as well as playing crazed career mum I was also having a run as a single mum. I’m generally not very good at accepting help from friends or family, and did turn down a few offers. I suspect I felt like I should be able to cope. However, the weekend was tricky to manage, and would have been a bit unfair on the kids; there’s only so much ‘free-play’ or CBeebies you can expect two children to undertake together before it gets violent. Luckily my Mum was scheduled to babysit on Saturday night anyway, and she offered to come early and stay the next morning too. (Yes, not only did I have to stay sober at a friend’s party, I had to get up the next morning and work – the sacrifice!!!).

Don’t overdo it!

This is a lesson I learnt, but didn’t actually ‘pass’ the test on. Talking to other working mothers I have now discovered it is very hard to get working hours that suit your family life. There’s always a compromise it seems. While working like I did was pretty hard core for a first foray back into my career, it would hopefully be a one-off. I would aim to schedule future projects far better – and only put in a few hours a day – ideally when it was daylight. I’d be looking to increase that work, once the kids were older and more independent. Although saying ‘no’ can be hard in the freelance world, and it was a never in my nature before!
Oh Bed, when can we be together again?

Needless to say, by the end of the week I was exhausted, but glad I’d done it. I’ve realised a few things that should help me craft the ideal work/life balance that all working mums (and dads) are struggling to find. Maybe there’s a future for working me out there somewhere – as long as I’m not blinded by my screen before then…

Have you found the ideal job to combine with caring for your kids? Is it something you worry about? Perhaps you are wondering how you could go back to work and still run a home? Comments in the box below please.


  1. Wow... I know what that feels like. I am a SAHM by choice but also because of $. It would cost 3/4ths of what I would make for someone to take care of my son. I like being able to play trucks on the floor and not really care about whether or not I remembered to put make up on. Sigh. I used to care, I used to work full time, and someday I will get back there..... when my kids are in elementary school full time most likely. I didn't think about there being a shock but that seems understandable. I don't know how people keep house clean and work full time, and have kids. Its a bit beyond me lol.... I laughed when you wrote about trying to keep the flies out of the kitchen. That would be me.... waiting until a day off to tidy up.... thankful for a dishwasher to get me through the week with minimal effort.

    1. Good point - decent childcare IS costly - and you have to ask yourself if the spare change afterwards is worth it! Seriously though, dishwashers!!! I've a feeling years ago, the just brushed food off plates and reused - otherwise washing up would take all day here!! Do you have a blog Stephanie?

  2. Well done, you! This is the first project under your belt. I have been combining children and work (during school days) for several years now and it can work. Putting all the children's activities in the diary first, I make myself available outside/around these hours. In the past, I have childminded when the children were little, which worked really well and I have also clerked for school governing bodies which is work you can plan ahead for. My work now is writing/editing/blogging and I can schedule it and deliver it around the kids. It took time to find the balance but it can work and it can be very fulfilling. One tip: get a cleaner! This is something I think is essential... Good luck and best wishes.

    1. Thank you for commenting - and your support. Yes, I do need a very much!!!