Helloooooooo! (*echo… echo… echo…*). How are you people doing out theeeeere?!
Ah, dear. There’s an inevitably awkward one-wayness about blogging. I know… I’ve been kind of introspective recently. But it’s for good reason, I promise.
You probably know the feeling, right? Everyone’s gone through some change at one point or another. But you know what? I’m a month into this full-time work gig, and it’s awesome! I mean, it’s been the catalyst for a huge amount of change in my life, my expectations, and my sleeping patterns… but I’m really, really digging it.
As I’ve mentioned before, I really feel like being a working mum is the right balance for me. It’s not the right balance for everyone, and I totally get that. But so far, returning to work has helped me feel more like the independent ‘me’ that I love and remember so well.
All this, ladies and gentleman, is absolutely making me a better mother. The best mum that I can be.
You want to know what it’s like? Let’s do it. Slip into my (probably food stained, rained on, definitely-not-childproof) shoes.
Imagine, for a second, it’s a work day in the Valley…
Getting ready for work
Most mornings, you’ll find me rifling through the wardrobe trying to decide on what to wear. Since I moved to Silicon Valley, my dress code has morphed a little (okay, a lot) into the comfy uniform of Converse, relaxed pants and oversized jumpers.
I’ve actually been enjoying the transition. This uniform is perfect for wrangling kids, climbing through playgrounds and, above all, getting dirty! But going to work, I feel like tapping back into the old me: a uniform of dresses and fancy flat shoes. My collection of those clothes lay dormant as soon as we arrived here. But it’s so exciting to pull out some dresses and shoes and wear them into an office, I told myself when I started. Still, I’ve found a compromise. I’m definitely a little more dressed up than my colleagues in their t-shirts and jeans, but you know what? I feel bloody comfortable.
And most importantly, I feel like the authentic me that these firms say we need to channel!
Bliss. Okay, next?
OMG but seriously… car time, sweet car time. My car is my haven! No one is screeching at me, demanding I pick up their dropped toy or insisting I wind down the windows. It’s 30 minutes of peace and quiet. ‘Me time’.
And I f*****g love it. I listen to podcasts (currently demolishing The Teacher’s Pet if anyone else is a True Crime fan) and I frequently stay in my car just that little bit longer than I should when I arrive home or to work.
Horrific traffic? No problem! Caring about extra time in the car is a thing of the past.
Cups of tea
Honestly, I swear that all I do at home is boil cup after cup of water, use teabag after teabag – and never actually drink the tea. I seriously can’t remember the last time, at home, that I finished a cup of hot tea.
But now, I can do it. Kind of.
In a cruel twist, my work has hot water dispensers that don’t actually dispense boiling water. They dispense ‘hot’ water only, water that I feel is still a few degrees under what one would usually expect of ‘hot’ water. But hey, it’s still hotter than it is at home after it’s sat on the bench/table for an hour before I get around to drinking it.
Small wins and all that, you know?
Okay, so maybe this isn’t a hugely amazing benefit, but I must say that going to the bathroom, on my own, and being able to shut a door, is incredible.
Having said that, it’s not like we have private bathrooms at work – they’re a bunch of cubicles lined up next to each other. More often than not, you have company. But at least it’s not company that’s under 5 years old and actually in the cubicle with you.
Hands up if you have clean clothes after spending a day with kids?
Ha! I thought so. No one.
My life as a SAHM meant that within a mere five minutes of getting dressed, I’d have snot and yoghurt stains – all manner of muck – covering every square centimetre of my clothing. And considering I normally wear black, these stains would really stand out. I gave up being self-conscious of my grotty little mumniform (or perhaps I just became blind to them) and started going places looking a tad like a Jackson Pollock piece of art (is that rude to Mr Pollock?). Or perhaps like Pro Hart after rolling through the carpet as he did in his infamous 1988 Stainmaster commercial. Either one.
Anyway, guess what? Now, at the end of the day, my clothes are still clean. I can even wear them again, without the need to wash or dry-clean them. I head out to dinner dressed in the same clothes I put on at 7am. It’s brilliant, people! Brilliant!
If you’re reading this and you’re a stay at home parent (or someone who works with or spends significant time with kids) you’ll know that order is most definitely not something you get around kids. Or at least in the way I parent (despite the fact I’m generally a pretty organised person).
Goodbye, floor strewn with toys (pointy dinosaurs are the worst to stand on, seriously). Goodbye, dirty clothes, everywhere. Goodbye, food, in every crevice. Goodbye, disorder.
Oh my lord. I have a desk. Yes, yes I do. I can put things down and they won’t disappear. My earrings won’t get swallowed by a little person. My (hot) tea won’t be spilt!
My day is structured and planned. I’m in control. Or at least in more control than I’m in at home. I’m not at the beck and call of someone else’s moods and appetite. I can write emails and take phone calls, uninterrupted. I have brain capacity to think, and breathe.
There’s calm and inspiration in routine, I think. It allows one time to ponder. And that, I think, is what I’ve missed most.
Being a role model
I am the first to salute all the stay at home parents I know. It can be a seriously tough ask, that job. While there are plenty of reports that highlight the benefits of stay at home parents, I personally went crazy doing the job. I, personally, find it easier to be a good mum when I’m also a working mum.
In that sense, it gives me comfort knowing that my choice has its benefits too, even when I feel those pangs of guilt when I can’t be at home.
Some research has shown that child-bearing women whose mums worked outside the home are more likely to have jobs themselves, are more likely to hold supervisory responsibility at those jobs, and earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full time.
Amongst the findings:
- Men with mothers who worked outside the home are just as likely to hold supervisory positions in their adult life as those with stay-at-home moms. Women with mothers who worked outside the home, however, are more likely to supervise others at work.
- Being raised by a mother who worked outside the home had no effect on a man’s adult income, but women raised by working mothers had a higher income than their peers whose mothers stayed home full-time.
- Men whose mothers had worked outside the home at any point were more likely to contribute to household chores and the care of family members.
And because I’m raising girls, and I’m a proud feminist, it gives me comfort that my girls can grow up seeing that raising children and running a household isn’t solely the domain of women. In our case, at least, it’s a joint partnership between both parents.
One of the nicest things about working is coming home at the end of the day.
I’m not frazzled and moody after spending all day with the girls. I have to admit too that I’m much more present and relaxed at home as well. Spending time with my family feels much less like hassle and much more like fun, which is really what it should be, right? They grow up so quickly.
Opening the front door to a chorus of excited ‘Mummy! Mummy’s home!’ brings me so much happiness. And I also get to enjoy the two seconds of madness as they barrel down the hallway towards me for a cuddle.
I mean, really. Change can be positive. There have been so many examples of this in my life, to date. Should I have expected anything different?