Is there life after maternity leave? How do working mums cope?

(34 Posts)
OliviaLondon Sat 02-Nov-13 22:51:40

I returned to work in September after a year on maternity leave. I love my job as an Assistant Head in a large city primary school and there's nothing I'd rather do as a job but I'm really struggling to cope with the demands on my time. I'm so disillusioned by the daily grind and the rushing - I've been really tearful and stressed about not being able to 'do it all'. Once I've collected baby from nursery I rush home, feed, bath, and bed baby then have dinner, tidy kitchen, do school work for a couple of hours and then go to bed.

I work 4 days a week but end up doing work and answering emails on my day off rather than enjoying being with my baby. Any experienced mums have any suggestions for how to make life a little easier?

MrPricklepants Sat 02-Nov-13 22:55:52

It's really tough. Take it a day at a time. Don't take on more than you can handle. Delegate (if you can). Learn to say no.
That's my only advice, my DS is now 3 and I still find it incredibly hard (been back at work since he was 11 months).

OliviaLondon Sat 02-Nov-13 23:01:37

Thanks MrPrickle - I'm pretty good at delegating :-) I think the most stressful bit is having to walk out of meetings at 5:30 to be at nursery in time to collect LO. Career suicide!

RubyrooUK Sat 02-Nov-13 23:06:19

I've got two children and work full time (so does DH). They are three and seven months.

My advice is:

- get a cleaner if you possibly can. This helps keep the house at a base level of cleanliness if they come once a week.

- be kind to yourself. I'm a bit of an overachiever and I have had to say to myself "no, it will not kill your baby to have a pouch of food today because you simply can't purée him some nutritious meals while also expressing his breastfeeds and answering emails before going into the office...etc" I let some things slide.

- Try to ringfence times that are for your child/ren alone. So if I take the day off, I say to myself that I will check my emails at certain times and no others, so I don't feel it intrudes on my day as it's at my convenience. I never do emails after work until the kids are in bed. Then I will work again, but the late afternoon/early evening is undivided attention for them.

- Batch cook lots on the weekends so you don't have to cook much in the week.

- Have some days when you go to bed early (vital if you are knackered) and then a night or two where you stay up a bit late and feel like you have an adult evening.

...er, bugger. I don't have any better advice. It's tough. It gets better when they aren't as reliant on you for everything but worse too because then they say things like "but mummy why don't you stay at home with me all the time?" The guilt never ends!!!! grin

RubyrooUK Sat 02-Nov-13 23:08:54

Oh and the way I deal with leaving early for pick ups is that I share everything with DH so it's not always me leaving early. So my colleagues know I will be around later sometimes too.

And other than that, I never apologise. I just say "great, I will need to leave that meeting at five, thanks". And hope that my breezy attitude is convincing! smile

mydoorisalwaysopen Sat 02-Nov-13 23:08:54

First, you need to accept that you can't do it all. Delegate what you can. Is there anything about your arrangements you can change? Could you have a nanny instead of nursery? Could you have a more phased return to work - if you told your head that you are struggling and would benefit from a term of three days a week would he/she be amenable? Is there any more your partner or other support such as your or his parents could do?

Also, it's early days so you will get more used to it.

MortifiedAnyFuckerAdams Sat 02-Nov-13 23:09:11

Can anyone have your LO for, say, four hours on you one day off - designate this time for schoolwork. Then, in the evenings, take a bit of time to relax.

jellyfl00d Sat 02-Nov-13 23:10:54

I have to say ifeel the same, I have 3.75 yr old and 23 month old, I've been back at work 10 months and I find it really hard. I have a senior job in a public sector area. I have to say I have felt like I'm on a hamster wheel most days, & it's very wearing. The things I am trying to do to make a difference are: going to a toddler group on my day off, cos I'm normally quite bad at doing things like that. I have condensed my 4 days at work into 3 to improve quality of life at home and I keep telling myself it wont be for long!

bakingaddict Sat 02-Nov-13 23:16:35

Do you have a partner. Ive always had DH to bath the kids and put them to bed. I cook and DH cleans the kitchen each night. I work part time and he has relatively stressful job but we share stuff 50/50.
Other than that batch cook and get a cleaner

OliviaLondon Sat 02-Nov-13 23:22:20

Thanks all - I guess I need to lower my standards. Have already employed cleaner tho! :-)

I think I just thought that there would be more to this than the never ending rush...

@mydoor - I might need to consider a nanny, the nursery LO attends is not making me happy either which is adding to the guilt.

@Ruby ... I'm gonna try that breezy phrase!

OliviaLondon Sat 02-Nov-13 23:27:58

@bakingaddict - yup, daddy is helpful but a job in the city with long hours means that I have to do all dropping off and collecting and bath, bed routine every evening. I'd love to be able to work late a couple of nights a week but no chance unless OH quits his job. Slightly resent that it's me making the work sacrifices rather than him...because I'm 'just a teacher' he thinks its easier for me to drop everything whenever it's expected

You need to remember that it will not always be like this. Even if you have three or four dcs it's still only a small portion of your working life that you spend chasing your tail like this.
My tips are - sod feeling guilty. You're doing the best you can. You're paid to work certain hours. You leave when you leave and your day you don't work is when you DON'T work. You love your child but you have a life that involves other things and other people as well as the baby. Plenty of people will expect you to feel crap about one aspect or the other. Well like I say - sod that. You've no enrgy to waste on feeling guilty when you're doing the best you can,
Childcare - get the best you can afford. If you're not happy with nursery , sack it and move on BUT do not waste energy worrying about it. You made the best choice you could and now you're choosing something else.

You need to be a bit tougher I think. Don't attack yourself. You're doing great. Have confidence in your choices.

OliviaLondon Sat 02-Nov-13 23:37:26

@northernlurker - thanks for the pep talk...it's good to know that it won't always be this hard. I am used to being pretty good at most things that being a bit crap is a rather large adjustment. Can't remember the last time I posted a birthday card on time! Ha!

Oh I know! Birthdays are a nightmare. But it gets done eventually. smile
My oldest is 15, youngest is 6. Believe me - it does get easier.

What would be the cost of a nanny four days a week compared to the nursery? That could solve many of your problems in terms of rushing.

With regard never feeling like you're doing the best by anyone I feel the same, I return in January after dc#2 and I'm under no illusions about how hard it will be. Especially as my DH cannot be involved with drop offs and picks up although he does cover me for any meetings which fall on non nursery days.

bakingaddict Sat 02-Nov-13 23:57:46

If you have ambitions ti becoming a head teacher then a live in nanny and housekeeper would be your most likely option. While it may be expensive now it will pay off in the long run if it enhanced your career prospects and saving you from the multitude of mundane tasks so you get to do nice stuff with your baby on your days off

OliviaLondon Sun 03-Nov-13 00:04:50

@bigwelly & northern lurker - I know I need to find a better childcare solution but I just need to find the time...along with finishing my MA!

Big welly - how old will your DC2 be when you return to work?

BackforGood Sun 03-Nov-13 00:06:02

The only way I kept on top of the workload and feel I'd got the balance right, was to have a day when I was not in school, but my dc were not at home. I used to do all my school work (and try to get a bit of other jobs done) and then I would not feel guilty at spending time with them and doing very little work in the evenings.
But I found senior management role incompatable with getting to the CMs on time, tbh-I relinquished that role, as, in truth, it was killing me doing the kind of hours I was doing when I first went back.
The other thought is - when you do 4 days, you tend to pick up all the responsibility for your class, and all the workload for a full time post except for the 5 hours of teaching on your "day off". For the workload to be shared fairly, you need to ensure you work no more than 3 days a week. You still actually take home more than you'd expect, because of the way the tax bands work. Once you are only doing 3 days worth/36 odd hours, then life becomes more manageable.

janey68 Sun 03-Nov-13 09:36:26

YY to the advice about considering a nanny, or a childminder who can be more flexible about timings. Have a serious talk with your partner about sharing responsibilities too.... If he really is the type of person who considers his career more 'important' then you've got a tough job on your hands, because you're always going to be playing second fiddle and that you are somehow responsible for 'facilitating' his career while also running your own. But perhaps his comments have just been throwaway remarks and he'll step up and accept that you have an important and worthwhile career too. I am similar to you, in that I have a career I value and it was paramount to me that my DH wasnt going to be one of those types who saw children and home as my sole responsibility. So : a frank discussion about sharing childcare routines is needed. Definitely get a cleaner, and have a proper clean through weekly, plus give the cleaner a rolling programme of larger jobs which need doing periodically: eg cleaning oven, windows etc; that way you'll keep on top of the home. And it's also absolutely fine to change your expectations a little. It's fine to not cook everything from scratch- no one dies from the occasional convenience meal!

Lastly I think it's worth considering the advice about 3 days rather than 4 at work. I'm not sure how the 4 days operates- is it a job share? Or have they just somehow dropped a day and you're effectively squeezing a f/t role into 4 days which often seems to be the danger of 4 day jobs. A 3 day/ 2 day split job share would mean someone else was properly carrying out the role for two thirds of the week whereas I think in reality 4 days can often mean no significant drop in what you have to do- just a drop in salary!

janey68 Sun 03-Nov-13 09:41:57

Oh and lastly if you've only been back since September after a whole year off, it's early days. I have a theory (totally untested but kind of makes sense in my head!) that you need at least half the length of time back at work as you've been off, to feel totally back in the swing. I had a 3 month maternity leave which meant I didn't feel too much out of the loop, but I reckon it still took a good 6 weeks or so to feel that working was my normal routine again. For the first few weeks it felt strange and was tough getting dd off to rhe childminder by 8 in the morning. You've had a long time off so I think it's natural for it to take longer to feel that your new routine is your 'normal' IYSWIM

TiredFeet Sun 03-Nov-13 09:54:09

I manage by dh and I sharing the responsibility for nursery runs, and housework etc. Plus we have a cleaner. And tbh I have accepted that my career is treading water for the next few years while dh's takes priority but then when the children are older I should have kept it ticking over well enough to be able to get it moving again. I don't look at emails etc while ds is awake on my days off but I might in the evenings. I dropped from 4 days to 3.5 and found I was no longer expected to basically work a full time job which has definitely helped.
If you want to keep you career going without compromising then you either need a nanny or a partner who picks up the slack. You can't be superwoman!

Wildwaterfalls Sun 03-Nov-13 09:56:33

OP I'm in exactly the same situation. Back at work since Sep, DD at nursery, DH works long hours in the city. It's so hard. In case it helps what keeps me going is:

- Accepting that these years are hard for almost everyone. Agree with the advice to not make it harder by beating yourself up / feeling guilty.

- Having two half days off rather than one full day. I'm at work every day to move my projects along, but on those afternoons off my time is really for DH.

- Increasing the cleaner's hours. She now comes twice a week and also irons and folds laundry, empties dishwasher etc. This really helps.

- Find a good babysitter and don't feel guilty about using him/her regularly, to free up time for us as a couple of to just get things done for a few hours.

- Getting family to stay. All our family live abroad which makes things harder but the DM and DMIL particularly come to stay for a week quite regularly, picking up DD from nursery, cooking etc.

I think I sound more organised than I am as life is pretty chaotic here - hope this helps a little bit though.

Wildwaterfalls Sun 03-Nov-13 09:57:30

Sorry that should say DD in my second bullet!

HellsBellsnBucketsofBlood Sun 03-Nov-13 10:07:13

We manage by doing 50:50. And while your DH works in the City with long hours - so do I and DH also works in London. We have long days so we both rearranged our days so DD (age 1) gets one of us in the morning and one in the evening. Your DH could apply to do this too - he is entitled to and perhaps he would then understand how things are for you.

Otherwise:
1. Cleaner is your saviour.
2. Laundry runs overnight and dries in daytime. You don't worry if it has to sit a few hours a few days
3. Batch cooking - if you have room, a chest freezer is your friend. Buy foil dishes from poundland and make lasagne, shepherd pie, sausage casserole, etc in them. Freeze. Defrost in the morning whatever you want that evening.
4. Window cleaner.
5. Next door's teenager to mow lawn one a week (if required).
6. Jobs list in a visible place - and not just for you - your DH is perfectly capable of doing things too.
7. Emails only checked at specific times - people will have learned to expect an immediate respond from you. They can now learn to wait. Instruct the secretaries that urgent matters (truly urgent) mean they can call you. If the phone does not ring - ignore.
8. The words 'no' and 'that doesn't work for me' are your friends.
9. Make yourself some "me time". You need it or you will burn out.

MaryAnnTheDasher Fri 29-Nov-13 20:29:07

I work FT and have 2 small dcs and one on the way. We are very regimented about the mornings and evenings cos we have to be (easier said than done!). I agree with earlier posters - do not feel guilty about leaving work at half 5. What's the alternative? You have to leave to collect your children. I manage a team who are often expected to work late, that is tricky and I definitely do the 'breezy' thing another poster mentioned. You have to brazen it out even if you're mortified inside !

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