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Am I missing out on the 'precious early years' and should I give up my PT work?

(40 Posts)
sanssucre Fri 24-Jun-11 11:09:23

I work freelance, DDs are 3.6YO and 16MO. I work from home mostly with some office days. Childcare is a combination of au pair/granny/nursery. I work approximately 25 hours a week. I can afford not to work, I basically do my job because (a) I like the intellectual challenge (b) I feel it keeps my options open (c) I get to interact with people other than v small children and other mothers during the week (d) I'm not very patient and worry that I would find being a full-time mother v difficult.

But, I also feel guilty most of the time. I find it hard to switch off about work when I'm not working. I feel I'm not giving the kids enough of myself. I feel, particularly with DD2, that I haven't had enough quality time with her and that her first almost year and a half has flown by. DD1 is now starting to say that she doesn't want me to work and she wants me to be with her instead. And I can't help feeling maybe she's right, maybe I should prioritise the kids for these years. It would mean giving up a really good regular freelance gig (and probably the chance of working with the same people again in years to come because I don't think I'd be able to just step back in when I was ready to work again) and also sacrificing a certain amount of personal freedom. (DH works long hours and so I do spend a lot of time alone at home when I'm not working, doing some office-based work gets me out of the house.) But I'm beginning to think that's what's right for the kids and that I should just put them first.

Anyone else been in the same position and given up work/not given up work - and how do you feel about it now?

cat64 Fri 24-Jun-11 11:43:51

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sanssucre Fri 24-Jun-11 11:58:08

Thanks so much for posting, cat - it's really good to hear another view.

Part of the problem is that DH's family are very much of the view that it's best if mothers of young children don't work. To be fair, they've never openly said they don't approve of me working it's just in the back of my mind that they probably think there's a better way and I wonder if they are right. Also, I know lots of mothers who would love not to have to work and it seems a bit perverse of me to choose to be away from my children. It basically means I am putting my needs before theirs and I wonder if I'll look back in years to come and think I was being incredibly selfish. And, although 25 hours is a v flexible working week, if I add up all those hundreds of hours that I could have been spending with my children and have chosen not to, it makes me feel like a terrible mother...

Adair Fri 24-Jun-11 12:01:28

Nah, I am looking for pt work now as I think I need a life outside the kids. We feel guilty whatever we do!

TimeWasting Fri 24-Jun-11 12:11:29

I am with DS all the time. I love him so much. Believe me, there's nothing precious about wiping arses and answering the same questions all day. It's driving me nuts. grin

DH works very long hours, DS is always asking him to stay with us, makes no difference that I'm here all the time. Little children expect the world to revolve around them. What they want is not necessarily what they need.

cat64 Fri 24-Jun-11 12:18:52

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MrsFizzywig Fri 24-Jun-11 12:33:40

I have been a SAHM for years. I do work from home for my husband who has his own successful business but it does not impact on my time with the kids.
I think being at home with your kids when they are pre school is important (unless you have extremely good childcare) I am very glad that I was lucky enough to spend time with my kids (twin boys, now teenagers) and I miss it now that they are older.
But now they are doing their own thing and don't need me so much I think perhaps it was a mistake to not have gone back to part time work outside the home once they started school. The main reasons I feel this are because the kids have not had to be as independent as is good for them. They also regard me as 'just a housewife' which makes my blood boil but in todays society there generally seems to be a lack of respect for SAHM's. And also now I would like to work outside the home but I really don't know what kind of work I could do or get after so long out of the job market.
I do think that if you are able to give up work for 4 or 5 years while the kids are pre-school and then return part time then that is ideal. I never heard an older Mum whose kids are grown up say 'I'm so glad I worked a lot when they were young', but I've heard plenty saying 'I wish I'd been able to stay at home when they were little'.

TimeWasting Fri 24-Jun-11 12:41:09

I don't think I'd like to work 'a lot', but part-time from DS being 1/2 would have been brilliant.

Miggsie Fri 24-Jun-11 12:45:11

I went to work when DD was little, part time it was, 3 days a week then 4 days a week.
I must admit I hated the toddler stage and was very happy to hand DD over to a lovely team of ladies who played with her, sang with her, did stories with her, in fact far more than I could ever do with her! Once she went to school I went back to 5 days a week.
I must admit, I'm glad I stayed at work part time. Other mums who have stayed at home now struggle to find jobs, or are doing jobs way below their qualifications and frustrated.

Also, don't rely on your child wanting you around, DD went through phases of wanting me and not wanting me, or getting sick of me and asking for daddy...no matter where he was. They always want what they can't have. I vividly remember a holiday when she asked when she'd be back in nursery with all her friends because home really was a bit boring. That was when she was 3, I felt mortified! Then I realised it was actually good for her to have a time away from me, making her own friends, so that time with mummy was more special, and also I was not so tired or doing housework and not able to interact with her anyway.

One of my closest SAHM friends is desperate for her son to start nursery so she can go back to work, she says she finds the children draining.

If you can keep the work quietly churning away in the background it is good. I have found it also helped DD when she went to school as it wasn't such a big change. I work 9-3pm so always do the after school pick ups and although she is please dot see me, if Daddy does the pick up she goes wild with delight and I feel a bit left out. So, if you were always there there would be advantages and disadvantages and if you are not there, there are advantages and disadvantages so do what is best for you. I don't regret staying at work, and I was able to attend school concerts etc and I don't feel I missed out and I feel DD's social abilities which are better than mine, really benefited from her days at nursery.

MovingAndScared Fri 24-Jun-11 13:30:30

Honestly I think its completly different working part time and from home from say doing a full time job -although I may have to with my 16 month old but thats another thread
Sounds like there are loads of upsides to your job - and in my observation most SAH parents who are happy do some thing else - a course, or volutary work or something
the only thing that might be worth considering is pershaps may be slightly less forms of childcare - that can be a bit unsettling in its self

SherlockMoans Fri 24-Jun-11 13:42:04

I worked part time starting 6 months after DS1 was born and very much felt like I missed out (i.e. he took his first steps on a work day and DS and MIL told me about it when I got home) plus when I was at home I still often had calls from my employer and I often had to be told to "go home" when in the office as I got so involved in what I was doing.

Due to a change in H's work I then resigned as he needed my support for his business and I also subsequently found out I was expecting DS2.

Now at the point where they are both in juniors, im working still for H at home on my own I would now like a small job working with other people but ive been out of the formal workplace for 8 years (so not overly employable in this climate).

My honest opinion would be that in retrospect I would NOT have resigned I know its hard work but, if you can, keep your foot in the workplace.

Having said that I DO feel that I have a much closer bond with DS2 than DS1 and I dont know if that is a coincidence or as a result of being with him more when he was young.

I haven't helped really have I blush

sanssucre Fri 24-Jun-11 13:45:56

Thanks so much for posting everyone. It's really useful to hear multiple views.

MovingandScared - re the childcare, it sounds like a bit of mishmash but actually is pretty consistent from the kids' perspective. DD1 at nursery 2 mornings and one full day (she's been doing 3 mornings since 2.9), au pair looking after DD2 while I'm working from home and granny supporting on the days I have to go to the office (usually not for the whole day). It's not that I feel the care that they get when I'm away is inadequate (in fact all the other people who look after them are probably a good deal more patient than me), it's just about whether I, as their mother, should be doing it all at this early stage in their lives.

It's DD2 I worry about the most though because DD1 had my undivided attention until I went back to work PT from home when she was 13 months or thereabouts. With DD2 I started doing bits and pieces of work from when she was really quite small and, though I do have afternoons with them both most days, she's never really had any one-on-one time with me.

MrsFizzywig - I think you've put your finger on it, the ideal would be to take time out until both DC are at school and my fear is that I'm letting my DC down by not doing that. But at the same time not sure I could handle looking after them both FT, might just go mad. And also of course it would be harder work for me to get back into the market if I've had a complete break but what does that matter in the big scheme of things if the DC would benefit from me being there for them all the time... Gah, I don't suppose their is a right answer, I just wanted to hear some other perspectives really.

TimeWasting - v good point re kids just wanting the world to revolve around them, had temporarily forgotten that...

mintymellons Fri 24-Jun-11 13:48:27

Well, at the risk of being blunt, yes, I do think you might feel that you have missed out, but perhaps not until a little later when they're at school and you realise that the short time when you can have them 'to yourself' has pretty much gone.

Could you get intellectual stimulation from another source if you don't need to work for the money?

sanssucre Fri 24-Jun-11 13:48:53

xposted with Sherlock... that is helpful, honest! Actually I feel a bit of a stronger bond with DD2 as well but in my case i wonder if that's partly down to guilt that she hasn't benefited from as much time alone with me.

sanssucre Fri 24-Jun-11 13:52:17

mintymellons - appreciate the honest opinion. well, I could but it would be much more difficult to justify the time spent doing something 'for me' if it wasn't paid work. And then there's the question of keeping options open for later. But as I've said in other posts, part of me thinks you are right

ASByatt Fri 24-Jun-11 13:52:52

hmm just to offer thecounter to mintymellons post, there's also the possibility that you give up work for a few years and look back and regret it and wonder if actually you might have been a more content, patient mum if you had stuck with working part-time, as it sounds as if you get a lot out of your job.

Just playing devil's advocate - it's really hard for parents, so many directions pulling at you all the time.

MrsJamin Fri 24-Jun-11 13:53:13

My two are pretty much the same age, and TBH I would LOVE to be in your position! (grass is always greener as they say!) I can't find a decent part time job that would cover 2 lots of childcare and although we don't NEED the money, I would really like to have a job in which I am something else than dishwasher-filler or bum-wiper, so that someone recognises that yes I do have a First from a top 5 university and I am capable of more than that.
You say you wish you were spending more time with the children... Is there any chance you can lower your hours just a little? I too get really frustrated with being at home full time and so I think you should hold your head up high and say "yes, I need more than just looking after my own children to make me happy". You are probably assuming quite a bit from your eldest, and she will be at school before you know it, when you will be SO glad you have kept work going and it will hopefully fit around school hours to a certain extent.

gourd Fri 24-Jun-11 13:58:14

If you're only working 25 hours a week (and not spending 10-15 hours a week just commuting, on top of working 38 hours a week), then you're not missing any parenting of your children! I think you have the best of both worlds. You get to do something you want to do for a living, as well as being a not-too-exhausted-from-working parent who can really make the most of the precious time you get with your kids!!!! envy Massively jealous!!!

sanssucre Fri 24-Jun-11 13:59:46

Thank you both smile

Mrs Jamin - I think you might have a point, perhaps there's a way to trim my hours. I'm just not very good at saying no and therefore end up doing extra bits and pieces here and there.

rocksox Fri 24-Jun-11 14:00:28

I agree with MrsJamin. I wish I was in your position - it sounds ideal to be honest. If you stopped work completely there is no guarantee you could pick it up again later. If you lower your hours it may be seen as a "signal" by your employers. I happily took redundancy 2 years ago as I thought I could have more time with the kids and pick up a part-time job along the way - I so regret that decision now...

sanssucre Fri 24-Jun-11 14:02:36

gourd - when you put it like that it does sound good smile - though actually I am knackered most of the time. The thing about working from home is that you're either doing housework or childcare or actually working i.e. if you're waiting for an email to come in you see the kids/hang up washing etc rather than just making yourself a coffee and having a banter with colleagues, so I do feel like I am on the go constantly (and I often catch up in evenings so I can have afternoons with the DC). But, there are huge advantages, so thank you for reminding me of them!

sanssucre Fri 24-Jun-11 14:03:12

Have to go now but thank you all very much indeed for your thoughts/advice and for sharing your experiences. Have a lovely weekend all

TimeWasting Fri 24-Jun-11 14:03:29

I don't think that being there for him all the time is beneficial for DS. It would be great for him to spend more time with his grandparents, and nursery is going to be brilliant for him.
Your set up sounds great, lots of different socialisation opportunities, safe and stable with a variety of adults.

Apart from pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding there is nothing about looking after children that other people can't do and I wonder what example am I setting for DS (and DD to be) that I'm there 24/7 at their beck and call, with very little outside life of my own.

cat64 Fri 24-Jun-11 14:03:32

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HyenaInPetticoats Fri 24-Jun-11 14:10:24

Bear in mind that you might be less patient if you never had a break from them. I work full-time (but walking distance from work and flexible hours) partly because I'm a much nicer mother when singing Old MacDonald 27 times an hour with constant corrections is something I do after spending a day talking to adults, moving around at adult speed and meeting my own incidental needs for drinks/going to the loo/staring out of the window without having to negotiate. 10 years in, I've accepted that it's better for them and me to have a sane, happy mother who works than one struggling to contain her boredom and frustration as the minutes tick by towards bedtime. These early years are indeed short - don't trash a life's work for the sake of toddlers' ideas about what they want.

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