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Not sure I'm up to being a working mum - head vs heart

(33 Posts)
matwork Mon 23-Jun-14 21:06:26

This is ridiculous because I'm about to start a year's maternity leave with dc2 but I'm so conflicted about my return to work already.

I've been back at work for 18 months and have mostly done 4 days per week working from home with the odd day in London depending on what's required. I also have flexibility in my working hours so realise I've been very very lucky in this regard.

However I've found it really hard, mainly struggling with the headspace it all requires to juggle everything and give 100% at home and at work. In fact I know I haven't given either 100% so generally always feel like I'm just scraping by professionally and parentally (if that's even a word!), rather than being fully engaged and focused.

I've been to a couple of work things in London recently and it's really hit home how I'm not succeeding as much as I could if I was London-based. Combine this with stories of other mid-30s women doing exceptionally well, and knowing I'm underpaid is making me feel like I could/should be pushing my career harder.

Then I got home at 6:50pm. DD (2.5yo) was getting ready for bed and I think I temporarily, where I was in work mode, forgot how wonderful she is. She was chattering away and it made me realise how much of her I'd missed over the last 18 months because I've been working. This morning she was women up, dressed whilst still half asleep and whisked off to nanny's house for the day. So I saw her for about 30 mins in total all day.

I could accelerate my career, and part of me would love to, but it would mean spending more time in London and with a 1.5hr commute each way the trade-off is that I wouldn't see my children. Moving closer isn't an option.

I could opt to not return to work but we'd struggle financially, it would damage my career even further by being out of the loop, and I think I would crave more intellectual stimulation.

So it feels like it's lose-lose all round. Finding a part time job (in my head 3 days pw would be ideal) in my field is nigh on impossible, getting the flexibility I've got now would be rare, so really I'm fairly stuck in my current job... Yet I'm underpaid, and missing out on pushing things forward because I'm not London-based. I could spend more time in the office, but then I don't see the children.

I'm sure I'm not the first working mum to feel like this, but it's fucking hard to constantly feel like choosing between work and home in terms if where I direct my focus/headspace/priority. I can't wait for maternity leave to start but sm dreading when it finishes as surely I'll feel that emotional pull to home even more with 2 babies.

matwork Mon 23-Jun-14 21:10:55

And even working 3 days pw isn't that idealas I know it's s pain for people I work with and isn't enough to push a career forward. Not when there are childfree people working 5 days a week, able to stay late and give work 100%....

Tinymrscollings Mon 23-Jun-14 21:31:27

I went heart, I couldn't do it. I was stressed, miserable and not doing either job well. I now work 1 day a week to keep my hand in and am retraining to add another string to my bow.

I know all of the received wisdom about pushing through the tricky years for long term benefit but we've decided to live for today. We are poorer but happier. I've found that enough is plenty and we have enough. I was very surprised by my decision (although my hand was somewhat forced as DS has some additional needs) - I had a successful career, was well paid and didn't think I had it in me to stay at home.

It's not the right choice for everyone but it was absolutely the right one for us. Good luck with your baby, OP. Enjoy your time at home and see how you feel when ipt's time to go back.

ThisBitchIsResting Mon 23-Jun-14 21:36:39

I could have written your OP. I loved being at home again with my second mat leave and then didn't return as planned - caused financial chaos but we manage. I love work, I'm ambitious and have been successful, it's hitting the pause button. I will return to work when both are at primary school, probably. I do feel like I'm missing out when I chat to my friends who work, but I felt exactly as you describe and it's not worth it. It's easier to work, but to me it felt like the selfish option. I do resent DH for being able to whizz ahead with his career though - ideally we would both work part time, but the world doesn't work like that. Go with your heart OP, it's not forever and it's worth it to know you're giving 100% to your children. Hope I'm not flamed for that. I see my perfectionism with parenting as comparable to my ambition to do my very best career wise - and as you say, it's impossible to excel at both so I've chosen my kids.

BuildYourOwnSnowman Mon 23-Jun-14 21:44:41

I'm in the same dilemma and have been for 6 years. I've found it just gets harder when they are at school

I am extremely stressed at work doing my fixed hours and unhappy because of crappy politics. I don't feel like I am able to ou 100% in.

Then at home I am crabby and short tempered which is unfair on the kids.

Dh and I have mulled it over and he is fine with me quitting. But then I he cold feet and worry about my financial independence and the kids love their nanny. It's so hard!! I wish I hadn't gone back after dc2

I guess you have a year to think about it!

matwork Mon 23-Jun-14 22:00:12

Thank you for your replies. I actually feel quite alone in this because all my friends with children seem to have rich husbands, or are happy to work full time or are happy in a local shop type job.

Perhaps 3 days pw in the office would be ok and I could grin and bear not seeing the children much on those days. But I'm not sure I couldn't get away with PT forever, so at what point in my kids lives would I increase my hours... and it would frustrate me to think that my career would stagnate even further because of that.

Problem is my DH doesn't do great under pressure and is self-employed so I think me stopping work would put more on him than he could really take.

Plus if I stop work now I feel like I'll never get back into anything on a serious level should I choose to in the future.


Tinymrscollings Mon 23-Jun-14 22:25:10

I agree with thisBitch about never regretting time spent on your family.

Initially I thought 'wait til school' and now as school is fast approaching I can see that's a whole new set of juggles and concerns. Also we haven't yet found the right moment for our hoped for second baby at which point it'll be back to square one anyway so I thought bugger it. I'm not going to work myself into a hole in the ground for that mythical time when it'll be simple again and I will never regret my ruined career as much as I'll regret not doing right by DH and DS.

I understand completely about not wanting to put pressure on DH - I feel the same. I try to earn enough doing a 'smaller' but related job to pay for our food and anything I need like clothes etc. I know that if it all goes massively tits up then we will have to rethink and I'll need to find more work. But again, it's perhaps best to just do what seems right and whilst bearing tomorrow in mind, live for today. also remember that when you are at home you really don't need much money. No office clothes, no travel costs, no equipment.

I am a bit fatalistic with these things - if you follow your heart and do what's best for you and yours it'll all work out in the end, one way or the other.

Maybe you'll feel better equipped to make that choice when not heavily pregnant and, I'd imagine, exhausted.

matwork Wed 25-Jun-14 09:12:03

Living for today is really good advice, thank you. I'm dreadful at that and always looking to The Next Thing. The only time I truly relished every moment was my first lot of mat leave and it was wonderful. Definitely helped stop that feeling of time slipping away.

Yesterday I felt all positive and like I could do it all. Today's a different story. DD was up just before 5am so by the time we left at 7:55 she was v crabby. Nursery drop off was ok but I then couldn't find anywhere to park at the station so missed the fast train and am now on a later slower train meaning I'll get to the office just before 10am. I keep welling up on the train. It won't massively matter that I'm late but it doesn't look great. I know I'm tired and it's a big week as I finish on Friday for mat leave but it feels impossible logistically.

And 3 days pw would be logistically tricky too. DH would have to do drop-offs in the morning (because my commute is 1.5hrs door to door) and we'd like dd to start preschool this September and it doesn't start til 9am. Ok so he's self-employed but he's also a tradesmen. Unless he's working round the corner it's a bit lame for a trader to start at gone 9am. Not too bad for private clients but wouldn't go down well with contractors.

We could in theory ask the grandparents to do 1 day per week each - we have 3x sets as my parents are divorced. They've helped out with dd since I've been back at work) but it's a big ask and they are all getting on a bit and find it tiring. Plus I know they'd prefer to look after the kids at their house but I'd prefer the children to be at home and for them to come to us. And, I feel dreadful saying this bit they all drive me a bit potty and my relationship with my mum is very up and down so relying on them that heavily would be difficult.

I dunno. I know I don't have to have all this sorted now but I don't want to go on mat leave and have this hanging over me. First time round I was oblivious to how tricky it would be juggling a career and childcare and my own emotional well-being, whereas this time I know what a headfuck it can be.

And where does it stop? My children are surely going to need me for a long time? It really does feel like I'll have to choose between them and a career.

BuildYourOwnSnowman Wed 25-Jun-14 09:57:33

Dh says that the time he saw me at my happiest was on my first maternity leave. I went back to work on a trial basis (in my head) but i never found the right time to quit. It really feels like a job instead of a career.

My dh can't really help as he travels a lot.

It feels like a catch 22!

Gen35 Wed 25-Jun-14 16:38:00

Is there something you could retrain in or do without needing to go to London? Seems to me like you need the security of one person working in an employed job unless you have large savings, but, can you use the ML time to retrain and look for a better job out of London? It doesn't seem that you not working at all is a viable long run solution, but can you work towards a job you feel better about?

matwork Wed 25-Jun-14 18:34:37

Back on the train and feeling less teary now, more just frustrated.

I'm later leaving the office than planned, missed the fast train and now dd will be in bed by the time I get in. It's it one night do it's not the end of the world but the thought of this 2/3/4 days pw makes me sad

It's the commute that's problematic as it adds 3hrs to my day.

I really enjoy what I do and am a bit gutted to be handing over to my mat cover as there's some exciting things coming up. A few weeks back there was talk of voluntary redundancy but it would've worked lot roughly the same as mat pay for the year so wasn't worth it really. That made me think about going freelance (which wouldn't be easy in my field) and I think I could try it, but only if I wasn't working - I wouldn't have the headspace to find freelance work and juggle a job and home stuff too.

There is a small possibility I'll be able to stay as a homeworker but I'm not holding my breath with all these new changes and the fact that my mat cover will be office based 5 days a week, well I don't think I can compete with that.....

Retraining. Hmm. I have NO idea what I'd retrain in.

We need one decent steady income and dh's business isn't anywhere near sturdy enough yet and we have to accept that it might not ever be. So I feel a lot of pressure to have the decent steady job. Plus I want that too. But I also don't want to miss my children growing up. I want my cake and to eat it and I know the world doesn't work like that.

Gen35 Wed 25-Jun-14 18:48:57

Maybe the gp childcare option is worth a go - I'd have felt less guilty working if I had family involvement and not just paid care. can they rotate so each set has the dc 1 out of 3 weeks for 1 or 2 days? Juggling work with dcs is hard, you have to sit down with dh and figure out everything you can do/try to make things feel better.

matwork Thu 26-Jun-14 19:56:20

Welli f

matwork Thu 26-Jun-14 19:57:23


Well I don't even know what hours work will give me when I go back so it'll kind of hinge on that.

Not sure the GPs will want to be at our house, think they would prefer to be at h

Spottybra Thu 26-Jun-14 19:59:26

I went with my heart. I'm happier now than juggling everything.

angeltulips Thu 26-Jun-14 20:06:46

Honestly, just leave it til 6 months post dc2. You're likely a whirl of hormones just now. You are under absolutely no obligation to decide right now - so don't!

You have lots of options when your mat leave is up. But looks at them then, not now.

(Ps your DH really needs to step up. One of you should be doing drop offs, one pick ups. Don't be scared to ask for what you need - be that at home or at work.)

duchesse Thu 26-Jun-14 20:06:59

I went with my heart (to stay at home with them) 20 years ago and I sort of regret it now. I have worked sporadically throughout their childhood apart from 4 years when the 3 older ones were very small. In the main though I kind of regret of not building up a career. I would have been feeling just as bad though if I'd been in a career job that was turned by my company into a mere job, and I'd seen people being promoted when I wasn't by the mere fact of them not having small children (I worked in the City in a relatively undemanding role before having children and that sort of demotion happened all the time).

I guess that whatever you do, the grass will always seem somewhat greener the other side. You must bear in mind that most of the parenting in the years up to 10 is basically cleaning or tidying. It's mostly very, very dull.

matwork Thu 26-Jun-14 20:10:11

FFS. their own houses and the logistics of that make it far less appealing.

They currently do 2 days pw every three weeks. They are all in their 60s and I don't want to take the mickey.

Also, whilst it's massively kind of them to help out I do find them all quite hard-going blush and I know I'm tired and grumpy after a day in London and I'd want to just be back in my own space with the children and would be itching for them to get going and leave us to it. Which is pretty rude of me really. I like the fact that nursery drop-offs are clean and simple, no faffing. The GPs often (at the moment) drop dd off later than planned or stuff gets left at their house or they need to swap days etc etc. It makes me feel irritated when I don't want to feel like that.

DH and I were chatting last night and he said we can make it work and actually I don't doubt we could make it work it's just whether I'll feel happy with the arrangements. At the moment it all feels like nothing but a grind.

Still, last day tomorrow and I guess things will just fall into place next year at some point!

Thank you for listening to me waffle on.

matwork Thu 26-Jun-14 20:16:24

It's not really about DH stepping up it's more the nature of the work we both do.

His starts earlier and finishes earlier but could be anywhere from 5 mins to 1.5hrs drive away.

Mine does currently provide some flexibility but that is likely to change with a re-org in the next few months and whether I stay with my current employer or look elsewhere, most of the opportunities are in London, giving me a 1.5hr commute each way.

So I could do mornings and try to negotiate later starts and finishes but I won't see the children before they're in bed and DH simply can't guarantee he'd be home in time to do it. And it's ok the GPs doing it on the odd occasion but I think it's really important that one of is is there.

My DM worked when we were little and I think, for lots of different little reasons, it did have a negative impact on us and I don't want to repeat that.

CrimeaRiver Thu 26-Jun-14 20:23:29

I also suggest you wait to make your decision. You are pg, you are going on mat leave (bound to throw up all manner of issues). Give yourself a break.

Sometimes I ask myself not what the optimum solution would be, but what the least worst solution would be. Just from what you have written:

- your DH has chosen a path that cannot provide financial security
- you have both taken the decision to have two children
- you cannot cut your commute

There doesn't seem to be much scope for both you and he to have what you want, if you even knew what that was. You are going to have to make an uncomfortable choice soon, perhaps use your mat leave to figure out what the least uncomfortable choice would be.

CrimeaRiver Thu 26-Jun-14 20:28:33

Thinking about it, your DH's job of choice is really the issue when it comes to your personal fulfilment. Really, by the sounds of things, you have to work. The family needs your income because his isn't enough. If that is the case, given his working hours, you will indeed have to do the dropping off/picking up. This will by definition mean a career compromise for you.

If youw roked full time in London, would the family be able to survive on your income alone? Could your DH stop working to be a SAHD? Or take on work around school hours? Woukd you be happy with that?

museumum Thu 26-Jun-14 20:37:26

It sounds to me like you've got a really good balance (4days a week, from home). You see it as not giving 100% to either parenting or work, I see it as managing to do both work and parenting simultaneously which is pretty bloody good going. You should be proud of doing both. Why do you have to give 100% to your job? What's wrong with 'leaning out' a bit for a while? You can always lean back in later, if you want.
And while you could be with your children fulltime if you chose, I am sure they have good care when you're not with them. I know my son loves nursery.
It sounds like you think anything less than 100% working full time plus the add-ons or 100% sahp-ing is 'imperfect' but actually I think that balancing the two is healthy.

SummerSazz Thu 26-Jun-14 20:37:33

Can you give an idea of your career area and rough location? I have a senior job 3 days a week with a 25 min commute. Rare but not unheard of. Someone may have some ideas of local potential employers.

Btw mine is very much a 'city' role and I was very surprised to find an opportunity in the sticks.

AlwaysOneMissing Thu 26-Jun-14 20:59:57

Interesting you say you don't want to repeat mistakes your mother made. I feel the same - but my mum was a SAHM - and I think in several ways that had a negative impact on us and I have made sure to keep my career going as a result.

I have felt very similar to you though. I am in a career that I trained for and I love. But I too feel like I can't give my all as I find it hard to just 'switch' my mind between home and work. I worked (very) part time just to keep my career going, and my progression at work has really suffered. BUT at least I still do have my career iyswim.

I think all the factors in this decision are almost setting you up to fail. Your husband sounds like he has a job he has chosen which he is free to persue at the times he/the business chooses, but it doesn't provide much (enough?) income. Meanwhile it sounds like you are picking up all the pieces and trying to keep all the balls in the air.

I'm not saying your DH is wrong to do this, it's hard running your own business. But it sounds like the person really suffering here is you. You have the worst of both worlds.

My advice would be to look for another job, closer to home, even if it is not in your current field. As long as it pays enough, your quality of life would be better and it might open doors to opportunities you don't even know are out there.

In the short term, to relieve your stress over the situation, write out a list of all your possible options. Then wait until your new baby is a few months old then look again at your list and re-evaluate then.

AlwaysOneMissing Thu 26-Jun-14 21:01:09

Great post museumum

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