I realise I am yet to write my “juggling a new baby and my own business” post yet, to be honest I feel I actually need a bit more experience in order to put the feature together, or maybe it isn’t “one” feature at all, if I was to include every single aspect of what’s going on right now it would be the longest piece I’ve ever written. And I’m sure most of you would get bored. Instead I’m going to try and share a few of the immediate decisions I was faced with and the subsequent conflicts and resolutions.
I fell pregnant very quickly, it was an extremely welcome but completely unexpected surprise. Having a baby was not in my 2014 business plan. Being truthful there were (and still are) far too many projects in the pipeline for the team to manage as it was this year without me dropping brand new Mama status into the mix. After the initial euphoria (and let’s face it, a reasonable dose of fear) I knew I needed to figure out what the bloody hell I was going to do in terms of time off and inevitably going “back” to work far sooner than perhaps I would have liked.
The key to all of this has been that I have a supportive and talented bunch of folks who work for my company, if I didn’t I would be up the creek without a paddle. Or a boat. Even though I was concerned about my predestined absence everyone else seemed pretty cool, calm and collected about it, or at least they were in my presence, which was much appreciated. More on that in a later post.
After much consideration I figured I could take eight weeks/two months maternity leave – being on call for anything urgent and keeping up to date with emails and end of month reporting. I would then need to return, at least a few days a week to begin with. I figured all of this would be viable providing I came back full time at some point in June and that Mabel was as healthy as anyone would hope.
This was all very well and super organised of me, but in practice what would I actually do with Mabel when I was working? I don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, have a straight forward 9-5 job* and I wasn’t naive enough to believe I could necessarily work to full capacity whilst feeding, changing, entertaining and generally managing the wellbeing of a newborn. James and I discussed the options at length and approached our parents with the view to them potentially helping out, at least until Mabel was old enough to attend nursery. My parents have Mabel on a Monday (they pick her up at 8.30am and bring her back at around 5pm, they live about five minutes away) and James’s Mum comes all the way from Cheshire on a Wednesday to mind Mabel at our home. More recently my sister is able to manoeuvre her shifts (She is an air hostess and a free lance make-up artist) so that she can look after her niece one afternoon a week. I know, I am incredibly lucky that I have all of this help from family and I am eternally grateful.
This realistically leaves two and a half days a week for James and I to find alternative arrangements. When Mabel was 9 weeks old we went to look at a brand new nursery very close to where we live with the view to her attending at least one day a week, two days when she was a little older. The nursery was amazing in terms of facilities, like nothing I have ever seen or heard of before, the staff were lovely and the children all seemed extremely happy. In reality I couldn’t have wished for a more perfect place to send my daughter.
I asked what the minimum age requirement was for enrolment, they told me it was 12 weeks. I asked what the youngest age of the current babies were in what would be the group that Mabel would join, they told me 12 months. I felt like the worst mother in the world and promptly burst into tears. How could I seriously choose my career over the best thing that ever happened to me?
The 12 week mark has well and truly passed and I am yet to pay my deposit for her nursery place. On the days I don’t have help from grandparents or aunty Melissa I manage as best I can. This usually involves starting very early and catching up on the time I missed during the day in the evening when James returns home. At the moment this is just about manageable, Mabel is a happy little soul and is fairly regular in terms of when she takes a nap – from Midday until about 3pm, I endeavour to utilise this three hour period for tasks that require 100% of my undivided attention.
Every day Mabel becomes more and more alert, and it won’t be long before I will be unable to achieve very much of anything at all. A few friends of mine have found their littles (anywhere between 4-12 months) frequently catch illnesses from nursery and it’s become counter productive – the expense that’s incurred and the subsequent days spent with an unwell small person. I’ve not really had the time to really carry out adequate research into a nanny/childminder but I am aware it’s a significant financial commitment and that my situation is quite unique – I would only need someone part-time and no week is the same in terms of my hours.
When I send Mabel off with her Nana and Grandad on a Monday morning I feel equal parts blessed and devastated, who ships their baby off for the day from 8 weeks old? The last few weeks it’s been as if she knows, as soon as I put her in the carseat the bottom lip goes, her eyes go wide and then the uncontrollable crying starts. It’s all I can do not to pick her up and keep her at home with me. Much like my first visit to the nursery, I feel like the worst mother in the world.
I love my job. Really I do. And I feel guilty for loving it, hell I feel guilty every day for something or other to do with not dedicating enough of my time to my baby. And I’m sure I’m not alone. As Mabel gets older I’m positive it will get easier – I also have friends whose children have thrived at nursery and thoroughly enjoy the experience.
In an ideal world I would have had more time to spend just Mabel and I, I am never going to get this time back and when I give it too much thought it makes me very sad indeed. But I know this situation is just temporary, and that in the not too distant future it will all be worthwhile. I work this hard for myself but ultimately?
I do it for her.
As always, your thoughts and advice is most welcome in the comments box below.
*Whenever I hear the expression “9 to 5” the Dolly Parton song of the same name plays in my head. EVERY SINGLE TIME. I can’t help it. It made me have the uncontrollable shoulder-shake giggles in an interview once. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.