I’ve spent the last 16yrs working in some form or another, bar 9 months I spent learning Arabic in Alexandria, Egypt. I’m a trained secondary mathematics teacher, but have worked across the phases (primary, secondary and college), and have spent a decade or so in Teacher Education. Working in HEI (university) has always suited my lifestyle, with the flexibility of working on and off site, as well as allowing me the opportunity to travel to schools across London.
Alongside this, I’ve enjoyed studying and doing various courses, with the “free time” I had, as well as taking on various responsibilities in my work role. I also had the time (and the energy) to meet up with friends and family, travel within the UK and abroad, and enjoy the luxury of doing a lot of what I wanted, whenever I wanted to.
Having a baby completely changed this, and I don’t think I had anticipated how much would have changed.
I am not too fussed that I don’t have the time to socialise as much, or that holidays and travelling may be currently on pause, but my biggest challenge has been returning to work and the impact that’s had on baby A.
I ended my maternity leave early, and after baby A was 5 months old and had recovered from surgery, I decided it was time to go back. I started working a couple of days a week, and then went back to my normal full time role. Everyone assumed I would feel guilty about leaving baby A and being in the office again, but parenting is hard, and with my husband working 6 days a week, 12hrs a day (plus 2hrs travel) I had been doing very long days alone with a baby who was unwell and needed some time out.
As soon as my husband received his confirmation that he could switch to night shifts, and would be slightly closer to home, I returned back to work and breathed a sigh of relief. I would happily wish them the best, and would leave as soon as my husband came home in the morning, and then enjoyed a few hours of going back to the old me.
However, after a few months had passed, baby A wasn’t happy with me leaving anymore. And as soon as I would start getting ready she would start crying and became very clingy and overwhelmed when my husband would bring her to say goodbye to me. We had assumed she would get used to the change, and as she would happily wave and hug my husband before he left for work in the evenings, we thought she would soon do the same with me too. However, even after a number of months baby A has just become more and more upset at the thought of me leaving, despite the fact that my hours are not fixed and on some days I have the flexibility to leave the office and work from home if need be.
Things have been easier since we transferred all teaching, seminars and meetings online, and I started working from home as a result of the current pandemic. And initially she was happy to see me at home every day. However, over the last couple of weeks, going into my office has also become an issue for her and she’s not happy with me closing the office door or video conferencing with my students. It has also resulted in her following me everywhere I go, including the bathroom!
As a result, I’ve decided to cut down the number of days I work to 2 days a week – with an occasional 3rd for meetings every month, and despite me knowing that financially this will make things a bit tight, I also know that in a few years time baby A will be doing her own thing and won’t need me as much and I’ll regret having missed out on these years of her life. So here’s to more baby cuddles and laughter, tantrums and stand-offs, but most of all less guilt. Less guilt of leaving a crying baby, and less guilt of not doing enough “work” from home. Less pressure of trying to do it all, especially as I no longer want to and am eagerly looking forward to a much slower pace of life.