9th July 2015 Helen 10Comment

Working Mother GuiltI remain mirror-less, wifi-less and husband-less. Not all of this is bad.

Life with only partial views of my body is kind of liberating. I rely on a (possibly inaccurate) mental picture that shows me looking quite fabulous, twinned with the sometimes harsh verdict of a four-year old, to tell me how old clothes sit on an older body. Today is a good day. Today I look like a princess. Apparently.

The lack of wifi is bothering me much less than I thought it might. It’s kind of nice to plonk down on the couch and not feel like I should tidy up those drafts and push ‘publish’. After all – and don’t spare my feelings here, a quiet stretch on the blog is not actually a life or death issue and my wisdom will surely keep for a few more weeks.  At any rate I’ve made a few tentative calls and once the worst ever customer service representatives (aka UPC) get their act together, normality should resume – and so should our much missed enjoyment of Netflix.

The husband going AWOL is the worst. Aside from the wonderful conversations and long and passionate snogging sessions, its bloody hard keeping the show on the road without always shouting! The creche-school-work-school-creche routine is wearing a tad thin as I spend the day chasing my tail and forgetting to go to the loo (a common theme round these parts).

Last week’s end of school term has complicated things.  I hate the idea of summer camps and indistinguishable summer holidays spent with kids kept busy. I love the idea of barefeet, pyjamas and not knowing what day it is. But these are not the luxuries of working parents. Whereas other years the kids have been so young they’ve been in crèche or – even better, spent delicious months off on maternity leave with me, this is our first year of official summer holidays and all that brings with it. Namely tears, logistical nightmares, and tears.

Last week Spidey had his first three days of the holidays. He came to work with me for one half day. He spent endless hours diligently colouring (his definition of heaven), ate the office biscuits, entertained the ever-patient non-holidaying colleagues, and we clocked out at lunch-time. He spent the next day playing with buckets of muddy water in his Granny’s, and the last hanging around hardware shops with his Daddy. This was the homebird’s perfect week.

This week is not so heavenly. The child – who is all-talk-very-little-action, has spent weeks gas-bagging about the sport camp we’d signed him up to. He talked endlessly about the timetable chocca with activities and the new friends he’d make.  He bounded up the stairs like a brand new puppy, only slowing as he got to the top, where the chatter stopped and his sweaty grip on my hand started to hurt.

And then came the tears.

The clung to my leg, ‘Mama I don’t want to go’ tears.

The ‘can I stay quietly in your office?’ pleading.

The ‘I don’t want to be here’ sobs.

And with the tears came the guilt. My first real dose of working mother guilt. The guilt of knowing there was no little choice, that he had to go in, and that I had to leave.

My boy – six today, who is chatty and confident and able, was out of his depth.  And what do I do about it?

Well where I could never allow him to cry it out as a baby, neither can I go down that road with him now. But of course I have a job and I have to actually do it, so we had to have a re-think. After a disastrous first day we’ve reached a compromise. We look at the timetable. We chat about the first activity – a swim, which after refusing to do on the first day, he now loves. Then he knows there’s a break. Then there’s more games and then there’s lunch. And then I come and get him. It’s two hours early but he’s happy that he leaves ahead of anyone else and I come for him before I pick up the younger two at crèche. He doesn’t get upset – there’s a wobbly lip but no tears, and at least he feels like the plan was tweaked to make it easier for him. I try and remember he’s not getting upset just to be difficult – it’s just very hard to do new things when you’re only five going on six.  I’m hopeful we’re striking a balance between teaching him to try new things and knowing we try our best to take on board how he feels. Hopeful, hopeful, hopeful.

Aside from the crunched working morning, though the guilt is woeful. I’ve always been fairly guilt free about my station as a working mum.  I always had all the kids at home for the duration of my long – impoverished, years of maternity leave, and felt it gave them them the best balance between working and stay at home parenting. And when I’m working both my husband and myself tweak our working hours so the kids are only out of the house for school hours.  But this week – as I mark six years of becoming a mum, it’s hard. It’s hard to tell the wee fella that he has to do something by himself. It’s hard knowing he’s sad – even if he comes around by the time they jump into the pool. Simply, it’s hard.

It’s just as well I’ve no mirror to see the stress-lines or wifi to google the psychological damage I’m inflicting. It’s also just as well his Daddy is home tonight and that tomorrow is Friday. It’s just as well the wine is in the fridge.

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10 thoughts on “I’ve no mirror, wifi or husband but at least the working-mother guilt is keeping me company

    1. Thanks S. Yes it’s working! Phew! Got in at lunchtime and he was chatting away with one hand on his bag and an eye on the door. A winning compromise I hope!

    1. It’s a tricky one alright. I’m not a fan of ‘toughening up’ at all if I’m honest. I think we all expect too much from young kids – and he’s pretty young. If he ends the week knowing it’s good to try new stuff and also that he can do it then I’m happy

  1. Ah. A tough one, and a reminder that for all their resilience and adaptability, children encounter those daunting days like the rest of us. Glad the day ended better than it began. Best of luck with the rest of the first official summer.
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    1. Too true. And a wake up call that a boy of five-turning-six is just that – a small boy. That said he has karate in the morning so for all my soft sentimentalism he may have given me a black eye by teatime tomorrow!

    1. Oh God Fionnuala I should really write an update! There’s been a much worse week and now a slightly better one! If anything its strengthened my resolve to remember to do the Lotto!

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