When being a working mum doesn’t work

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I feel like one of the balloons E asks his daddy to blow up and let go of. After whooshing about at breakneck speed Monday to Friday, I spend part of each weekend sitting in a deflated heap and with a growing knot in my stomach from knowing that, come Monday, the organised chaos starts again. My nights are spent squinting at piles of marking, admin, and planning, and they’re followed by painfully early mornings, guiltily shepherding 2 tired little boys to nursery after minimal sleep. I’ve been giving myself some motivational pep talks this week, stuff like ‘get a grip woman…it’s always like this as winter creeps in…you’ve been doing this for 8 years now, you should be used to the workload…you love this job with a passion…your students are the best…it’s all worth it’.

Except this year things are different because last year, during a typically mountainous workload and with way too much going on emotionally and physically, I had a breakdown. It was hideous. Thankfully, now that I’ve healed, I’m free to see it as a blessing. I learnt that I can’t do everything, despite what the culture of my profession tells me. I learnt that my family has to come before work, and that my children have to take precedence over the emotional hold of others. I thought that would be it; that I could put all those life-lessons in a neat file and take them out as and when I needed them. But it’s not as simple as that. I can feel the pressure rising again, and I have to face facts – I’ll probably reach melting point every year, for as long as I keep this impossible dynamic going. And I don’t want it. I don’t want to have to dig around for the last scrap of energy to get me through the working week. I don’t want to stay up until midnight most nights working, with no recognition, just more pressure, and more judgement. I don’t want to forfeit any kind of relaxation, couple, or ‘me’ time because of my job. I don’t want to feel anxious each weekend because the thought of Monday is so exhausting. I don’t want work to be such an overbearing pressure that it forces my children into second place.

E starts school next September, and despite my neurotic tendency to over-plan everything I’ve been too busy with work to visit any of his potential schools. The guilt. While I don’t know what school E will go to, I do know that that my assumption that life would get easier was naive. Life is going to get much more complicated. With E at school, OH and I at work, and Bean at nursery, we’ll have to somehow get the 4 of us to different places at different times each day. It’s a logistical nightmare, particularly on the nights that I have to stay late for parents evenings or meetings. If I’m lucky E’s school will have a breakfast club, and perhaps an after school club. If not I’ll have to find a child-minder and drop him off at the crack of dawn each morning. The thought of either scenario makes me want to weep. My big boy will be going to school, and unless I make huge changes, he’ll be making that transition on his own. That’s not what I want for him. I want to pick him up from school and to hear how his day has been. I don’t want to have to rush from work, knowing he’ll be too tired to tell me about the friends he’s made, or that he’s had a rough day.

We can’t afford for me not to work, and I’d be miserable without the stimulation and challenge of a career, but I know I need to be brave and consider, for the first time in years, an alternative to this crazy status quo. I’d love to write in some capacity, it would be the dream. Perhaps, if I had more time, I could make a proper go of this blog and earn a small income from it? People seem to like it still, despite me being so terrible at responding to comments (I’m so sorry!). Or maybe I could make something of my other blog? It’s driven by causes I’m passionate about, but I just haven’t had the time to invest in it. Maybe, eventually, I’ll write the book that has been gnawing away at me for years. Or perhaps there’s something else out there for me. Whatever I do, I know I’ll put everything I have into it.

I’ve been Instagramming the hell out of my dilemma for days and now I’m blogging about it, not to wallow in my own self-importance, but because I tend to brush aside my working mum woes, which just perpetuates the stress. I tell myself to get a grip and to focus on the holidays – the biggest perk of my job. But each summer I’m burnt out.

I won’t look back in 20 years and feel nostalgic about the hours I spent working, but unless I make big changes, the lost time with my boys will hit me hard. I could keep pretending this working mum juggle is no biggy, that my career is worth us all feeling depleted come November, but I’m terrified of the time that’s slipping through my fingers. My boys need me and I need them.

Through my phone lens

Things are shifting. In a good way. I’d write about it, but I’m not sure of the words. Rather than the usual frustration, this writers block is freeing. I’m loving the head space, the indulgence of feeling without writing. I’m taking my time, figuring things out and finding my new direction.

I don’t know where I’m headed, but for the first time in ages I feel hopeful, and capable, and excited about the future. These last few months have been testing. During all the unrest some of my beliefs and fears have been unsettled, and (right now at least) I’m seeing that as a good thing, as adaptation and growth.

While I um and ah about my next blog post, I thought I’d update with a few moments captured on my phone from the last few weeks; family walks, afternoons at the park, silly moments at home. Little E and Bean have been with us every step of this tricky time, shining like little lights in the dark.

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It’s LEGO® season!

In preparation for the sparkly season I’ve been thinking about Christmas presents for the boys. Like last year I’m keen to avoid buying the disposable stuff that the shops are brimming with. The kind of stuff that Little E is a bit obsessed with (and it’s no wonder – toy advertising is a scary beast of a thing).
So I’ve written a small list of toys that will last, and are ethical and educational. Top of the list for E is LEGO®. He’s only been let loose on Duplo so far, but thanks to Suppose.com, who sent us the LEGO® City Coast Guard 4×4 & Diving Boat for free, Little E now has his first ever set. These are BIG TIMES chez littleeandbean.

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This is a review I’ve been super-excited about, mainly because I could just picture Little E’s face opening the box! And he’s been just as thrilled as I expected. I’ve heard “this is my favourite toy, mum!” so many times. His new LEGO® had to sit on the edge of the sink while he had his bath tonight and he took it to bed. Childhood infatuations with toys are the sweetest thing.

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I’m really impressed with the set. It features a small 4X4 vehicle, trailer, diving gear (including a scuba kit and a life jacket), a walkie-talkie, megaphone, and 2 minifigures: a driver and a rescue diver. And it’s the perfect introduction to LEGO® for a little boy who has so far only been allowed to play with Duplo. It’s complex enough to feel very grown up to Little E, but there aren’t too many parts, so he’s able to work through the instructions and build it with me.

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Judging by how infatuated Little E is I think he’s going to get a lot of playing hours out of it. Happy times! And even better is the pricetag. Suppose.com found The LEGO® City Coast Guard 4×4 & Diving Boat for £7.98 (instead of £14.99) – it’s a fantastic price for such a well built, classic toy, that will give us years of fun. This post is sponsored by Suppose.com