I returned to work, for 3 days a week, when Joshua was 7 months old, leaving Joshua with a childminder. who had her own son of about the same age. I found it hard to adjust and I would say it took me about 2 years to come to terms with the work/family balance. I found myself trying to squeeze 5 days work into my 3 days, so made myself miserable. I found, like most working mums I am sure, feeling guilty : guilty when I was at work then I wasnt with my new baby but guilty when I was at home, that I was letting them down at the office.
Thankfully, I did adjust and I also, as Joshua got older increased my working days to four, now just taking Fridays off. This suits me well as it gives me Fridays to do things for me, like haircuts, lunch with friends and also volunteering at Joshua’s school. I tend to pack a lot into my day off.
However, I often wonder how other working mums manage with all the hospital appointments that our children get and I often find that they come in clusters, so that some weeks there can be more than one! As school is 30 minutes drive away, to go for a simple helmet fitting like we did the other week, involved me leaving work to collect Joshua, then driving to our local hospital and parking up – which is always traumatic! Then its the appointment time itself, in the most recent case we were not kept waiting and the appointment was just 10 minutes long but that is rare. Then I take him back to school for his school dinner – he would hate to miss that! – then drive back to the office.Or last week for instance, Joshua’s Annual Review at school lasted for over two hours and I would not have missed that for the world. Staff asked if I was taking Joshua home with me as it ended at the end of the school afternoon, but I said no, he is going home but I am off back to the office where I worked late to make up for the lost time.
I am fortunate that I am allowed out of work for these appointments, because they cannot fit them all into Fridays as certain clinics only happen on particular days of the week. But I often say that ‘if I had a proper job, like working in a shop, I would have been sacked a long time ago’! Yet I am able to make the lost time up or take my work home if needs be.
It is not just the planned appointment times that I need to take off work, but then there are also the days when Joshua is not well enough to go to school. Every child gets sick and a parent should expect to be at home to take care of their ailing child. However, Joshua does not only have to deal with the illness itself, which would make him feel poorly enough, but in addition, it might aggravate his seizures and he does not have the words to explain to me what might be hurting. Here again I am very fortunate that I have a flexible employer, and clients, and I email in to explain where I will be that day. I have had to cancel several client meetings over the years due to Joshua’s unpredictable health, but fortunately they are mostly long-standing clients , and they understand that my son is my priority. I have worked for the same company for 25 years now and so I am sure that helps, as they have known my work ethic before Joshua came along.
So why do this juggling act if it is so difficult to manage? Why do I not survive on Carers Allowance, Disability Living Allowance and my husband’s salary? If I was not working, when Joshua was packed off to school, I could go back to bed to catch up on lost sleep. But I choose to work because:
– It is something for me and something that I am good at. unlike Joshua’s health, my work is something that I can control, I put effort in and I am rewarded with results, but that does not necessarily happen with Joshua.
– it means that I have another life that is not simply as ‘Joshua’s mum’. I mix with a variety of colleagues and clients, most of whom know about Joshua’s difficulties . But there are also clients who do not know and this is refreshing too. Having two sides to me – working Emma and Joshua’s mum – I think makes me a more rounded person and helps in both roles.
– I do not know how aware Joshua is of my work life quite honestly, but I like to think that he, if he realised, would be proud of me and that alone, would make all the struggles worthwhile.