Friday, November 25, 2011

The working mum dilemma.


Things have been ramping up in real life lately as I prepare to take my first steps on the journey to my PhD. I love my job, and being an academic is something I've always dreamed of - even though it took me a long time to get here and I chose probably the most roundabout, man-shortcut path.

As this year draws to a close and plans for next year are being made, it's easy to say yes to everything. More work, more classes, more commitments, more study... those things that make my heart beat faster and bore everyone to death with my excited babble about "mediatisation", "politics", "research methodology" "thesis" and "retention rates". I'm passionate about what I do and I'm grateful every day that I have a job I love deeply and truly enjoy.

The problem is, Veggie Baby is growing too. She makes my heart beat faster and I bore everyone to death with my excited babble about "new teeth", "swimming lessons", "almost crawling", "cute dress" and "oh my god I'm obsessed". I'm passionate about her and I'm grateful every day that I have a job I love deeply and truly enjoy.

While she is forever and always going to be first, I know I can juggle motherhood and academia - I have excellent support, a day care I love and the best and most generous, understanding colleagues in the business. There is just that thing in the back of my mind, that I may be taking on too much. I don't know how things will go, but I seem to not be able to say no to things that are offered to me on my career path. As it stands at the moment, my plate is full and balanced. But what if something comes up that throws that whole perfectly-crafted web of fulfilment into disarray?

I guess my question is - have you had this experience, and how did you deal with it? Exciting things in your adult world competing with the sheer joy of staying at home with your child? Torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool...


  1. ...loving both of you is breaking all the rules...

    Same here. A new mag has just offered me new freelance regular work on top of what I'm already doing and projects I'm handling. But I say yes cause it's money I need and I like it. I'm putting MiniMe in daycare more next year so I get more time. Plus she really enjoys it. I only have one kid though. Not sure how I'll handle things with two!!

  2. Lina@MothersLoveLettersNovember 25, 2011 at 10:12 AM

    Not a fool in the slightest, VM xx
    My son is turning 9 months old tomorrow, and I'm feeling ya.
    I was warned when I was drugged up on oxytocin (naturally!), that my views and wishes about life would change as time went on.
    So true.
    I thought I could be a full-time SAHM with an army of kids forever.
    Now, I wake up every morning excited about the possibilities for me with my new-founded passions and career/business.
    I love being a mum. I love my son. And I love how I add value to society too.
    About not being able to say no -
    I find that's usually based on a fear of loss or fear of disappointing others.
    I combat that by reminding myself that I am enough, that there are always opportunities and that people will love me for me.
    And if they don't, oh well, that's too bad :)
    This motherhood journey is such a hoot.
    So happy for you that you're loving it all and that these challenges seem to be based on being great at what you do and so passionate.
    Love xx

  3. You are so helpful, thank you. I agree with the saying no for fear of disappointing others - that's what I usually do. But in this case, saying no means disappointing myself - I really, truly want to do it, but the logistics of one person doing all this to the best of their ability would be compromised. So I have to say no but I desperately want to say yes. Hence the dilemma! Motherhood is indeed a hoot :)

  4. Lina@MothersLoveLettersNovember 25, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    And the answer to your question, what if something comes up and throws all this perfection out of balance?
    Enjoy the way things are now, and know that whatever happens, you have everything in place to deal with it. Most importantly, everything within you.
    I'm feeling ya. I totally get it. Especially right now :)

  5. I set some rules after exhausting myself saying yes to anything and anyone. My rules are no more than 3 days out of the home. I did 3 6 days weeks in July and never saw my kids then fell in a heap with a week long flu. I also have the rule of '1 thing in. 1 thing out.' If you say yes to something, look at how it affects your balance. If it's adverse, then you get rid of something. I put my MBA on hold (halfway through) until I established my business. Couldnt do both and raise 2 kids. 2012 I'll be back in the books as the kids are older now and have an extra day at daycare. Its just evaluating everything regularly and see whats working for you. You'll do a great job no matter what you do.

  6. As someone who's been tackling this dilemma for 16 years now, all I know is this. There is no right and wrong. You make the best decisions you can at the time BUT and it's a big one: don't be afraid to re-evaluate those decisions along the way. I'm with Penny - set up you're own rules and practise saying no. You're young - you won't miss out on doing stuff with your career if you just do what you can. It will all be there later.

  7. Hi :) I forgot to comment on your vlog post (because I am the shittiest blogger and commenter in the universe) but you are too cool!

    Now, this post.... well.... I have a lot of experience here and I was going to explain all about it but it was boring and self indulgent. I have way too much on my plate (have done for a while) and it's difficult being a working mother. It's really freaking difficult. Sometimes I hate it and sometimes I love it.

    BUT... if you have a good network and are willing to adapt if things should get too much then I say: go for it.

  8. This is such a good idea - one thing in, one thing out is excellent. I'll only be doing three days next year, but it's trying to fit everything into the three days that I'm concerned about. If it's all too much, I'll just drop something back to a manageable level. And thank you so much xo

  9. You're so right - I don't have to go leaping straight into everything just because I'm excited. I can, and should, take my time. Not just a pretty face, are you?!!

  10. I think that's the key - being flexible and willing to adapt. And I am. But there's no harm starting off big and seeing if I can pull it off... and if I can't, then changing it so I can. Sometimes simple is best, huh?!!

  11. I have also experienced yes burnout, however, I say go for it, if it gets too much you may have to take a few steps back till things get easier, nothing ventured nothing gained nothing owed. You are amazing x

  12. It's something I've attempted and failed at. I am not career driven in the slightest. My heart is in my children, for now, and I haven't been able to successfully juggle it all.
    Women like you amaze me. You are so strong and organised, and smart. I don't see how you juggle it all but I am in awe.

  13. Hi Veggie Mamma, first time visit, love your vlog and style! Goodluck with all that juggling. I'm signing up

  14. Best advice ever. I can always recalibrate if it gets too hard... and I should probably tackle a bunch of it while I'm still motivated and excited, haha xx

  15. Best news ever! Thanks for stopping by and your kind words x

  16. I was never career-driven either, I just wanted a degree. But things took a turn and I ended up somewhere I didn't expect but truly love. Life is so unexpected! And thank you. I'm sure your kids appreciate your sacrifice xx

  17. Stacey I had no choice but to return back to work when my son was a baby (ie months old) and I have hated it every single step of the way. I envy stay-at-home mums and have resented the fact I have to work. I have however accepted it is my path and to have our own home I have to work. I can't change that fact. I do however compensate in many other ways. I spend time with my son a lot more than some of my friends do with their kids, as in one-on-one quality time. I make that effort as it reduces my mother guilt. Sadly it never completely rids the guilt of putting him into daycare as a baby and I can honestly say that was the deciding factor to not having a second baby - I couldn't go through putting another baby into full-time daycare again. 

    I don't know what the answer is - whether having both motherhood and a career/studies is better or choosing motherhood first is the way to go, but my eBook might give you some guidance in balancing the two if you decide to go ahead. I guess I would have to say go with your gut. I personally, if my situation allowed it, would definitely choose to stay at home until school hits. But again, you need to do what is right for you and Abby. 

    Good luck gorgeous Mummy!

  18. I went back to fulltime work when Juniordwarf was 7 months old. the deal was I'd have 6 months off & his Dad would had 6 months and then we'd both work part time so we could both spend time with him. The time leading up to going back was horrible. I really didn't want to leave him and I cried and cried at the thought of it. I really couldn't bear the thought of leaving him - after a really tough first couple of months, I was starting to hit my stride by that point.

    In the end, the lead up was worse than actually going back,and I did survive,  even though I set up a count down to the time I'd be back at home with him for a couple of days a week - better than none.I think if I was going to do it again I'd prefer to have 12 months off - if for no other reason than to make continued breastfeeding easier - expressing at work every day sucked! (Um, good choice of words ....)We were so lucky both our workplaces allowed us to go part time. I did 3 days at work and 2 days at home up until this year, and work was really good about not intruding on that time and asking me to come in at other times, for which I am extremely grateful, I know a lot of people aren't that lucky. One thing that actually helped was not having family around to help out in times of need at work. Now I have some of my family closer, I'm finding I'm agreeing to do longer hours some times because I know I can rely on them to help out --- though i feel very guilty asking them to do that. But then if I say no to work i also feel guilty.Sometimes I feel like the family-work balance is a losing battle - I feel like I'm not taken as seriously at work because I'm only there limited hours, then I feel like I'm not a proper mum either because I don't pick him up after school every day and I put him in daycare and I only get one day a week with him, which isn't enough. Next year will be harder because he'll be in full time school and I'll have even less time with him.

    It's really hard, this working mum thing. But the admiration I have for SAHMs is great too. I can't imagine coping with kids all day every day. People who do that are just amazing :)

  19. My dilemma is I don't have to go to work - I want to. How do I balance what I want for me and what I want for my child? I guess the best thing to do is just try it and see how I go. Can't wait for your book!

  20. I know - I have so much respect for daycare workers too! It can be a madhouse. I've already been working one day a week for a while, and next year will bump it up to three, which I'm comfortable with. My challenge is fitting everything I've got to do in those three days. Thanks so much for sharing, it's given me much food for thought.

  21. Hi Peggy. I completely understand where you are coming from. I feel for you immensely to have to have made such a tough decision about baby number two. I hope you will still keep having child number 2 as an option - if that is what you truly desire - as it would be sad for you, your husband & son to not have in your lives another beautiful soul. I have been there, I get the guilt of daycare & I was also fortunate enough to experience being a stay at home mum. There's guilt with both. I know it's tough to leave our babies to be raised by others in good quality care (some people have suggested why bother having kids if you are just going to put them into care) but at the end of the day, as parents we are always there first thing in the morning & last thing at night. After child are, kids spend all day at school anyway, then they're off to uni/work. They will always be in your life, for ever, those 5 years at the beginning won't seem so missed then. You seem like a very compassionate person to make such a sacrifice. I just hope you, too, follow your heart and have another child IF that is what you truly want.

    And great advise from all your readers Vegemama. It really is a personal choice. Different people handle things differently. What looks like too much of a workload for some, might be perfect or not enough for you. I love how my fave blogs are mostly women...mothers, who support each other for their individual choices. You sound very on top of things. Thank you for your positivity & I look forward to hearing how it all goes, and how your little one grows.

  22. Peggy is such a beautiful soul. And we have such a gorgeous community! I get a lot of support and advice from women and mothers that have been there and done it all. Better than a mum's group, that's for sure! Thanks so  much for your kind words x

  23. Oh hon do it. Do it. Or you'll end up like me ... swear to god last week, leafing through the Jobs Vacant ads in my local paper, suddenly realising at 39 years old that I don't have a trade behind me.


  24. I'm motivated by seeing mid-50-year-olds cleaning shopping centre food courts... It's never too late. Meanwhile, they probably like it and would loathe what I'm doing!! Love you x

  25. This is the story of my life! I work three days a week plus events during semester breaks and then two days plus events during semester so I always have three days a week away from my daughter. I think this works because I'm still at home more than I'm not. It does get to me, I do feel as though I'm working myself into the ground sometimes but everyone says the same thing, "you are 25, do this while you have the energy!". I look forward to the day I graduate and only have to focus on work and family. Two more years...

  26. Oh it's gonna feel so good when you're done! It's hard, she was at day care today and I missed her desperately. I don't know how I'll truly feel about three days until I do it - who knows, she'll probably be a hurricane brat and I'll be grateful for the break...