Over the last six years I have had increasing admiration for my mum and dad, my sisters and all working parents out there.
Hubby and I made the decision that I would be a stay-at-home-mum. We wanted me to be there for the children in those early years. It worked well. I enjoyed being with the children, we played, went for walks, went swimming, made stuff, played with friends, baked and had a great time. In the last year before they went to school they started attending pre-school, to build more structure into their day and get used to being with other children and adults.
Throughout all this I was watching my sisters. My younger sister has taken maternity leave and gone right back to work full-time. She's worked full-time continuously and her two children are now eight and six. My elder sister has four children, currently aged 7 (almost 8!), five, three and six months. She worked full time initially after the first baby, then on moving to Devon went part time, and continued working part time as babies number 2 and 3 were added to the family, and then started up her own freelance business from home, adding number 4 to the brood. I have for some time thought these two were superwomen. While I spent my days playing, making stuff and having a great time, they were out at work, but they still also managed to incorporate time for and with the children, the mountains of laundry, getting packed lunches sorted, and birthday cakes and birthday parties, juggling child-care, nurseries, sports days, looking after the children when they were poorly, filling in the slips at the bottom of letters. I take my hat off to them.
I tried working from home myself for a while (as regular followers will know), while Bug was at pre-school two days each week. I did okay. I earned a little bit of money, but not enough to call a living. There was too much else to do: PTA, voluntary stuff for the pre-school committee or the Scouts, walking the dog, getting the groceries, doing the laundry and housework and getting some exercise.
I'm now two weeks into my REAL WORKING MUM journey (even though I'm only working 2.5 days per week at the moment) back as a Primary School Teacher. I'll pat myself on the back because I'm doing okay. The children have clean and ironed uniform to wear. They have packed lunches when they are supposed to and letters do seem to be getting signed and returned on time (so far). We have dinner on the table each evening. I'm also managing to keep up with my own workload of planning and marking that happens outside of school hours (as well as continuing with freelance writing commitments and a couple of craft orders on Etsy and Folksy). I've forgotten the Forest School clothes once, and forgot to leave their booster seats for the person picking them up another time. I've yet to see how I'm going to manage to leave school promptly at 4.45pm after a staff meeting, drive for 20 minutes, pick the children up, drive for 20 minutes (if the traffic into Hereford is clear!!!!), and get them changed for a 5.30pm swimming lesson. This is going to take a minor miracle to achieve successfully week after week. I do have a pile of letters next to me from school and Beavers waiting to be read, noted in the calendar, signed and returned. I'm conscious that I haven't heard the readers at school that I'm supposed to hear on a Friday, and that I haven't put up my French display yet.
It hasn't always been perfect or easy these last few years as a Stay-at-Home-Mum, but I've had a ball, it has definitely been worth it and I wouldn't change it for the world.
I was ready to go back to work, and I'm relishing the changes and challenges that come along with that. I am beginning to feel again that I am about more than laundry, bum-wiping and baking, and to stimulate my grey cells with research, planning fun lessons and real grown-up conversations. I'm planning to get up to full time after Christmas.
Combining the two is my next adventure, and to those of you superwomen (and men) out there who combine parenting with work without making a complete hash of it - I salute you.