Welcome to this week’s ‘Guest What’. This feature gives writers of other blogs the chance to submit a post and put it up on my site. It may be that they write here about something they wouldn’t normally say or put up on their own site, or may be they would like my readers to know more about them…whatever your reason you are very welcome here 🙂
This week’s blogger is Zaz from Mama and More. We met at BritMums Live this year mainly for the meal on the Friday evening. She has written a wonderful post that I can truly relate to.
I began blogging very quietly a few years ago at Mama and More, when I first became a mother and went back to work after a year’s maternity leave. My heart was torn apart daily leaving my daughter, and yet I knew that I owed it to myself – that is MY self – to go back to work. I was a mama, yes, but I was straining against being defined only as a mama, albeit that it was now my most important role. In the same way, I often bristle at being called by my husbands name – anyone else feel like that? Imagine being called Jane your whole life, and getting married and being called Mrs John Smith. Suddenly the you before is effaced and irrelevant.
I had grown up always with the assumption and fierce desire to have a career, and I’d gone through some pretty tough working experiences, as we all do, before finally getting to where I felt like I was hitting my stride. And then, someone out there pulled the rug out from under me.
A precious new part of me was born, and she took hold of my heart and rattled me to the core. Life could never be the same again, and as every single parent knows, there is the life before children, and the life after. You might live in the same house, wear the same clothes (if you’re lucky!), and do many of the same things, but the colour and tone of your life are irrevocably changed with the existence of this new being and your new role. I would no more want to change that than I would want to stop breathing. At the same time, I felt slightly lost – where was the me before? Did everything I said I wanted before no longer matter?
I was a child of the 70s and 80s, growing up around power-women and the mantra of “you can have it all” around career and motherhood. Well, like all those RnB ballads I listened to in the 90s, it was just another love song, a story made up to make you feel good for the moment you hear it, fading away with reality. Compromise should have been the mantra. You can’t have it all. Something has to give. I was devastated when I was told that I couldn’t work one day a week from home, to be able to gain just two precious hours with my girl otherwise spent commuting. It was either all or nothing. This wasn’t a case of reprioritizing work versus your family, this felt very much like choosing between the two. Somehow, like many many women, I chose to split them rather than choose – after all, if you’re choosing to lose one, there is only one choice, one clear winner.
And so while every cell in my being now belonged to someone’s mummy, the me inside still kept a toe-hold on the me-before, hanging onto my career and went back to work, racing back for a few short hours of time with my girl every evening. I – we – went through months of tears. My daughter rejected me for months, as I suppose she was now feeling rejected by me, when she was left with a childminder (who she loved) for all the hours of the day that we used to spend glued to each other. Her daddy had been working since she was born, so his coming and going was nothing new, and she often told me in her rather advanced early talking skills that she didn’t want mummy, just daddy. Cue more mascara-streaked cheeks.
I considered seriously whether working was worth it. But honestly, it was the one place where I was feeling that I was getting everything right. I knew what I was doing. I did it well. It turned out to be my me-time. Gone were regular gym visits, yoga sessions, leisurely steam and sauna spells, even the occasional facials or massages. I felt like doing those things was time I was choosing to have away from my daughter or away from my husband, and I couldn’t justify it. But giving something the heading of work? That was my excuse. I hid in it.
After a few months, I learnt to relax the routines I thought were in my daughter’s best interests, and occasionally we went on girly trips to Westfields, ate dinner out, or danced around the house, ignoring bedtimes. In short, we bonded, and it was absolutely what we both needed. She got my undivided attention, and I got what I felt to be her absolution for my absence.
I know that it is stating the obvious, but deciding whether to go back to work is not an easy choice – the very fact that we sometimes have the luxury of choosing to work or not makes it even harder, as it becomes an even more damning and selfish choice. I wanted to go back to work because I loved my job, and because it fulfilled a big part of me. I felt horribly guilty for that, and often still do. I do know in my gut however that I am a happier person, and therefore a happier mother and partner when I am doing something I love for me, and savor and enjoy and give back all the more to my children when I do. When I come home from work, I am listening to them 100%, fully in the moment, and also knowing that I am not short-changing the part of myself that I know needs to be fed by a different kind of challenge.
Four years on from when I first went back to work, I am still enjoying my time with the children, we are in honeymoon phase – long may it last – with regular declarations of how much we love each other (as big as houses, dinosaurs, to-the-moon-and-back). I am also considering career opportunities having gone through redundancy and contract work. I am doing yoga again. Taking time to see friends and to go out with my husband, to nourish those relationships. I am a mama, and I love, passionately love being a mama. And I am more. I am me. And I don’t feel guilty about that anymore.