A working mum or a mum working? Which am I?

Being an expert in the field of energy and sustainability, making a positive contribution to the world and climbing the career ladder is something I have worked really hard to achieve. But, being a mother and starting a family of my own is something I have had to work even harder at.

My fertility struggle has absolutely shaped the woman I am today (both physically, emotionally and metaphorically) and now that I am both working and a mum my whole life has changed.

When I was pregnant and about to start my maternity leave, I distinctively remember thinking that I’d be back in no time. My career had been such an integral part of my life, that I struggled to picture life without it, albeit temporarily.

8 months into my maternity leave, I went back to work, not because I wanted to, but because I couldn’t afford not to. Although staying at home and raising the child I had longed so much for was all I wanted to do, my dwindling bank balance meant that I would have to sacrifice precious time with him.

2 years on and the desire to be with my little boy every time I leave the house without him has compounded. Each morning as I drop him to nursery, I question why it is I’m doing what I do. I find myself hovering in the nursery corridor, just to get an extra glimpse of him. Those few mins of drop off interactions are what keep me going. As I hang his things on the peg and leave the nursery, the countdown for seeing him again at pick up begins.

The guilt doesn’t seem to subside. Whilst in the office, I can’t help but so wonder what I’m missing out on, what new skill he has acquired, what new word he has learnt, what new experiences he has under his belt. It’s certainly not practical to be by his side 24/7, but some days my heart can feel so heavy.

The mathematician in me sees this as there being 168 hours in the week. Diyan is asleep (thankfully) for 91 of them. That leaves only 77 hours of potential time with him each week. 21 hours of those are spent at nursery, 25 with his grandmas. So that leaves us as parents 31 hours in a week to spend raising our son. In that time real life doesn’t stop, the daily chores, the weekly shop, the invitations to friends and family functions… as the weeks pass, less and less of my time feels dedicated to the family I seem to be doing this all for.

The reality is, even if I wasn’t working, I would want Diyan to spend the time he does at nursery and with his grandparents because his life is so much more enriched as a result of all the friendships and relationships he’s forming each day. So working fewer hours, or not working at all would actually not solve anything. Instead, I have had to make the most of the 31 hours we do spend together and the technique I have used is finding the joy in all the interactions we have, however big or small. Whether it’s dedicated play time, or helping out with chores, we sing, dance and smile our way through it all!

During the festive holidays, whilst my husband was away for a family wedding, I was able to spend some really precious and much needed time with my son. There were some really challenging days (and nights), mixed with the most adorable moments. Reflecting on this solo parenting week made me realise, the time Diyan spends at nursery and with his grandma, nan and nana are what make him the chatty, inquisitive, charming young boy that he is. And the hours I spend as a working mum are the same hours that make me a better mum who happens to work.

So this year, the start of a new decade, I’m going to park the voices in the head, I’m going to be a great employee and an even greater mum, because my drive to be the best version of myself in all that I do has never and will never subside.

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