Parenting is just opening yourself up to a whole load of things you never had to worry about before, but now constantly think about, right?
I think one of the things which occupies a lot of moms’ minds is the work/home life balance (I wanted to put work/parenting there but that would imply you’re not a parent when you’re at work which doesn’t seem at all fair). For some people there simply isn’t a choice, they go back to work full or part time after their maternity leave and there’s no option of changing that. For some people there is a choice and they make the decision to go back and have some time for themselves, perhaps some extra financial freedom etc.
I’ve been incredibly lucky in that the skillset I’d built up before having Alexandra and our living situation have meant I’ve not had to return to work full time. Instead I’ve started freelancing which in a lot of ways is absolutely ideal. I can stay at home and avoid travel costs and time, I can come downstairs in my PJs at 6am on a weekend morning and get an hour or two done before baby wakes up, I work when I want and how many hours I want and, of course this one’s the biggie, we have no childcare costs.
Alex is with me 24/7 and that works out perfectly in a lot of ways, not least because if it’s sunny and we want an impromptu day out, we can just do it, if she’s feeling a bit grumpy it doesn’t matter that I’ve had to stop writing a sentence about 52 times to go and feed her/try and get her to nap/administer Calgel.
But I’m not saying all this to brag about how fabulous my life is and how I’ve got the work/life balance thing down. Because I’m not sure I have. I feel like any option in terms of childcare/work comes with a certain amount of guilt. My guilt is that because I do have to get a certain amount of work done during waking hours, I’m not always 100 per cent in the zone with Alexandra. She’s not a child that normally naps for longer than about twenty minutes twice a day so it’s not like I have a clear two/three hours a day to plough on with some work while she’s asleep. Sometimes she is simply crawling around amusing herself with her toys out on the floor while I work.
I’m sure if I could ask her how she feels about that, she’d be fine with it. But part of me thinks maybe I’m being selfish by not sending her to nursery. If she was there she’d have someone who was solely focused on her needs and wants, she’d have activities to all day every day, she’d never look up and see someone eyes down at the computer typing frantically. When I think about this side of the ‘nursery pros/cons’ coin, I feel like it would really benefit her. But then I think about the fact part of the reason for me freelance was to be able to save up for the big things we want, like a car for me, our house being redecorated, holidays etc. – all things that will benefit Alex and take a lot longer to achieve if we were paying to send her to nursery.
We will send her to nursery before she starts school (and she’ll only just be four the week before she goes to school due to being a late August baby), I massively believe in having them in a routine of going out the house not with mommy in the week, spending time with other children (she does socialise a lot with other babies of course but not for as long as she would do if she was in nursery each week) and I know trained nursery staff could prep her for school much better than I ever could. When people have asked I’ve said I’ll send her when she’s two, which would give us a chance to send her for a few hours, increase it when she’s three and feel like she’s had a good amount of time to prepare for school life. But who knows when it will happen in reality, I could end up having less work coming my way next summer and therefore it would be pointless for her to go while I sat in the house twiddling my thumbs, we could decide next week that actually we’d rather send her sooner.
The point in all this, far from just being a brag that I get to spend all my time with my baby when I realise how incredibly lucky I am to be in that situation, is that whatever choice (or in a lot of cases it’s a necessity and not a choice) you make about where your baby spends their time, it’s going to come with some guilt. Some days I think it would be easier for her to be out the house for a few hours while I just worked solidly with no interruptions, some days I wish I had every single second of the time she was with me to dedicate solely to her without having work/housework to contend with, some days I feel like we’ve got the balance just perfect.
Either way, they should just have nursery places where you don’t have to book and you can just drop them in on those days when they’re refusing to sleep even though they’re tired, screaming for no reason and crying every time you even so much as walk two paces away from them to prepare their dinner. Grumpy Baby Nursery. I would start one but can you imagine anyone applying to work there?
Harriet and Alexandra x