Blogs that talk about the struggles of motherhood are important. Rhys was six months old when he first slept through the night: 3 days later I was googling “I’m a terrible mother”. I thought the exhaustion was stopping me from loving every minute of my day with him; without that excuse I was lost. But I found miraculous support online. Funny, affectionate, brutally honest stories that stopped me feeling so alone.
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in those stories. We’re all on the “I’m so tired/busy/stressed competition line”. And we are those things; but every so often I want to step off, to remind myself of my many, many blessings.
Today’s list is about choice. I made so many choices to get here; so many choices that so many others don’t have. I am spoilt, and I am grateful.
I chose to have a baby. So many people, for a multiple of heart breaking stories would like to make that choice, but can’t. Or, for equally heart breaking reasons, don’t want to, but end up with a child. I stopped taking the pill, put on some lacy underwear, saw two blue lines on a test.
I chose to wind down my job when I became unwieldy. My husband and I attended all our antenatal appointments without any hassle from bosses; I recruited my replacement early, increasingly worked from home and was fussed over kindly when I made it in. Had I felt more energetic, I could have powered through until the last possible day with no more than affectionate warnings from colleagues.
I chose how long to have off work. Our country is more generous than most; the civil service is particularly generous. Fully paid leave, and then the unquestioned right to unpaid leave made a year an easy decision. Not an easy year; but an easy decision.
My return to work wasn’t handled perfectly: but I did have some choice in the role I took. It was a little mis-sold, and my pay went wrong, but at no point was I made to feel that I had no options. I dictated my working hours. I didn’t get a lot of help in making sure the job fitted those hours, but, unlike other mums I know, and a dad, I wasn’t pushed and pushed and pushed when I returned from leave until the only option left was resignation.
I choose to work. We would have to change where we live, and how we live, if I didn’t want to work, but we could do it. My husband wants me to work; my husband pulls his weight.
These last few weeks have juggled conference calls around ear infections, mild chicken pox and suspected scarlet fever. I’ve wondered what on earth I was doing with my life; whether this is balance, whether this is sustainable, whether this is right. I don’t know the answer: but I know that if I want to change, I have the tools to change.
Women fought, and died, to make sure I have the right to complain about having to work late at night. There’s been a lot of love in my life that brought me to last Sunday morning, when the little man brought me to tears by saying “Mummy hero” when the big man taught him the word.
It is tough, but the debt I owe to strangers and friends for allowing me to shape what my life looks like is bigger than anything I can ever repay. I didn’t ask to have a home cooked meal thrown at me; but I did decide to sit in front of the lovely little man in the high chair. I didn’t ask for the argumentative midnight email; but I did choose to sit in front of that screen. I am lucky. I am grateful. Motherhood and employment sometimes feel like chains; but I chose these chains and I wrapped them around myself. And on more and more days they don’t feel like chains. They feel like cuddles and high fives. I am lucky. I am grateful.