I have the best of both worlds, don’t I?
I work for part of the week and spend one day and the weekend at home with my son. I have, every week, that 3 day weekend that most of my colleagues wish they had and those Sunday evening and Monday morning feelings are postponed by a day. I have the opportunity to go out to work, continue my career and have that rare time to myself on my half an hour commute. I get adult conversation for 4 days of the week and can chase my son around the living room carpet on all fours on the other 3! My husband will sometimes shout to me “you’re a solicitor” as I pretend to be a lion and chase my son, and I’ll respond “not right now…” and carry on as my son crawls away as fast as he can giggling!
I feel extremely lucky to have a career that allows me to be flexible with the way in which I work. And today, on International Women’s Day, I feel fortunate to be part of a generation where going back to work after having a baby is acceptable. I know there will be many people who will say I shouldn’t have those feelings as this is the way it should be, and I do agree, but women of my age are going through completely different experiences to what most of our mothers did and that shows progress. It is incredibly slow, but it is progress!
It is not easy though. Actually it is much harder than I imagined! I, like so many women, thought part time was the best option when I returned to work. Like I said earlier, I would get the best of both worlds, right? But what about the difficult bits? It’s tough to talk about these. Why should
I complain when I get extra time with my son? What’s so hard about getting a long weekend? I remember the first Monday I had ‘off’. It felt different to the weekend as most other people were back at work and it felt different to my maternity leave as I had the feeling that I had to be back in the office the next day. The pressure on that day, for me, was immense. It was my one day with my son and I wanted to make sure we did lots of fun things. Anybody who has children knows that making (and sticking to) plans with a baby is as difficult as leaving the house in under 30 minutes! And making and sticking to plans with other mums can be just as tough! So my first day, despite the plans, was just me and my son. And it ended with me sobbing on my husband. Huh, I thought, this must be that thing called “mummy guilt” everybody talks about!
I am learning to put less pressure on my Mondays and just enjoy the time with my son, whatever we do. I try to avoid housework and food shopping, although that’s not always possible – food shopping is kind of essential, although housework isn’t!!
Adapting to work is tough too, not just for me, but my colleagues as well. Again, it’s getting easier but flexible working is such a new concept in some organisations that people still find it challenging. Forgetting about my day off, or forgetting about me when I work from home, is not uncommon and it means I have to work harder to remain a part of my team.
The salary sacrifice shouldn’t be forgotten about either. That one day a week wipes 20% of my salary. My bills and outgoings are still the same, and children are expensive little things to run, which means my disposable income (the part of my salary I could spend on new clothes and nice food) is pretty much non-existent!
The thing is, despite the title, I am not really a part-time lawyer and I am definitely not a part-time mum. I am both, all of the time (except maybe when I am crawling around the floor!) Is it harder than I imagined? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely.