Last night I wrote my first blog post, about the challenges facing working mums, and the universe subsequently laughed at me, in a “you ain’t seen nothing yet” kind of way, then unleashed a properly challenging day on this working mum:
My baby was up from 3am onwards, feeding like a newborn, oblivious to my looming day at work. Teething. Or too cold, it was very cold. Or maybe too hot. The usual.
I finally got him back to sleep after an hour or so, and my three-year-old came in to ask us to straighten her blankets, waking baby again…for another hour. Three-year-old visited three more times regarding her serious “crankled blanket” situation, then husband started snoring so I sent him to the couch. Then lay there seething, realising that this just meant I would have to deal with both wakeful children on my own, and the clock was ticking ever closer to getting up time – you know that feeling.
So bleary-eyed and and silent, I got ready for work this morning (women find mornings harder – it’s true – see here ), looking out in surprise at a snow covered garden, very unexpected this side of St Patrick’s day.
Our childminder was due at 7.30am, returning from a two week holiday. 7.35….7.40…still no sign, so I tried calling her, but her phone was off. Snow, airports, no-show… it started to make sense, she wasn’t coming.
Husband and I stood in the kitchen, both dressed for work though both now late, and tossed a figurative coin to decide who was going to have to sheepishly e-mail work to explain the necessity to “work from home” today.
I lost the toss (in fairness, husband had taken the last few hits) so changed from heels to winter boots and packed the kids into the car for school.
I sent my sheepish e-mail and logged into my laptop, not hopeful about how much work I was going to get done.
Teething baby (or too hot, too cold?) was very sad all day and in no mood for doing anything but being in my arms, so the likelihood of any kind of productivity was diminished further.
I felt extremely guilty about work – it wasn’t my boss’s fault that my childminder hadn’t turned up, so why should my employer lose a day of my work. And I am very anxious to avoid the label of the flaky mum who doesn’t have her childcare sorted, or feels entitled to not turn up for work simply because she has children. By the way, I don’t know any mums like this, but I know people who don’t have children and perceive this to be the case with respect to some of their colleagues.
I’ve only missed one day due to a sick child in the five years since having children, but still, the guilt….
And I felt more guilty about my children – my poor teething baby who needed to be in my arms and to have my full attention, was having to share me with a lap top. My daughters skipped out of school and pre-school asking “what are we doing this afternoon!” to be told we couldn’t go out because I was working. The GUILT!
At 4 o’clock, as I sat at my keyboard, baby on my knee, the two girls shouting “mum! popcorn!” for their “movie afternoon” (needs must), I thought how ridiculous this situation was. None of this was actually my fault – I hadn’t done anything wrong, and was trying to do my best for my children without cheating my employer out of the work they pay me to do. I hadn’t caused this, but had been weighed down by guilt all day because I couldn’t give enough to my children and couldn’t give enough to work. Same old story, just intensified. So I logged out, cuddled and played with my baby, joined a game of Doc McStuffins with the girls, and vowed to try harder tomorrow, to give 200% at work to make up for today. And I know I will, because that’s what we do. It eases the guilt.