“a massive amount of guilt is assuaged for me because I am so happy that my girls are at home with their Dad”
Sadhbh has always been told she has a head for hats. This may be true, but in fact she only owns two actual hats, both woolen and shapeless. She does however, wear many metaphorical hats. She is mama to twin toddler girls, wife to a very tall husband, a full-time employee in an Irish language organisation, a photo snapper, a writer of words in tiny, secret notebooks, a crafter and an obsessive tryer of new things. She writes about most of these lovely hats at Where Wishes Come From
When I asked Sadhbh if there’s an optimal solution out there, she made a suggestion that I think a lot of families would enjoy:
“In an ideal world both parents might work part-time and so share everything equally. The financial burden and the child rearing.”
Read on for more insights from Sadhbh who has recently taken five months parental leave, who now works full-time again, and who has a stay-at-home-husband.
Thank you Sadhbh for taking part if this interview for Office Mum blog – so let’s start with the basics – could you tell me how many children you have and their ages?
I am lucky mama to little twin girls. They are three years old.
And now could you tell me a little about your job – what do you do and for how long have you been working at this?
I work for an Irish language voluntary organisation called Comhluadar Teo. We support families who speak Irish as the main language or one of the main languages in the home and also encourage people who would like to give it a try! We do really fun stuff, like host children’s parties and family holidays and we also do more serious stuff like help individual families create language plans and advise the Government on their language planning strategies. I have been working in this sector for 12 years now and I really enjoy it.
What kind of hours do you work?
I currently work full-time in my job. I have in the past worked a three-day week and a four-day week and just this year I took 5 months Parental Leave. My boss is great and really understanding of the flexibility parents of young children need.
Have you enjoyed your parental leave and would you like to stay at home fulltime if that opportunity came up in the future? Or would you like to “do something” as well as having more time at home with your girls?
I have LOVED every minute of my Parental Leave and adored being at home full-time with my girls with no pressure to be anywhere or do anything for a few months. I would definitely prefer to be a’ Stay-at-Home-Mum’ and not have to commute to the city for work everyday, but at the moment it makes sense for our family for me to do just that. I don’t think, however, that I would be physically able to stay at home and NOT ‘do something’. It’s in my nature to try new things and explore opportunities as they present themselves and I actually find it difficult to be idle. (Not that Stay at Home Parents are ever idle!) Even with a full-time job, and a family it is hugely important to me to do things that satisfy the part of me that isn’t Wife/Mother/Employee. My blog is a reflection of that, I think.
On a practical level, what do you find most difficult about balancing work and home?
We are lucky that my husband, Devo, is a Stay-at-Home-Dad, so Preschool collections, holidays and short notice stuff isn’t usually too much of a problem. Also, my husband is a great cook and usually has that side of things well in hand too (he’s a keeper!). The housework is forever ‘needing to be done’ but that’s one of life’s constant battles, plus we have two small, untidy children, so I try not to stress about that too much.
Actually, one of the hardest parts of my day is switching from ‘Work-mode’ to ‘Mammy-mode’ in the evening. I come home after a long commute, tired and a bit miserable, about half an hour before the girls’ bedtime, slap bang in the middle of crazy hour. Devo, as you can imagine, is exhausted from spending all day trying to reason with two utterly unreasonable little girls and is ready to hand them straight over to me. Though I am glad to be home, it’s really for the most chaotic, stressful part of the day and can be hard to adjust to after the relative calm of my working environment.
And psychologically, do you find it challenging or stressful to work outside the home – do you suffer from working-mother guilt?
I definitely suffer from working-mother guilt. I always pictured myself as a SAHM like my own mother, baking and crafting with the girls in the afternoons and spending time on my own hobbies in the evenings, not spending what little time I have with them arguing about face washing and teeth brushing! I would love to be there for them everyday after school to help with homework, etc, (not that they even have homework yet!) but it’s not realistic for us just yet.
I can also tend to feel sorry for myself. One of the main motivations behind my taking 5 months Parental Leave was that I felt I was missing out on a lot of stuff my husband was getting to enjoy. Days on the beach, walks in the woods, visits to friends and even precious ‘alone time’ when the grandparents might take the girls for a few hours. My leave has redressed the balance on that somewhat. That said, a massive amount of guilt is assuaged for me because I am so happy that my girls are at home with their Dad. He has an amazing bond with them and I am so grateful for that.
Do you think there’s an optimal solution out there – a perfect balance that enables a mother to have a fulfilling career while being there for her children?
I don’t really know what the solution is. Or if there is one. In an ideal world both parents might work part-time and so share everything equally. The financial burden and the child rearing. I don’t know how the logistics would work out, but it’s something I would love to try!
If you could do any job, what would it be?
I always find it difficult to answer these ‘dream-job’ type questions. I have so many interests that I find it difficult to narrow down what I would like to do. I love to write, take pictures and make stuff. My blog fulfills all of those things for me, so I suppose if I could make a living at that it would be prefect! If I could stay at home with my girls and spend my spare time being creative for money I would be delighted!
Do you think there’s a glass ceiling for women, or is it a perception based on the fact that mothers often look for flexibility or part-time hours which in turn limits their opportunities?
I was brought up to believe that I could do/be anything I wanted to be. I never believed in a glass ceiling until I became a mother and realised that there were more men than women in top positions in my sector. But, I believe motherhood can change a woman’s drive to avail of opportunities. For example, even though I am the main earner in my family and working full-time already, if my bosses job became available, I would think twice about putting myself forward for it. Not because I believe I wouldn’t get it or because I don’t think I could do it, or that I wouldn’t enjoy it, but purely because it would mean more late-night meetings, more travel and more time away from my family. That would be the ‘glass ceiling’ for me.
Do you have three top tips that you could give any mother returning to work, to make her life easier?
1. Try not to feel too guilty, instead feel proud that you are doing what is right for your family.
2. Go easy on yourself while you are adjusting to a new routine. If the housework suffers, so be it!
3. This is really hard, but anytime I do it, it makes my life so much easier: Try to get up half an hour before everyone else in the house. Get washed and dressed and have a quick cuppa. I promise you will be so much more able to face everything else when you have that quiet time to yourself first thing!
Thank you Sadhbh for this lovely interview. I think it’s very interesting to hear how well it worked out for you to take five months parental leave, and also what it’s like having a stay-at-home husband. I completely agree with what you said about the glass ceiling being at times self-imposed. I think many women want to work in interesting, challenging, fulfilling roles, but don’t want to put themselves forward for promotion if that will mean being less available to their children. Striking that balance is the difficulty.