I recently had dinner with a very good friend of mine who reminded me that it was OK to be honest. She liked reading this Blog but as she knows me, and all of the complicated intracacies of my often anxious, emotional and unpredictable mind, she knew there was more I wasn’t saying about being a working Mum.
She was right.
It’s time to be honest and say it’s really, really….. really hard.
I’m not sure how I can emphasise how hard it is. For me the return to work has been, and is still, an enormous juggling act with two prongs.
Firstwardly and outwardly, I struggle to balance the actual management of my physical time including the tangible mothering and wifeing responsibilities like cooking, cleaning, washing, playing with the kids, heading to playdates and since we are being honest – having a shower !
Secondly and inwardly, the struggle to balance the emotions and my general wellbeing as I’m pulled in so many directions with constant time pressures – the clock simply will not stop ticking.
What does this mean ?
1. I get angry. A lot.
2. When I get tired of being angry, I get distant and removed (it’s mostly me feigning nonchalance).
3. When I can’t hide the emotion under a mask of distance and nonchalance, I get sad and cry.
Since I’m always exhausted from the act of running from point to point, I tend to move through options 1, 2 and 3 in the space of about 2 minutes. Meaning around 2 out 3 nights when I get home from work, I am blissfully happy to see the kids and my better half. We dance to the current favourite songs (Moana soundtrack, and joyfully V1 likes jazz so it’s La La Land too!) and we run, and jump and play around the house like crazy people.
Then, inevitably something snaps. Whether V1 simply can’t wait for the microwave to finish before pulling his milk out, or whether he won’t get out of the bath even though the water has been drained for 3 minutes and he’s getting colder and colder, I quickly lose my patience and move through phases 1 and 2 and straight into phase 3 – The snapped carrot. The lost skittles. The tears.
Now V1 is such an emotional being that he immediately comes to my aid with a very thoughtful “I’m sorry mumma, I didn’t mean it”, even though to all adult minds, it is so clearly not his fault. Any mother who has heard their toddler say that in response to an emotional overreaction knows the effect. I burst into a fit of uncontrollable sobbing as I realise simply how lucky I am to have an amazing family, well behaved kids and a hugely supportive husband and this is just the struggle life is challenging me with for now.
I know I’m not the first or only Mother to be prone to these bouts of emotional disarray, particularly when returning to work after Parental Leave, however i have found that thinking about and being told by others that there are lots of mothers who make the same sacrifices in pursuit of balance, doesn’t actually help.
Rather it reminds me that for perhaps one of the very few times in my life I am trying to do something that, for all initial appearances, I am simply not good at. Yet.
Perhaps if I keep it up and ‘practice’ I’ll get better. Perhaps if I develop a few techniques to manage the emotional rollercoaster, I’ll be better at balancing and curbing my overreactions. (I find the books I read in search of these techniques help while I am reading them but they can’t undo the years of emotional blueprints in my body. The epiphanies I experience while reading are unfortunately soon forgotten as I struggle to override years and years of habits.)
Perhaps the first place to start is to remind myself that I actually WANT to be good at balancing both (rather than ‘have’ to) and I CAN be good at both being a Mum and a professional (rather than ‘must’). Instead of fleeing in the face of danger (failure), I can fight (thrive and find the balance).
I anticipate many more nights of irrational tears of desperation following a day in which I judge myself to have ‘failed’ at either being a Mum or at work.
Luckily, a recent post I read from readingmummasister “What do my kids really think of me” reminded me that my kids love me unconditionally and they don’t look at my mothering for the day and judge me as a fail. Only I do that.
My team at the office doesn’t look at what I do and see that I can’t manage the volume that I used to manage (it’s physically impossible to squeeze 5 days of work into 3.5!) and judge it as a fail. I do that. Even though I know logically its not possible. My team are grateful I work as hard as I do.
I will try to be more kind to myself, accept that I can’t be everything to everyone and that some days will be less of a win than others. But that’s OK.