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From red carpets to rattles this is the journey of one working mother attempting to see if you really can have it all....

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Juggling act

I remember when I told one of my colleagues I was pregnant, after the obvious congratulations and how are you feeling conversation she turned to me and said "get used to disappointing everyone."

She went on to tell me how when you are a working mum you spend your life letting someone down. When you are at work you are disappointing your children by not being with them and putting them first. When you are not able to work because of family commitments you disappoint your work place. It was, she described, a vicious circle where you are the main loser.

I've been back at work for 12 months so I feel that I now have some thoughts to add to the topic.

I can see where she was coming from. When you are a working mum it is a massive juggling act and invariably there are times when you drop the balls. There are not enough hours in the day and despite postings on social media sites implying the opposite, it is impossible to do, or have it all. 

But from my limited experience I wonder if some of this disappointment or pressure is heaped upon us,  not by our partners, children or bosses, but by us ourselves?

Take last week for example. It was particularly busy at work with a project I'm responsible for reaching a climax. DD obviously aware of the situation and being the new age man that he is told me to take it easy in the afternoons, I work from from very early morning til mid afternoons most days. He said he would sort dinner when he got home. But of course I didn't listen.

Instead I rushed home from work, collected the pickle from Nanna, raced around the supermarket, raced home, plonked her down in front of her favourite tv show. Made a cup of peppermint tea. Started chopping onions. Decided I was a terrible mother for offering my child Upsy Daisy's attention rather than my own. Turned off the tv and took her to the park. Put her in the swings and attempted to answer work emails whilst pushing. Realised this was as bad as the TV situation so put phone away and played properly in the park for another half hour. Raced home, via Morrisons as I had realised we didn't have any yoghurt for desert, got home, continued making dinner while singing to a pickle who was attempting to climb out the doors to the balcony. Put away the dvds that had been scattered around the loungeroom. Feed her dinner while cooking our own. Give up on dinner when she showed how much she didn't like the vegetable korma I had slaved over the night before by smearing it through her hair and throwing the bowl across the room with distain. Cleaned up korma. Cleaned up child. Put a load of washing out. Put it back out again after she had pulled all of it off the clothes horse. Read her a book. Put the now prepared dinner in the fridge ready for baking later. Packed away the DVDs that were now being used as ice skates. Smelt a disastrous nappy. Contemplated whether it would be considered cruel to leave her in said nappy until DD was home. Decided it would be so changed offending nappy. Had a drink of very cold and horrible peppermint tea. Raced around throwing toys in playpen in attempt to create a 'calm and welcoming environment' and breathed a sigh of relief at the sound of a key in the lock. DD was home. And it was time to be a martyr.

"My god I'm knackered" I exclaim before he has a chance to get in the front door.

"I haven't stopped since I got home."

"Oh Petal I told you to take things easy, you shouldn't have gone to any trouble." He replied innocently.

"The house is looking nice."

" Yeah well I've spent the afternoon cleaning, cooking as well as taking pickle to the park"  I say, sounding far more bitter than I mean to.

"You shouldn't have, I said I'd do it" He answers sounding slightly perplexed at the sour mood.

"Yeah well I got home first so I guess it's expected of me. But you know I've worked just as long a day as you, it's just that I started long before you." Now I'm really getting worked up. 

And that my friend is how a lot of evenings go. It's the feelings of guilt that you should be doing more, that you should be able to do a full days work, have the energy to be fun mum as well as keep a clean house and cook a nutritious meal that spur you on to try and achieve the often unacheivable. And we have to ask why? Who does it benefit? Certainly not the child that would have been much happier with a mum that took her to the park for a leisurely play and then sat with her as she watched In The Night Garden. And certainly not the husband that would have preferred coming home to a chaotic and messy but stress free house where steak and chips are served with a smile rather than some fancy quiche served with a grimace. And certainly not me, who was completely wiped out from a marathon of an afternoon.

You feel like you've got something to prove, but to who I'm not sure? Yourself?

Maybe we should stop trying to prove anything and just accept that all we can do is our best, and sometimes that's not good enough. We can't do it all, it's not possible to be the perfect wife, mother, employee, the whole time. All we can do is our best juggling performance and hope that with time and lots of practice we only drop those balls occasionally, and not in front of too big an audience.

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