Today I experienced on a microscopic scale what “normal” working mums experience daily.
Usually my working life sees me sitting at home in my pyjamas working on my laptop whilst my oldest daughter crashes around the place and my baby daughter breastfeeds. Now don’t get me wrong, it brings with it it’s own unique set of challenges. Balancing working and child raising whilst trying to do both at the same time, in the same house, day in day out is uniquely complex and I’ve written before about struggling with it. I never that my work or my family have had the attention they deserve. However, I also don’t feel that I’m not getting enough time in the company of my children. Other than the three hours a day Miss Rose is at nursery, we are pretty much glued to one another.
Today I had a meeting about my book, and that meant I was leaving my girls with their grandma. Miss Rose adores her grandma and has had time with her on many occasions, but my baby girl has barely been parted from me sine she was born seven months ago, almost to the day. The only times we’ve been separated have, indeed, been when I’ve been going in the shower or doing Miss Rose’s bedtime.
Bracing myself to leave my baby girl even in the most trusted hands of her grandmother was something that I had to process. And this was just for a one off, I won’t be doing it regularly!
Then there was the challenge of actually getting ready.
Firstly, I’m a different body size and shape to last time I had to wear anything remotely smart. I’m queen of leggings and stretchy waist bands, comfy t-shirts and hoodies. I’m slouchy boots and fluffy socks. Before Baby Boo was born I was a trim size 8, but having a second baby since then has left me larger with boobs and a bum that weren’t there before, but a wardrobe full of clothes designed for someone lacking in those areas.
Whilst Miss Rose bounced on my bed, pulled the sweaters out from my wardrobe, packed numerous soft toys into her backpack, and sang to me, I tried on so many different outfits trying to cobble together something that was both smart… and I could pull up past my thighs. I got stuck in a rather fetching emerald green dress. I nearly broke the zipper on a black swing skirt. I has my breasts crushed into my rib cage by a nice shirt. Looking longingly at my drawer that is entirely dedicated to the black stretchy leggings I usually dedicate my life to, I eventually squished myself into a skirt that was both a respectable length and I could get over my bottom, and found a smart sweater that I could breathe in that didn’t say GEEK across the front in huge letters. Huzzah!
Then I had to attempt footwear. I have no worn high heels in many months. Indeed, well over a year. Well over a year and a half. I put some on. Then I fell over. Miss Rose thought it was hysterically, whilst I cursed about my painful ankle. Then I reminded myself that I am a proud feminist. That thinking I should be crippling myself in high heels was just my inner victim of the patriarchy and I am stronger than that. I can rise above it.
I compromised on a pair of very low heeled Mary Janes, primarily because all my super comfy flats are not in the least bit smart, mostly scuffed, and often with sequins. My feminist self begrudingly accepted that whilst I don’t agree in the least bit with wearing heels being essential for being professional, I was at least able to comfortably walk and did look smart. As beautiful as the patent stilettos may be, they’re the work of the devil himself.
Whilst Baby Boo howled that she needed to be fed, Miss Rose crashed around in her underwear apparently oblivious to my shrieks of “ROSE PUT YOUR LEGGINGS ON!”, and I discovered a possible mascara allergy as I blinked my burning eyes frantically in the mirror, I eventually managed to get myself dressed, brushed, and enough make up on that my perpetual exhaustion was masked.
As I sat on the sofa giving Baby Boo a last breastfeed before her stay with grandma I realised just how challenging this must be day to day for “real” working mums. I thought about my own mother who did this every single day from when I was six weeks old. I thought about my step son’s mother who is doing this every day now. I have the luxury of this being an occasional novelty for a short period of time, indeed I was back with her two hours after leaving her, and I still found it challenging on both an emotional and a practical level.
Working mothers of the world I doth my cap to you. What you do is not easy. Whether you do it because you love your job and don’t want to give it up, or because you simply have no other choice financially, I know it isn’t easy. I know that as a half stay at home half working mum I have this amalgamation of both worlds and I am incredibly fortunate. I know that doing a job I love as much as I do makes me one of the most blessed women in the world. I know that saying goodbye to my baby girl for the first time was incredibly difficult and I don’t have to do it again for… well.. ages! I know that you have to do it constantly and, no matter why you’re going out to work, that is something you have to face in a way I do not.
Stay at home mothers are so often pitted against working mothers in a “who is mother superior?” way. Is the mum at home dedicating her life to her children better? Is the mum going to work providing for and inspiring her family better?
My limited experience tells me the competition is bullshit. I was fried and anxious by a toe dipping into the world of the working mother. I am fried and anxious by my regular half and half life. Basically being a mum is frying and exhausting, let’s be honest. But to working mums I say kudos. I don’t normally taste your world and it sure is hard.
You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.
Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!