I’ve been meeting lots of mums who are now starting to think about childcare options for when they go back to work. Most of them have been in positions of seniority within their chosen career – from accounting through to marketing. However, after time off with their young children they are finding it hard to think about the return to work. Added to that, they are hoping for flexible working (part time etc.) and know this will impact the role they return to. As a result some are considering alternative employment in order to better meet the demands of a work/life balance.
I can’t help thinking that being a mum gives someone a whole host of new commercially relevant skills:
– communication (with newbie baby through to fast learning toddler)
– negotiation (every request can require some tough negotiation skills!)
– people skills (being able to read a mood, look, etc. can make the difference between a tantrum or a peaceful evening)
– logistics (getting a bag packed that will cater for all the needs of day and a family out in time for an event requires forward planning, organisation and management).
All of these have a place within the business environment. I do find it amazing that more parents aren’t snapped up by employers, even if some flexibility is required.
I’m increasingly aware that time is not on my side! Looking after my two children has placed me in some kind of time warp. When my two year old was a baby and was the only one I was caring for, I kept an accurate record of breast feeding times, nappy changes, etc. With two children in nappies and one being breastfed, I have to admit that my ability to keep track seems to have left the building. Has baby brain hit me late? Lack of sleep is certainly a factor, but I find it hard to believe that 2.5 / 3 hours have gone by before I’m feeding my baby again and difficult to keep to a strict 3 hour nappy changing regime for them both.
A friend showed me an iPhone App that can keep a track of all this data for you – not only that, but it issues reminders and provide reports / analysis. I’m probably the only person left in the world without a smartphone with a data plan, but this means I’m having to rely on my own brain / organisational skills. Eek!
Both my children are good weights, are fed and washed and generally of happy dispositions so I’m guessing I’ve not caused them any major harm. I just wish I was just a bit more switched on when it comes to keeping track of time. The scariest thing is that time flying means my two will be of school age before I know it – I can’t even think beyond that. Hey, perhaps that’s my problem!
I keep catching myself staring at my youngest child and thinking – how did I become a parent? Before I get any helpful comments, I know the biology ; ) but it still amazes me that I have two beautiful (ok I’m biased) children. They have their challenging moments, but I feel extremely grateful. It also makes me appreciate what my own mother did raising two girls. My boys have a two year age gap, but my mother had to deal with two girls with a seven year age gap.
There are pros and cons to any age gap between siblings – too close and there may not be as strong an individual bond between parent and child, too wide and it may be hard for them to connect with each other. These are just some arguments I’ve heard. I truly believe it depends on the individuals involved as well as the circumstances. And, if my sister and I are anything to go by, there are certain ages that work well together throughout a lifetime – no matter what the ongoing age gap.
One thing I am certain of, I won’t tire of watching my young children sleep (apart from my own sleep deprivation!). Having bumped into an 84 year old mother of four boys (“we were trying for a girl!”) who was so proud of her children even now they themselves are in their 50s, I hope I’ll still be able to watch out for my boys as they grow up to be parents themselves.
Every Saturday morning, we go as a family to a toddler football session called Socatots. It’s really well run at a local school hall. Not only does it help the children learn some football skills, but it also teaches them colours, numbers and above all teamwork. Children are encouraged to work together on exercises and collecting training items at the end of each section. Normally my two year old will have a vague go at the football exercises, but is the first to help collect and return practice equipment such as balls, skittles and dice. Today was rather different, however. Everything triggered a cry of ‘no no mummy’ and giving anything back required a negotiation. This could be down to a number of factors: illness over the last couple of weeks, a stand-in teacher, the wind blowing in the wrong direction… the list goes on. It did however, bring my ongoing personal debate to the top of my mind – who exactly is in control here?
I’m sure many mums will be smiling at this – and maybe I am deluding myself that it could be anyone but the two year old! No matter how much we parents may be the organisers, drivers, caterers for events and days out, I can’t help feeling that the toddler is in ultimate control. Even now I’ve just been handed some fluff found under the sofa and told ‘dirty mummy’ then that ‘mummy daddy stay here!’ My instant guilt at a lack of housework kicked in and I (almost) got up to do something about it rather than finishing my much needed cup of coffee.
Looking after a toddler rather than a baby definitely sets its own set of challenges and I only hope I’m up to it. For now, I think I’ll have to pick my battles – step one may be over who controls the TV remote on a weekend!
There are so many things that no one tells you about pregnancy and having children: that morning sickness has little to do with the morning; that pregnancy causes you to lose your memory and ability to put together sentences and it doesn’t come back when the baby is born; that new-borns know when its dinner time and inevitably cry when the plates hit the table; that there is such a thing as ‘the witching hour’, and so much more.
Another thing that people only mention in whispers is the stress that those beautiful little bundles of joy can put on a relationship. The other day my friend ‘Jenny’ was walking down the street in a sour mood because her husband was off on a business trip and she was pregnant and alone with her toddler. When she started to explain this to an acquaintance on the street, the woman burst into tears and told her that she did not know how lucky she was, the woman’s partner had done a runner when he found out she was pregnant and she was raising her toddler alone.
(At this point I think it’s only fair to tell you that it is one of my pet peeves when women with partners say they know what it is like to be a single mother because their partner is away for some period of time. As the child of a single mother I feel confident saying that a woman who has to manage, even for a long period of time, when there partner is away is in a different boat from a mother who carries all of the financial and emotional pressure of a child or children on her own shoulders.)
So, this got me to thinking about all of the people with small children who I know that are separating divorcing or dealing with major issues in their relationships. We currently know at least four couples with children under four who are divorcing, separating, or going through counselling in an attempt not to. That’s just the people we know who are open about being in the process right now!
I have been pondering whether there is a common thread or something that we should all do, or not do, to stay together?
Maybe the parents are both at work all the time or maybe there is an unfulfilled mom stuck at home? Nope, in these cases all the husbands work (one from home) but two of the moms have stayed home and two work (one from home).
People often blame the economy for a rise in divorces but in this case there have been no layoffs and as far as I understand it where wives have stopped working it was because the families could live on the husband’s salary. Some of the families are more well off than others but none are poor.
Unexpected changes? Well, as we all know there are lots of unexpected changes when children come into the family, but in each of these cases the parents were trying to get pregnant and in two cases had been trying for years.
Age? The couples span from their late twenties to their mid-forties.
As I think of each likely scenario I just don’t find many similarities or big flashing warning signs. But there is one thing that I notice when thinking about each of their situations.
In some cases there has been an infidelity, in some disputes about values and how to raise the children. Whatever the issues, none of the underlying problems seem to be new. Where there is infidelity, it is not the first time (and God how I want to kick those men cheating on the wives who have just carried and birthed their children and who are no doubt dealing with body issues etc.). Where money or decision making is in dispute there were hints of discord or differences in values that seemed unimportant or manageable before the children arrived.
Is it possible that having children and the associated pressures simply act as a catalyst or a magnifying glass for discord that is already there? That when you have less sleep, less time, more tugs on your money, energy, creativity and emotions that you simply have less ability to compromise or overlook things that were more acceptable before?
Or perhaps it’s related to the partners being protective of their children. A spouse is no longer number one in the way that he or she was before children arrived. When a child becomes the priority spouses are going to make choices to protect them, which could mean that things that were palatable before are no longer tolerable whether it is infidelity, misspending of family funds or something else altogether.
Of course from the outside it is very hard to say and from the inside it is probably no easier. But in each case the family seems genuinely surprised that at this point when they are trying to become more closely knit, they are tearing themselves apart. Even though their individual issues are not new, they didn’t expect them to end the marriage that created their family.
I would be very interested in hearing other people’s perspectives. I can’t believe that I am the only one who has noticed this phenomenon but it is something that I do not hear talked about often.
It has been a while since my last post as my eldest child has had chicken pox. Apparently the nursery he attends is quite quiet at the moment with a number of children suffering from the disease. It came as a bit of a shock though as he had already had it just after his first birthday. News to me that a child is likely to get it again if:
– It was a mild case the first time around
– They had it first under the age of one
It seems my son was unlucky as he had a healthy dose the first time around based on the number of spots and he was already one. I guess there is always some grey area!
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the apparent magic of breast milk will help my youngest (just a few months old) from getting it so we can hold out for a single case of it when he is older than one.
It’s a strange disease which keeps the poor child looking slightly scary for longer than they feel ill. Whilst the itchiness is not nice, most children don’t feel too poorly which is great. The annoying thing is the infectiousness so they have to be kept away from young friends and elderly relatives.
It’s been lovely having him home though and doing fun things together, from ‘baking’ (ok so Krispie cakes and Jelly) through to nature walks. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly they grow up and it’s great to see it in action. I’ve found that it’s not only the disease that is infectious but a child’s smile!