To work or not to work

My mum was at home with my brothers and I until we were at school and then she gradually returned to work, starting at weekends and little by little working more hours. If I’m honest I always had in my mind that I would like to do the same, but I also thought I would never be lucky enough to be able to afford to do so. I’ve always worked but I have never found the one job or career that I have loved enough to stick with it. I’ve had jobs, I’ve done well and started working my way up the ladder but I was never going to be on a huge salary. I’ve also never loved a job so much that I would be desperate to get back to it after a break.

Pregnancy wasn’t the easiest time for me (maybe I’ll delve into that subject in a future blog) and I found working in a stressful job during my pregnancy very hard and I was desperate for my maternity leave to start. At the time I remember thinking that I could never cope with doing that job and working those hours whilst also having a little person to take care of. To any full time mums out there, hats off to you, I don’t know how you manage it and you must have a lot more stamina than me!

Before I go any further I just want to say that I have never felt more judged in my life than since becoming pregnant and then a mummy. Everyone has an opinion about everything and this topic, whether to work full time, part time or to stay at home with your little one, is a very very difficult one to discuss without offending or upsetting someone. So before I go on to explain my reasons I just want to say that they are my reasons alone and not what I think everyone else should do. Some parents have to work for financial reasons, others because they love their job so much that it is part of who they are and so to give up work would be to give up part of themselves. I make no judgements about how anyone chooses to live and to raise their children – as far as I can tell we are all just doing the best that we can in the only ways we know how.

There! I feel better for getting that off my chest!

Anyway, without going into too much detail, my husband is very hard working and very clever and his business is booming. We’re not loaded by any stretch but we are able to manage on his income alone and this has allowed me more freedom of choice than I ever dreamed I would have.

Initially, because I was struggling in my job and unhappy in general with the company I worked for, I was a dead cert that I would stay at home. But, I was wary that I may change my mind and didn’t want to burn any bridges at work so I said ‘I don’t know.’ A lot. Because I had a very good relationship with my manager and we have become friends I did make sure she knew that I wasn’t planning on coming back full time, so at least she had the opportunity to do some forward planning. But I think saying ‘I don’t know’ all the time gradually led to me genuinely not knowing what I wanted anymore! You know if you say something enough it might become true, well I think that’s what happened.

I adore my little monkey with all my heart but I have found being a mummy very challenging at times and a total life change. We went from colic to teething at 3 months (the first ones popped out at 4 months and had 8 teeth by 5 months old) and listening to him screaming in pain from one thing then the other was very difficult. We had troubles in getting him to sleep (another subject for a future blog perhaps) and, well, to cut a long story short, there have been times where I was at my wits end and genuinely thought that there was no way I could be looking after him at home all of the time with no break.

So I have been backwards and forwards and changed my mind what feels like hundreds of times. I have taken opinions and advice from my lovely friends and relatives, some of whom think going back to work part time is absolutely the right thing to do, others who can’t see why I would want to go back to work if I don’t have to. And I can see it from both sides, from feeling guilty about maybe wanting to go back to work and leaving monkey to be looked after by someone else, to knowing I need some kind of outlet, a means of escape from mummy mode.

We got as far as putting in a flexible working request to my old employer and we went to look around a very lovely nursery. It was a lovely place and all of the kiddies there seemed very happy, but for the main I just came out of it with more ideas for things monkey and I could do together. We have talked about how it would do him good to socialise with more little children and to help his independence by being away from me for a few hours, a couple of mornings a week.

Whilst my rational brain knew this was all very sensible I found myself to be very upset during all of this and no matter how hard I tried to believe it was the right thing for both of us to do, I eventually realised I couldn’t do it.

The bottom line, I am not ready.

Yes it is hard sometimes and yes I need some me time (luckily my hubby and both sets of grandparents are very willing to help out when needed) but despite that I don’t want to be parted from my monkey on that regular a basis. Maybe it’s the wrong decision, and maybe it’s selfish of me, but I handed in my notice to my job so they know I won’t be returning and I feel much happier in general having finally made a decision.

But that’s not the end of the story – I know I have to find a way to make this work for both of us. I do have a creative side, and I am looking for crafty things that I can do for me, but also looking for things monkey and I can do together. He is an inquisitive little man and I need to find new ways of entertaining him and helping him learn. While I will occasionally talk about the monkey and parenting, the majority of this blog is going to be about the crafty ways I keep myself occupied and the ways I come up with to entertain him.

21 thoughts on “To work or not to work

  1. What an interesting post. I’m going full circle – work to baby 1 to part time to baby 2 to SAHM to part time and possibly full time very soon. This has gone hand in hand with my OH’s work. He worked his way up quickly to a big salary so I had the chance to stay home – and I loved it! I was home with my 2 and 0 year olds for almost three years. Things have changed though with redundancy and now OH has his own business. Early days and life has changed massively. Good timing as children now both at school so the guilt shouldn’t be too bad and my job allows all school holidays off!! Love your attitude. Good luck! 🙂

    • Thank you I always find it interesting how such different combinations work for different families – we all have to find our own ways to make it work I guess! And of course it very much depends on your partner. I think I’d like to go back to work in some form or another when the kids are at school – but at the moment I have no idea what form that will take yet. Thanks for your lovely comments 🙂 xx

  2. I think you have to find the right solution for you and your family as there really is no right or wrong answer to this one. You are very lucky to even have this choice but don’t ever feel that you have to justify your decision to other people. Either way, you are bound to be criticised! After my first baby, I returned to work part time. Then after my second baby was born I took extended maternity leave before going back again part time. Then gradually I increased my hours and was working full time by the time they were about 3 and 4. When I became pregnant with my third baby a few years later I gave up work completely and a couple of years later i had my fourth baby. All four of my children are at school now but I haven’t returned to work because I still feel very much needed at home. I always thought that I would go back one day but now I’m not sure I could ever imagine working again! It’s actually really busy balancing the behind the scenes life of such a big family!

    • Thank you for your comment, I always find it really interesting to hear other people’s decisions, and i agree you have to do what is right for you and your family. I am more comfortable with my decision now but in the early days I think I was justifying it to myself as much as anyone else! xx

      • Caroline, I have just read your initial blog about ‘to work or not to work’ and I have tears on my eyes as you really struck a cord with me! Thank you so much for sharing this. I too struggled with this decision, as before I had my daughter I was pretty sure I would freelance or return on a part time basis. However, once Mollie arrived and the first year had passed, I felt very similar to you. Whilst there were elements of work I missed, particularly the intellectual challenges, I did not like the thought of being parted from my daughter and somebody else essentially spending the most time with her than me. I totally respect working mums and agree that it is such a difficult decision no matter what your situation; some don’t have the choice financially, others make the decision as they feel for their family it is the best combination for them. However, since making the decision (for now) to be a sahm, I feel like a second class citizen! I have been asked on various different occasions whether I was bored, what I did all day, when I was going back to work, and at times essentially dismissed me from conversation as having nothing to add. I can easily say that after working in a stressful management position doing 12-14 hour days with long travel either side, this is easily the hardest (if most rewarding!) job I have ever done. This surprisingly common attitude to sahm really shocked me but I’ve encountered it a lot, and sometimes from mummy friends that have gone back to work and have seemingly forgotten how hard it can be. I don’t like to go into the hard time we had when Mollie was born, and the anxiety over her severe eczema when she was a few months old, plus other problems with her kidneys that we have dealt with along the way, but it isn’t easy for ALL mums INCLUDING those who decide (and have the choice to decide) to stay at home. I feel so so lucky and privileged that my daughter and I have this special time together and I get to watch and help her develop every day through fun, and we do have a ball. My hubby also works long hours and travels, and because of my choice has more freedom when it comes to his job and work commitments, so I pretty much do 99% of stuff when it comes to Mollie. This can feel lonely sometimes and there are times where I have been up all night, feel knackered and close to tears. But on the whole, we laugh so much together and I love our days together as I know this is precious as time goes so quickly. However, I definitely feel in the minority as a sahm, so reading your blog was wonderful. Thank you and keep writing!

  3. It’s a difficult and very personal decision that you can only make for yourself. My wife faced a similar dilemma after each of our three kids. In each case she opted to take a year out and return three days a week, rising to four after a year. It wasn’t so much about the money – after childcare costs she barely breaks even – but keeping her connected to her industry (she works in software, so once you’re out you’re soon out of date) and affording her a balance of spending some time just with the kids but also giving them the social and educational variety of preschool. It wasn’t an easy decision one way or the other on each occasion though. Ultimately you can only do what your gut tells you is the right thing to do.

    • You are absolutely right! I think it really depends on your career too and how important your job is to who you are. I can completely understand why she would need to feel connected with the industry as things change so fast in any areas of IT! You are have to do what’s best for you and your kids. Thanks for the comment, I love hearing about other people’s choices as I don’t think there is any one ‘right’ way that suits everyone!

  4. I can totally relate to this too! I made the decision to give up my therapy business when lo was about 7 months old. I had started to do clinics again at that pint, but the stress of running a business was just leaving me feeling like I wasn’t doing a good job anywhere. This is definitely a divisive issue, which I think you have dealt with really well here – I totally agree that it is each to their own.

    • Thank you, it is definitely a difficult subject and I really do believe that everyone has to do what is right for them. I’m with you though, I just don’t think I could be the best I can be both at work and as a mummy so good for you in making a choice that works for you! xx

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  6. I’ve iust read this post. Thank you for writing it.
    It’s so hard isn’t it – I work part time (2.5 days a week) as a social worker, specialising in people with dementia. It’s a stressful job and in many ways I struggle to handle the pressure. However, I worry about leaving it for lots of reasons – money and stepping off the career ladder being the main ones.
    My boyfriend only has a minimum wage full time job,and so I am the higher earner (but part time so earn less), but he couldn’t support us. I would be relying on child tax credits for food and bills, which scares me.

    I have a dream though to homeschool. I wanted to do this since I first knew about my older daughter who is now 4.5. She is due to start reception in September and I feel a huge sense of failure and loss – I won’t see her as much and it’s something I won’t get to come back and do again later.

    Sorry for the huge (and unresolved!) dilemma! I guess what I am trying to say is that you are very lucky to have the choice about what to do – it’s hard being a SAHM but also a privilege and something to be proud of. Xxx

    • Ah i really feel for you it is a really hard enough to decision to make, especially when money comes in to it. I don’t think you have any reason to feel like a failure as you are providing for your family, but it must be really difficult. I know I am really fortunate to be able to stay at home at the moment! xx

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  8. Lovely post – I’m back at work full time (5 days a week, 8.30-5) and have two little ladies and every single solitary second of the day I dream about being at home with them full time, I envy you! Lovely blog, I’m a bit of a baker and crochet maker myself!! x

    • Ah it must be hard being at work when you would rather be at home! It’s not always a bed of roses but I wouldn’t change it for the world and I know how lucky I am that i was able to make that choice. thank you for the compliment and I’m only a beginner on both fronts really! 🙂 xx

  9. Great post! It really made me think. I wasn’t ready to go back to work but new house and lots of bills meant I had no choice. Still struggling now with the guilt and miss my daughter all day everyday. But I don’t believe being a SAHM is at all easy. It might possibly be harder than the traditional day job! Glad I found you!

  10. Sorry I’m a little late to the party here but I battled with all these things too. I had a career but I felt gradually it wasn’t where I wanted to be so when I got pregnant with my second child I decided I would leave at the end of the school year (I was a teacher) the decision was made for me when redundancies came up and I went for it. Best thing I ever did, meant I was able to be with my toddler and then enjoy time with her before the baby came. When he was six months old I got a job in a supermarket for one evening a week which fitted in well with my husband and I haven’t looked back, I work two nights a week with some overtime so I consider myself a SAHM in a way because I am here all day everyday and although I never thought it would be for me, I can wholeheartedly say it was the best decision I have ever made and I feel very fortunate to have been able to have that option.

  11. Thanks for sharing this. You’re right it should be about what works for you and your family. I returned to work after my maternity leave in October, and I still don’t think I’m over it. I thought by now I’d be happy with out circumstances, but I get emotional every Monday night before before returning to work on a Tuesday. The thing is I actually enjoy my job (mostly), but still hate leaving my boy. It’s not as clean cut for us unfortunately, but hopefully we’ll work it out, or at least I’ll be happier.

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