Children, Life, Parenting, Working Mother Guilt
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The Hamster Wheel

When I returned to my full-time job 12-months after Zachy was born, it was with mixed emotions.

I had enjoyed maternity leave and loved getting to know my newborn son, but towards the end I had started to feel I was missing a little bit of the old me.

The me that took pleasure from earning my own money.

Who wanted to make a cup of tea and finish drinking it before it turned cold.

Liked wearing nice clothes and know they would not end up covered in rice cakes, broccoli or milk.

Needed to turn my brain to more than washing/feeding/nappy/sleep cycles and organising playdates.

Missed adult conversation.

Although, the thought of not being with my son every day tied my stomach up in knots.

I could live without the hot tea, and I was not confident I could even still squeeze into my old clothes if I tried.

Also, anyone who has turned their hand to organising washing/feeding/nappy/sleep cycles, or a playdate, will understand how incredibly taxing this can be on the brain, so why add more stress to our lives.

However, money was a big factor for us at the time.  We were living in a rented house and desperately wanted to buy our own family home.  My savings were already depleted, so I had to rely on the Greek God(zilla) for a fiver every time I fancied popping out to meet a friend for coffee.

It was less than ideal and so, I went back to work.

At first, it was hard.  As much as I enjoyed being back in a buzzy office environment, I missed him terribly.  It was a big adjustment and all of a sudden, I felt like I was juggling a hundred balls in the air at one time.

I did not just have to think about getting myself up and out of the door on time, I had to get a baby and all the equipment that comes with a baby, ready too.

Some days worked better than others, but essentially the routine was the same.

The washing/feeding/nappy/sleep cycles did not cease to require my input once I had left the house, and playdates still needed to be accepted or declined.  Weekends post-baby were no longer a time for sleeping off a hangover on the sofa, while watching dvd box sets.

Instead they started at 5.30am and involved shadowing a toddler around the house for 13-hours, while attempting to fit friends and family around sleep schedules that we quickly discovered you must never mess with, EVER.

There were tears.

A lot of them mine.

It was around this time that I also started to suffer from what I now understand to be a very common condition, known as Working Mother Guilt.

It does not take much to bring on an attack.  Your child getting sick and you allowing his nursery care worker to give him Calpol for the first time will do it.  Or, being the last parent to collect your son at the end of a long day because you needed to finish something off at work.  Even spending an extra 10-minutes in the bath on one of the only 2-days you have together will be enough to set it off.

Symptoms usually present themselves as an all-consuming self loathing at your own selfishness, along with feelings of extreme inadequacy as a parent, a woman and a human being.

Once you have experienced your first case of WMG, it is very difficult to avoid another and another.

It took some time, but we did eventually find a routine that worked for us.  Zachy settled into nursery well and the Greek God(zilla) changed his work shifts so that he finished earlier and could do the afternoon pick-up.  This definitely took some of the pressure off me during the day, as I no longer had to attempt a hard stop at 5.30pm.

To say it got easier would be misleading, but we were coping.

We were exhausted ALL of the time but managed.

The wheel kept turning.

The bills were paid, the food shopping was done, and the laundry was all over the house.

As he got older the challenges changed, but they were still there.  Only louder, faster and more defiant.

We were often late leaving the house because of a disagreement over teeth brushing.  I wanted him to/he did not want to.

Some days I would turn up at the office after spending an hour negotiating with a three year old to come out from under the bed/behind the curtain/in the playroom.

There were days when I left him at the nursery door, sobbing for me not to leave him.

I would have to go to work and spend 8-hours trying not to cry at my desk, while looking vaguely on the ball, when the reality was that I was dropping them all over the place.

This September, Zachy starts school.  He will have just turned 4 and will be the youngest in his year.

Instead of being excited for him, all I could think about was breakfast clubs, after school clubs, half-term and summer holidays.

More layers of organisation to add to our already hectic lives.

Of how quickly the time is going and how much I have already missed.

He is about to embark on the most important chapter of his young life and I want to be there for him.

I have to be there for him.

So, I made a decision.  A big one.

Relief ran instantly through me.

I took a deep breath and walked into my boss’s office.

And just like that, I stepped off the hamster wheel.


 You can follow me on Twitter @grenglishblogfind me on Facebookand on Pinterest as Grenglish


  1. So excited for you lovely – it sounds like it’s going to make life a lot easier for all three of you :) Congrats on making a big, brave decision, I hope it leads to LOTS of happiness xx
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  2. Melanie Hancock says

    Well done hun, that was a HUGE decision and one I’m sure your family are going to love, especially Zachy xxxx

  3. Feeling of relief just READING this! Well done for taking this step – couldn’t have been easy, and may you and your family enjoy every moment together !

  4. Such a huge step but just reading this and hearing your relief sounds like it is going to be the best thing ever for you guys! For what it’s worth, I have never looked back since making that jump x
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  5. Emma T says

    Brave you. Good luck, hope it all works out well.

    I think being a working mum takes a lot of family support from OH and nearby family. I know without that (even though I do the 98% of it) I wouldn’t be able to work doing what I do.

    I have to say I’m dreading anything regarding 9-3 (supposedly mine’s doing 2 days at nursery school come Sept. Pick ups were sorted until my mum got ill and can no longer drive, and the nursery’s plans to change to longer hours come September have been pushed back thanks to local authority planning. So at the moment I’m a bit screwed for both drop off and pick ups – and that’s with only a 10 minute commute. Once school starts properly, I’ve no idea how we’re going to do it – there’s only one childminder who does pick ups at that school and she’s full. Horrible.

    Wish there was more option for reasonably paid jobs that could be done around school times.
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  6. Oh I’m so pleased for you, go you for making that decision and doing what you feel to be right. I can’t imagine how hard it all must have been for you but every now and then we do need to step off the wheel sometimes, before we drop all of the balls completely!

  7. Sarah Derrig says

    Just catching up on my blogs and read this. What a big step and well done! Can I say as a Mum who has worked and also stayed at home – I had more guilt working when Sadie was at big school than I did when she was at nursery. That first year of Reception for Sadie and me working broke my heart and I realised that pay cheque of mine didn’t mean as much to me as being able to take her to school and pick her up and be there with her during the school holidays. So I’m back to being a stay at home Mum and can’t wait until September when I can take Sadie to her Year 1 classroom and be more involved with her school. It’s a big step and I admit I still miss working at times and somedays I feel like I’m a bit bored or I haven’t had a decent conversation but the pros definitely out way the cons and I figure if you can do it and you enjoy it then why the hell not!

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