It's a funny old thing.
I trained for 3 years to become a nurse, and it was one of the toughest things i've ever done in my life those three years training.
in my final year
work hard, play hard, n.b. those are not my actual colleagues, although they are all nurses/student nurses! Afraid?! You should be! ;)
there was hat-flinging! although i'd already taken my cap and gown off at that point (oops!)
and there was a graduation ball. i may have ingested a few alcoholic beverages prior to this photograph being taken ;)
I then took a job 50 miles away from my home to get experience in my chosen speciality (neonates) and i then put myself through the whole application and interview process all over again to get a job closer to home in that same speciality, and the month that i started my new job we also started trying for a baby!
5.30am Friday 13th March 2009 a little pink line appeared...
So for me, it hasn't so much been work taking a back seat while i have babies, or babies being off the agenda until my career was flourishing, it feels as though they've both just co-existed, happening alongside each other. Which at times has been really tough, but i am just now beginning to think that it may actually have all worked out for the best.
I love what i do, both at home and at work, some days more than others (that statement is true of both my roles as a Mummy and as a Nurse!) but priorities shift when you have children, and going back to work after having Toby was hard. I mean really really hard. The last few weeks of my maternity leave with him were a total waste, i just spent hours upon hours crying, and then frantically searching online for jobs, any job that would pay me lots of money and mean i would be able to use my skills but without ever leaving my precious baby boy for a minute. Guess what?! Turns out there aren't any jobs like that no matter how many hours you spend surfing the net or reading the jobs pages ;)
It was made worse by my manager at the time refusing my request to go back on reduced hours on nights and putting me straight back on to a training program within weeks of my return. We had assumed my nights only request would be accepted so didn't have any childcare in place. I remember that 8 weeks before i was due to go back we were thrown into the frenzy that is suddenly trying to find (and fund!) a nursery place for Toby. We were clueless. I called the most local private day nursery to us at the time and asked if we could come take a look around "well, let me see if we have any places first shall i?" the woman said. "How bloody presumptuous of her" I thought, "Who says we'll even want to send our darling angel to her bloody nursery anyway?!" I didn't say that of course. I sweetly gave her Toby's date of birth and the proposed start date we'd need- 27th September 2010 "I'm sorry, the soonest we'll have a space is January" she told me "when we'll have a space opening up on Mondays and Fridays. The next available full time space we'd have would be next April"...Uh-huh...Okaaayyy. I called a few more places..."Has the baby been born yet?" one woman asked me sweet as pie. It seemed unlikely we were going to be able to find somewhere in 8 short weeks if most places expected you to be putting your babies' names down BEFORE YOU'D EVEN FINISHED GESTATING THEM!
Of course, some of you will know how this ends. We did find a place, and truth be told, it all worked out ok in the end.
cuddles with a 9 month old Toby before heading to work
That doesn't mean it wasn't a difficult thing to go through though. I really resented being back at work those first few months after i returned. Once i was pregnant again with Rudy it felt more bearable leaving Toby as there was an end in sight- soon i'd be off on maternity leave again, and in fact, as the start date for my maternity leave loomed, i felt i was really getting back into the swing of things again, and finding my groove with it all. Then i had another 9 months off...and then it was time to go back for a second time.
It's been very different this time. For a start my manager left, and the acting manager approved my request to go back on nights so that obviously made a massive difference. I've also reduced my hours. But aside from that, i'm not sure how to explain just how very differently i felt about it this time. In terms of the boys- they were both a similar age when i returned to work, Toby was 9 months exactly on my first shift back, Rudy was 8 months exactly. They were both still breastfeeding, in fact Toby was more amenable to having the occasional bottle than Rudy was. They were both still co-sleeping part-time. I love them both equally. So surely i should have been distraught this time too? Weeping into hankies in the weeks leading up to my return date, freaking out that i'd have forgotten everything, or that Rudy would feel abandoned, or that the whole household would fall apart without me there to hold everything together? Erm...nope! I barely gave it a thought. "I'm back in work on Tuesday" i'd say to people, and when i said it i'd feel...nothing of any real depth. It was just a statement of fact. I was apprehensive as the entire unit has been refurbished and extended while i've been off, so i had some (well founded, it turns out!) concerns that i wouldn't know where anything was but aside from that i felt ok about it. Really ok. And when i turned up and took handover and walked into high dependency to start my shift, it was just as if i'd never been away, as if i'd been at work only the week before and not 9.5 months ago.
Crazily i feel as though i am being disloyal to Rudy by finding it so easy to leave him. But he's at home, with his Daddy and his big brother who both love him to pieces, there's plenty of breast milk for him in the freezer and a whole host of bottles with various teats and sippy cups for him to drink from should he so choose. So why shouldn't it be easy to leave him? People have been asking me how it's going and i keep saying "Fine- for me! Not sure Chris would say the same thing though left alone with the boys all night when all Rudy wants is boob!" but actually, if you ask Chris- he also says "Fine". They've had some unsettled nights, where Rudy has cried so loud he's woken Toby up and they've all ended up in the big bed together at 3am, they've had some good nights where putting rodrigo y gabriella on the ipod speakers in Rudy's room has settled him back to sleep. They're already figuring out their own ways of getting through the night together, and this morning i walked into the house at 8.30am with boobs like Dolly Parton to find a very contented Rudy fast asleep in his Daddy's arms having just polished off a bottle of EBM because he couldn't wait any longer for me to get home (damn traffic!) and Toby greeted me at the living room door "Shhh Mummy- Rudy's asleep!"
So actually, it's all good so far. I know we'll have hard times still, i don't imagine it's going to be plain sailing juggling working part time, having 2 small children, breastfeeding, Chris being at uni and having assignments, placements and 2 part time jobs plus dedicating time to our relationship, seeing family and friends and taking care of our home...but that's life right? Messy, complicated, hard, fun.
The week after i went back for my first shift Cherie Blair, not someone who really comes up on my radar at all, apparently caused a bit of a stir by giving her opinions on stay at home Mums vs working Mums. I'm not sure that her version of being a "working mother" is really the same as for the rest of us, given her position and financial status, so what she thinks or doesn't think about it is irrelevant to me, but as someone who spends time on forums, i found it interesting to see how people reacted- it seems she's managed to piss off people from both camps (impressive!) It's a debate as old as the ages and almost as heated as the breast vs bottle thing. I don't think i'm particularly qualified to speak for anyone other than myself so all i will say is this. I was raised by a working mother. She didn't have a real choice whether to go out and work or stay home as financially, having an alcoholic husband in and out of work is crippling when you have two young children and a mortgage. I think she also enjoyed her work (although you'd have to ask her that) In some ways it would've been nice to have her home more often. I remember that i missed her. But then again, if my Dad had been different, maybe that would have balanced things out more, made life more stable, less scary, maybe i'd have coped better with the notion of her being out at work in the evenings. I don't know.
If someone came up to me tomorrow and offered to pay me to stay home with the boys would i accept? Probably in a heartbeat. But i don't know that it would make me a better mother. I love them both with all my heart but i have felt so much less weary with them since being back at work. Which is ironic, because i'm working nights and not really sleeping, so i should be at the end of my tether. And yes i may be grouchy, but i've had more enthusiasm for playing, more patience for having my hair pulled, i've felt like by going to work, i've actually had a break!
I hate to say it, as i think it might sound a bit terrible, but perhaps absence really does make the heart grow fonder? For me, anyway. If finances were different i probably would put my nursing career on hold for a few years to bring up my children, but they're not, and it's ok. For a long time, after having Toby it didn't feel ok. I constantly fantasised about handing in my notice at work just to get rid of that icky feeling. But two years down the line? I think i'm doing the right thing by going to work. I think we're doing the right thing. For our little family. Which is all that any of us can do i reckon :)
what i get to come home to in the mornings and what makes it all worthwhile :)