I go back to work on Wednesday. The prospect of this makes me sad. It signifies the end of my ‘mum to a young baby’ days and, after almost 7 months of being at by baby’s beck and call 24/7, I am going to find it difficult to leave her in the care of someone else and walk away (even though my parents will be caring for her for a few days initially).
Will she miss me? Will she accept my milk in a bottle and pouches of fruity mush all day…or will she be upset she can’t cuddle me and grab me with her little hands as she feeds? Will I be able to generate and collect enough milk for her while I am at work? Will she behave when her nappy is changed…or will she make off across the carpet and lunge headlong at Catrin’s Duplo creations?
She probably won’t miss me. She will probably spend her days grinning inanely at anyone who picks her up and continuing her quest to check what every item in the house tastes like, while I worry and fret about her. The thing is that I will miss Bethan more than she will miss me. I will miss her smiley little face, our breastfeeding cuddles and her squeaking and flapping when she finds a toy she likes… Or when she sees me walk into the room.
I remember feeling like this when I left Catrin with a childminder for the first time. I walked to my new workplace with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. I checked my phone every two minutes in case she needed me, but she didn’t. She didn’t need me at all and this was also unexpectedly painful…I couldn’t win!
My feelings and worries are just a standard part of being a parent…the emotional cost of motherhood. I will always worry about both of my daughters; I will always want the best for them and I will always have one ear open in the middle of the night.
Alongside the emotional cost, the financial cost of being mum is also preying on my mind. I want to keep my job for these reasons:
1. I can work during term times and be home during the holidays when my children will be too
2. I want to show my children that it is normal and a good thing to work for a living
3. I work in a location very close to my home, so no horrendous commute by road or train (saving money and time which would otherwise be spent travelling)
4. I like working where I do and my colleagues are lovely
5. In years to come, when both children attend school, the money I earn can be put towards a mortgage for a larger house, rather than on childcare fees
However, this year I will earn less than I will pay for childcare. This makes me miserable as I will be permanently skint despite working my bottom off at work (and in my voluntary job). I will miss my daughters, sleep and freedom and I will not have anything to show for it. At this point I am desperately wondering how I can increase my income (at least for a year or two) so that I won’t have to rely on my husband or family to supplement me. At 36 I should be financially independent…and I want to be, but I don’t know how that will be possible in my current circumstances. I understand why so many people give up work and become stay at home mums or dads or end up claiming benefits to support themselves and their family…but there are reasons why I don’t want to do that. I can blame the government until I am blue in the face for making it so hard for working parents to earn a living, but moaning won’t change things.
I will be grateful for what I have. I will never regret being mum, despite the costs. My girls are worth it.