Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Motherhood and (self) employment.

A friend asked me if I could write about how it was being a self-employed mother who had to go back to work after 3 months, in a society where the mothers around us are for the most part taking a year's maternity leave.

Friend,  like me, is a wedding photographer. And Friend, like me, gave birth in November and had to start shooting weddings again in the Spring when her baby was around four months old. I'd imagine though, that also like me, she started answering work emails and fitting in little bits of admin after only a few weeks. Not because she wanted to but because when your livelihood relies on bookings made 6 months to a year (or two in crazypants situations) advance you're painfully aware that the emails you don’t answer now are the weddings you're not going to be shooting a year down the line, when presumably, you're going to need some dough.




So, four weeks after W&P were born I started working again. Just an hour or two while they were sleeping. Let's back up and look at this situation from afar: four weeks after giving birth to twins, haemorrhaging, having a blood transfusion, spending a week in hospital, coming home with TWO BABIES that I had fuck-all idea how to look after and who spent most of the night awake, who were struggling to breastfeed, who I was struggling to breastfeed, who were complete fucking alien tyrants, I decided to start working again. More specifically, to start communicating with people, people who I wanted to think that we were capable of a) photographing their weddings and b) behaving like normal human beings at their weddings. It was a bad scene. But it was essential, both to our livelihood and actually, to me. I kind of enjoyed having a role other than 'mother' to fulfil. This might be when you ask 'why wasn't Nye answering emails? Aren't you a partnership?' which, yes. Yes we are. But Nye, the dear man, was up all night with the tyrants while I slept a blissful six hours on the sofa. So that I was capable of sustaining our business. The simple fact of the matter is that I don't cope well on interrupted sleep and he's painfully dyslexic. Reversing our roles so that I was up all night and he was writing to clients would have been a total shitstorm, (Quite possibly literally with TWO BABIES and a woman who throws things when she's tired and angry.) At this point I could write an entire essay on our mental schedule during the first year of the girls lives, but I won't because Friend didn't ask what it was like being two people who were trying to keep their babies and their business and each other alive. But that's a good story too.

What did she ask again? Oh yes, self-employed mother, going back to work. Focus.

So at four weeks I went back to answering emails and other administration stuff and Nye continued to look after the babies (after being up all night), patting me on the shoulder to (try to) feed them when they were hungry. I know who had the better deal out of that ride. The truth is, as I said, I enjoyed being back at work. But the truth also is that 'work' was a few hours of emails that I could write in my pyjamas, ten feet from the sofa I slept on and much more importantly that I had an immeasurably amazing partner who looked after the children and allowed me to get enough sleep that I was able to function. In fact I should probably just stop writing here because I have fuck-all idea how anyone does this shit without someone else at home all day. Show me a self-employed mother who is trying to work and look after her new baby while her partner is at work outside the house and I'll show you a fucking superhero. A crazy, tearful, unwashed superhero but a superhero nonetheless. I'm very very aware that our situation is fairly unusual and that I can't really talk for all those women who have just had babies and are still feeling the pressure not to let their businesses die a speedy death from neglect.




Let's assume you survive the first few months of parenthood and you find yourself at the point where you have to actually leave the house, and the baby/babies to shoot a wedding. Holy crap. Before the girls were even born I spent days and weeks fretting over this point, sobbing 'I don't want to leave them, I don't want to go back to work. How are we going to do this?' 'It'll be fine, don't worry' said Nye. Unsaid: 'we don't have any choice, we have to work so suck it up.'

The thing was, we worked as a team, so we both had to leave the house so we had to leave the girls with someone. 'Someone' was our parents, so at least they were being left with people who loved them, but that didn't alleviate the terror that a) the caretakers would forget to feed them/ drop them/ sit on them/ go out for a fag and let the door slam behind them (that none of our parents smoke is probably worth mentioning. This particular fear may have been born of hormone-induced insanity.) or b) I would cry through the whole wedding, aching with longing to be back with my babies.

I contemplated the logistics of combining working with feeding my babies; the babies would just have to come to. Whoever was looking after them would have to bring them to weddings and I would just pop out to feed them (because brides and grooms wouldn't mind that sort of thing at all). And the weddings that we had to travel overnight for? Well my mum would just have to come too and we would all share a family room at the travel lodge and it would be fine. HA!

Let's just consider this a parable in the pointlessness of sobbing over things that have not yet happened. In the event, by the time we shot our first wedding, I had given up on breastfeeding altogether, (it being just too soul-destroying to continue with) which removed that problem. The girls were happy to take bottles so there would be no need for me to pop outside to whip out my floppity milkers during the vows. Secondly, by March, when the girls were four months old, I was really really really ready to spend a day without them. REALLY ready. As we closed the door behind us to head off for our first wedding I did a little skip and a hop, feeling my charpei belly wobble under my work outfit (still Gap maternity trousers, FYI.) 'Are you worried?' asked Nye. 'Nope, are you?' 'No!'. I don't know that I've ever enjoyed photographing a wedding as much as I enjoyed that first one.




I hope I don't need to say this, but the internet is stupid so I'm going to say it anyway; I loved my babies and I loved being a mother but I also loved working and I couldn't and can't see a single reason to feel guilty about that. Maybe if I was leaving my kids alone with a couple of milk bottles tied upside down to the bars of their cot, like hamster water bottles, I'd have felt guilty. But they were being left with a kind, caring, terrified Grandmother, they were going to be fine. We worked all day and when we got home late that night I was absolutely ready to see my little bears, to sniff their milky necks and hold them close. Then go to bed while Nye stayed up all night trying to convince them to sleep. The next morning was tough, I got up at 6am to send Nye to bed for his 6 hours sleep and take over parenting duties and dear god, it hurt. Two weeks later we left for an overnight trip, two nights actually. That was pretty good too. I don't think my mum enjoyed it quite as much, when we got home she looked ready to flee, but everyone survived to tell the tale.

I don't understand the cultural noise that says we're supposed to want to be with our babies and our children all of the time, and I mean ALL. There is an understanding that leaving your baby with someone else, even for a few hours, is somehow not only shirking your parental responsibility but depriving your child and reveals that you are in fact, entirely heartless and unloving. Men don't feel this and I get it; breastfeeding. Breastfed babies have a dependency on their mothers that is important and undeniable, so swanning off on a week's holiday and leaving them with someone else is probably unwise. But even when they're older, when they're no longer breastfeeding we're supposed to want to be with them all the time and personally, I'm calling bullshit. I'm sure there are mothers who do feel that, who genuinely want to be with their offspring 24/7 and who would genuinely ache were they separated for more than an hour. It's just that I don't know any of them and I'm not one of them.

The status quo in the UK is for mothers to take the full year that they're entitled to on maternity leave and at the end of it to either return to their jobs, start a new career or to quit working and continue to be full time parents. I couldn't possibly say how many take which path, seeing as I went out of my way to avoid spending time with other mothers in that first year, but I feel that going back to the job you left is not the prevailing trend, I may be wrong. It seems that the freedom that a paid year of maternity leave offers rarely comes in tandem with the flexibility most mothers are after once their child is a year old. 

To be completely honest, I don't feel qualified to provide any comfort at all to mothers who have to go back to work before that year is up and who are unhappy about that fact.  I can offer comfort to mothers who are worried about this coming up and say 'hey, it might not be that bad! You might enjoy getting away from your kid for a while, AND THAT'S FINE!' But for the mothers who are actually struggling with leaving their kids at home while they go off to earn the readies; all I have is my sympathies. It sucks to have to do things you don't want to do and I'm sorry that there isn't an easier way.

Weirdly, talking about our parenting situations seems to be taboo, we are quick to be defensive or self-depreciating, to see other people's decisions as either an attack on or a validation of our own. It's only by having these conversation that we can begin to place our own experiences in context. I'd really love to hear other people's experiences of returning to work, or not, after their allotted maternity leave, be that a week or a year, is up.



* DISCLAIMER. Again, because the internet is Stupid, I'd like to say: I have shared my experience, my situation and my feelings. I am in no way suggesting that this is or should be anyone else's experience, situation or feelings. I am neither insinuating that everyone should be glad to go back to work or that those who don't want to leave their infants with a babysitter are in some way lacking and I have huge sympathy with almost any and all alternative experiences. Call my naive, but I do essentially believe that we are all just trying to get by and do our best. By sharing my experience I am not publicly validating it as either healthy or desirable. Just because I felt it was both is in no way to imply that you should. I am well aware that I may be deficient in many ways and that the chances that I am completely fucking up my children are high. In fact just yesterday I referenced a dog training manual in conversation about childrearing and was surprised when people laughed/baulked.*

66 comments:

  1. I was ready to go back to work at three months. I knew early on that being with my girl all day every day alone was not for me. I am a much better mother with my work. I loved this post. I think that we need more voices that say that it is ok to feel how you feel about motherhood. That there is no one right way.

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    1. "it's okay to feel how you feel about motherhood" - EXACTLY.

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  2. I have nothing constructive to add, having no direct experience myself, but just had to say: best disclaimer ever. Surely once you've taught the kids 'stay' and 'fetch', your job as a parent is pretty much done?

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    1. yeah, sadly W&P still suck at both. Maybe I need a new dog training book?

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  3. I'm so glad to hear that someone else sees parallels between dog training and childrearing. My dog was the best practice I could've had before our son was born. Also, as a breastfeeding mom, I literally laughed so hard that I cried just now about "floppity milkers" and when my husband came to see what the hell was wrong with me he had to read it himself because I couldn't get it out. That is fantastic.

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    1. I do have to thank Celia of Life According to Celia for introducing me to the phrase.

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  4. I'm so glad to hear that someone else sees parallels between dog training and childrearing. My dog was the best practice I could've had before our son was born. Also, as a breastfeeding mom, I literally laughed so hard that I cried just now about "floppity milkers" and when my husband came to see what the hell was wrong with me he had to read it himself because I couldn't get it out. That is fantastic.

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  5. I Really enjoyed your honesty, thank you for that. I think you're right to say that every mom needs to go out without their babies once in a while, just to be more in contact with ourselves.

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    1. Well to be fair, I would never say that *every* mother *needs* to do anything. I firmly believe that there are people who fit all moulds and that telling anyone that 'everyone needs X/Y/Z' can be really damaging. But I DO believe that the mothers who do need time by themselves should never ever feel guilty about it.

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  6. SUCH a great post. I fucking adore your honesty and loathe that the internet is so stupid that you need to add a disclaimer.

    xoxoxo

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    1. The internet *is* a moron, right? I wasn't just imagining that?

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  7. I'm not going back to my boring office job, but I started teaching piano again a month ago when my son was 3 months. I only have five students so it's only a couple of hours a week, but so nice to have something else to focus on.

    Since my husband works full time and the lessons happen just after school, the baby is my assistant. Usually he sleeps in the ergo carrier, sometimes he plays under the play gym and sometimes sits on my knee and supervises. Apart from the time he pooped on the floor in the middle of a lesson, things have been going pretty well so far.

    Things will change as he gets older and more disruptive, but I'll work out some new tactics when I need to...

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    1. Wow! That you can focus enough to teach ANYTHING with your kid in the room earns you a huge Superhero award.

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  8. Oh yes! To everything - including the dog training. I returned to work after 6 months to more-or-less the same job. I loved being at work but hated the constant sympathy that was dealt out when I told people how old (young) my baby was. There was some kind of cultural assumption that I must have had to go back to work and not chosen to. E is almost 2 now and my partner and I both work 4 days and she's in childcare the other 3 days a week. I still have people tell me how hard I must find it being away from her.f

    On the breastfeeding - that's a whole other can of guilt worms. I was still breastfeeding when I went back to work and dogmatic about expressing through the day in some poxy "breastfeeding room" (aka first aid cupboard) convinced that this was best for E and me. Absolute bollocks. Once I stopped listening to the work-breastfeeding-guilt-Mammas and just allowed both her and me to wean slowly life became a whole lot easier.

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    1. Jesus. People need to just mind their own fucking business.

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  9. Um... clearly my partner has been using my laptop since I last logged on. He is adorable and in touch with child-rearing and breastfeeding issues but he didn't write that last comment. That was me. And he didn't breastfeed out daughter either.

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  10. I'm Canadian - took the full year. The week before I went back to work - a choice I was somewhat ambivalent about - was one of the single worse weeks of my life, as J did not adjust smoothly to daycare at all, and I seriously considered quitting before I even went back. But I walked back in to my office job and everything was just FINE. I remembered that I did, in fact, quite like my office job, and I like having coworkers and coffee breaks and lunch dates and not have to entertain my little one all the time. Three months in, J loves daycare, and I'm mostly enjoying work, and the plans for the carrot my husband dangled in exchange for my return (a trip to Europe) are coming along.

    It's the right answer for us, right now. In a year or another kid? Who knows - that's future me's problem. But right now, returning to work was a good thing, and we're all happy, especially the baby. That's good enough for now.

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    1. 'good enough for now' is always a great aim.

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  11. I love this post, thank you for writing it.

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  12. Great post! I'm northern Irish, living in America. I'm a big fan of miss p and Lottie's blogs so found you via the floral coalition flower school post. I went back to work part time after 4 months. And I love it. Everyone at home is shocked and feels bad for me that I'm back at work, but for me it works well. I like having my days off from playing with/looking after my baby, and using my brain a bit. It definitely makes me happy to be able to be at work and at home!

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    1. hi and welcome! I'm really glad that you've found a situation that works for you.

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  13. We lived in London when Lila was born, I thought I would take the full year maternity leave but ended up going back to my old job (graphic design/ publishing studio) when she was 8 months, mainly for my own sanity. They let me come back for 2 days a week which was ideal. The pay barely covered the cost of a child minder in London but it was great to get something of myself back, talk to adults about non baby related matters and Lila enjoyed hanging out with a couple of other kids at her child minders place. Now we live in Australia and have Rose too. I haven't gone back to my old career since she was born- two expensive to put two kids in childcare. Now I work two evenings a week in a local restaurant and do some freelance graphic design work for them. It's great, gets me out and meeting new people and my husband minds the kids when I'm there. When Lila starts school next Feb I'm thinking about returning to work in a bigger capacity but still not sure how or what yet. Thanks for the great post. Wish more people would be as upfront instead of tiptoeing around the issue,

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    1. You're welcome. And I hear you on the cost of childcare x 2. W&P would most definitely be in nursery right now if we could afford it.

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  14. Man i wish my husband would stay up all night trying to convince our newborn to sleep, but sadly, he has to be in an office at 8am. I really enjoyed this post :)

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    1. Yeah, I got a pretty good deal there!

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  15. You are so wise. And so honest, thanks for that. I have no advise or experience here, but I was nodding all along... you are an inspiration. I also believe we are all trying to do the best of what there is and this might be different for all of us, which should not mean we should be fighting about it.

    "Let's just consider this a parable in the pointlessness of sobbing over things that have not yet happened."

    I loved that sentence, as I am an expert worrier.

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    1. Not sure I'm wise, but I'll take honest.

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  16. I am not self-employed and I did not have to go back to work after three months, but man, I hear you sister, on so many of these points.

    I took the full year, because when else is anybody going to pay me not to work, and I did feel a little itchy about People Who Were Not Me looking after the kid when it was time to go back, but as soon as it happened? So long, suckers!

    Going back to work (three days initially, four days now) pretty much instantly dissolved my post-natal depression. Who knew all I needed to do was not be a full-time mum?

    I love my kid, fiercely, but I am a much better mother for not being constantly around him.

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    1. I love this comment, thank you for sharing.

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  17. Woohoo for your brilliant honest writing! I came back to full time work when my son was 6 months old - mainly because I earn more, and my husband had just accepted voluntary redundancy to start his own business. He ended up being our son's main caregiver for the next 18 months and that worked out pretty well for all concerned - though he does tell me he feels bad I 'had' to go back to work so soon - but, actually, I like my job and don't have the patience to be a Mummy 24/7, 365 days a year: so sue me.
    Now expecting No 2 and so maybe, maybe I will take a full year this time, maybe I won't. Who knows. I do wish there wasn't such a pervasive guilt-complex-industry going on that makes full time working mothers feel bad - and my amazing part-time childminding, hard-working, husband occasionally feel like a failure because he doesn't earn buckloads of money that would 'enable' me to give up work.

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    1. God yes. The pervasive guilt-complex-industry is unavoidable, both for mothers and fathers in that situation.

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  18. I'm not self employed, I'm a (very) part time art teacher but so much of what your wrote spoke to me. I applaud your honesty and thank you for your humour.
    I am one of those who wants to be with their kids all the time and I'm delighted to live in an age and society where that option is happily available to me. I actually sometimes feel a bit of pressure from working mums that I'm letting the side down or that I'm a bit lazy because I don't work out of the house more than I do.
    The two parts of your post which I really identified with was your husband doing the nightshift. My husband did the majority of the middle of the night soothing for our colicky son and while I was always awake too - who could sleep throught that? - most people I admitted this to, were horrified that I didn't let my husband sleep because he would have to get up the next day for work. And I too avoided all socialising with other new mums. The few times I tried I found it torturous and forced and not at all fun. Again people around me regarded this as odd.
    www.teaistheanswer.com

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    1. See, it just makes me crazy that *everyone* is inflicting guilt on everyone else; mothers who go back to work MUST feel terrible about it and mothers who stay at home MUST feel like they're being lazy. It's ridiculous.

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  19. Yes to this. It's sort of crazy to me how similar our situations are, though it seems like they shouldn't be. We were both at home for the first two months, and I worked as needed with David's help. Then awhile after we started daycare, which is basically a substitute for Nye (I'm sure the kid would LOVE to go to Nye and the girls every morning). And yes, the same. I miss him, I need a role other than mother, sometimes I feel guilty like if I'm not with him all the time I'm NOT a mother, I couldn't have done a year at home. Hell, I couldn't have done three MONTHS without any work. I would have been mad as a hatter by the end.

    But anyway, this comment must end, because kid is napping in the other room and work must be done. xoxoxoxooxo

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  20. I absolutely can't stop saying floppity milkers in my head now.

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  21. Just discovered your blog. Love this post. I will check back often. Greetings from Berlin.

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    1. Thank you for commenting!

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  22. "Show me a self-employed mother who is trying to work and look after her new baby while her partner is at work outside the house and I'll show you a fucking superhero. A crazy, tearful, unwashed superhero but a superhero nonetheless." Brilliant!! I am a self-employed designer/photographer who did just that. It sucked not being able to take truly ANY time off, as I was responding to frantic client voicemails/emails the day after I got home from a longer than expected emergency c-section stint in the hospital. My husband was home for one week and then we were on our own to navigate this strange new world. My son is now 3.5 and while some things are easier, it's still a ridiculous circus every single day! Beautiful, spot on synopsis of what it's really like!

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    1. 'a ridiculous circus', so accurate!

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  23. Thanks for this post, Cara. I'm from the Netherlands and over here mothers get a 16 week (paid) maternity leave, which includes a couple of weeks before the birth. This means most mothers start working again when their babies are only 3 (or 4 if they have a lot of holiday hours) months old. And although most mothers here probably experience the same emotions (I did!), going back to work after 3/4 months is the norm here. Daycare too. Anyway, what I'm trying to say, there is a huge cultural factor at play here. And that it probably doesn't really matter whén you go back (3 months being the minimum ;), it will always be difficult to leave your baby.

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    1. How interesting, I would have assumed that the Netherlands had a year's maternity leave, seeming as it does like one of them civilised Scandinavian countries!

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  24. Oh, I do love you. And the internet *is* ridiculous: #ifnotmoronsthen... Also, in case I didn't make it completely clear at the time, I highly rate the dog training approach to child-rearing. I mean, TWO BABIES. Whatever the fuck works and keep you guys sane!

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    1. The feeling's mutual my dear, the feeling's mutual.

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  25. Fantastic post. It's completely different being self employed - you can't just take nine months or more off even if you want to. It's not about earning money in the short term, it's about keeping your business going for the long term as if you stop replying to emails you'll end up with no business to go back to. I do feel a bit sad that I didn't get to take a complete break after either of my pregnancies, but I can appreciate that I have a flexible business and I love that I work from home with no office politics to deal with. When my friends were getting upset about going back to their office or workplace, it was nice to know that I could drop my boys with a childminder for three hours, blast out some work and then be back cuddling them before they even realised I'd gone. And yes, like you, I actually enjoy the break it gives me because I love what I do! Great blog btw. xx

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    1. This is such a perfect summary of how I feel; yes there are things that such about being a self-employed mother but it balances out with the things that are great about it; flexibility and freedom. Thank you!

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  26. Thought this article might interest you: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/02/opinion/sunday/coontz-the-triumph-of-the-working-mother.html?_r=0.

    While I can't relate to being self-employed or having twins, I know that working full-time, while sometimes challenging, is really key to my happiness, as a person and therefore as a mother.

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    1. Thank you for the link, that looks really interesting.

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  27. Mum of a 14 year old grunting, hairy and hormonal teenage son (handsome, sensitive and intuitive too) - became a mum at 24, straight out of university. Relied HEAVILY upon help from doting Grandmother when returning back to work/study. Resented partner at times (secretly & openly) for lack of guilt/confusion/despair and wailing when it came to the topic of: identity other than that of PARENT.
    Spent the next 14 years stumbling (and at very rare moments sailing) through the very individual maze of family.
    Now?
    Strongly believe that we defintely play more than JUST ONE ROLE in our lifetime... Mother, Father, Wife, Partner, Lover, Artist, Creator, Financier, Bitch who demands the toilet seat be put down...
    One day our children look at us through eyes that perceive more than just food, pocket money, taxi rides and even safe, secure love (God willing you had a journey that provided these things for you) ... They start to see you as a person capable of many things other than just being "their mum & dad" ... And that's where I want to shine too. I want my son to look and see me the artist, wife, obsessive compulsive, friend, Aunt, Sister, woman who quit her career to study Floral Art, entrepreneur, chicken loving, tea drinking, crazy ass lady.
    Hopefully that way he can rationalize that he too can make many varied choices on this frantic fabulous ride called life.
    Thank you Cara. Reading honest authentically voiced posts is fucking awesome and commenting is bloody cathartic. The Internet is stupid but it's also blooming brilliant. Xx

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    1. Thank you Angy, this is seriously one of the best comments that I've ever had on P&P. It makes such a huge difference hearing from mothers who are further ahead in their parenting journeys and I wish that there was more dialogue between mothers of babies and toddlers and those of teenagers and older kids. There seems to be a missing link between the two, it's not the same as talking to our parents' generation about raising us. Anyway, thank you so much, I really appreciate it.

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  28. Thank you so much for this post. I'm currently working (*ahem, or blog reading... oops) whilst my 4 month old naps. At the moment I'm just about managing to juggle business and baby, with a lot of help from husband who also conveniently works from home. But in a few months I have to start back at my part time job too, no idea how the hell that's going to work... but my plan at the moment is just to go with the flow and somehow it'll work out. The guilt of a) working from when he was a few weeks old and b) actually enjoying it .... I feel like I should whisper it in case too many people judge me. But then I look at him and he gives me a massive gummy grin, and I reckon - if he's happy, I'm doing an ok job. Heres to all the self employed mummys - when they grow up with a great work ethic, they'll have us to thank for that!

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    1. Hi Louise, well done juggling everything and good luck for what's ahead. I'm sure you'll figure it out!

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  29. i have three kids and my own business. i worked very late up into my last pregnancy and pretty much went straight back afterwards. we don't have any local family around to help or support us when it comes to looking after the kids so any childcare options all need to be paid ones. it’s all a bit of a scramble to be honest. i certainly haven't yet met anyone that seems to have the situation licked, be it full-time job, part-time job or stay at home mum.

    i hate the way that working and mothering are seen as two opposite ends of a spectrum. so if you're working, you almost have to pretend you aren't a mother at all because there's a resulting view that you may be less committed to your career/job/business. it’s total pants.

    i think once you have kids you become invisible professionally in many ways. in my 20’s i was working for a TV company in london. everyone was really young, there were no women above 35 really, definitely no working mothers. i never stopped to question: where are all the women here? where are they all going? why do they just disappear?

    maybe this is a huge part of the problem, that we’ve not got a game plan for how motherhood might be figured into a career trajectory. and you can be damn sure the men aren’t making a plan for how it might work either. i know i certainly never gave it a thought until it was right upon me i.e. i went and had an actual baby.

    (cara i did it! and didn't go anonymous either! so proud.)

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    1. Thank you so much for commenting Lottie, I really appreciate it. It's really interesting to hear from the point of view of someone who has done it (several times) and from someone who has worked in a completely different industry to the one we work in now!

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  30. I loved this. And it bothers me so much that I've thought and written about it before (in fact, your post made me think and write about it again: http://makealongstoryshort.net/2013/05/31/mothers-and-work-three-reasons-why-youre-doing-just-fine/)

    In a nutshell: having a baby completely changed my life in all sorts of ways I could never have predicted. I didn't know how attached I was to my identity as a competent(ish) professional adult, and that giving up work would feel like giving that up too. I didn't realise I'd be scrabbling for a sense of myself with adult interests, thoughts and pursuits, or how dehumanising nappies and mess can become when that's ALL you do. And I say that as someone who loves full-time at home with my toddler (and second about to arrive) and intends to stay at home while they're small.

    I freelance from home now, while he naps. Really struggle with getting the balance right. But I do need both, and I didn't think I would. It can feel like being slapped with guilt at both ends: oh, 'just' being a mother isn't enough for you? How shallow; or oh, you didn't want to go back to the office? How lazy and intellectually limited.

    I just think, having had this experience, that I'd never presume to know what another woman needed to be happy. Wherever they fall on the work-home spectrum. Being a mother isn't an add-on to your personality: you use all of yourself to mother with, which means there's no right way of doing it.

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    1. YES. It's so easy to assume that you know what someone else needs from motherhood/work/life but you never can and I think that's one of the biggest lessons that parenthood has taught me; stop assuming you know best because you don't have a bloody clue.

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  31. Thank you for this post, I really appreciate your candor.

    I don't have kids, but the decision is looming, and part of what is making me shy to go for it is this career issue. I live in a country that is very conservative on this issue, and women are expected to stay home. I could work on ignoring the social noise, but the structural issues are harder. There is almost no daycare, and if you get a spot you can count on your entire salary going towards it, women are paid a lot less, children have no school Wednesday afternoons, etc, etc.

    And as the "trailing spouse" as they say in ex-pat parlance (ie we moved for his job), I'm already struggling on the career front. In a way, that makes me want to say eff it and give up on working and just stay at home with some babies, but I know that's not what I actually want, it just seems like an "out" at the moment.

    Anyway, thanks for a great post and for getting a good conversation going, I have appreciated reading the replies.

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    1. You're very welcome Abby. And good luck figuring things out, it's difficult but usually, when you jump, things start falling into place. Or it at least becomes obvious the places that you need to move things to make it work.

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  32. Ahhh I wrote an incredibly long comment reply which my browser promptly ate. Now my baby needs me. Suffice to say I resonate with this very much. Thank you for posting it, Cara.

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  33. This was lovely. I just found your blog and so am, clearly, really late commenting on this. But I too was/am happy to be back at work, even though that means I am away from my 4-month old (I returned partish time when he was two-months and now am back to pretty much 55hr weeks). I am happy because I need an identity other than mother and even though I love him to pieces, my son is not the best conversationalist and I get so bored being at home with him. I have an immense respect for stay-at-home moms because to me it seems like a lot of the role is being a human burp rag and I do not have the patience for that.

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  34. Thank you so much for the post and comments. Currently working freelance and now at 32 weeks struggling to cope with any work at all!
    I'm starting to question how/if I'll cope after baby comes, if I'll have a career that I've worked so hard towards or if I'll have to change my vocation and start at the bottom again.

    It's been interesting heating the realities and perhaps it isn't worth getting too worked up about it now, and I'll just had to see how things pan out (if only one had the money! Lol)

    But it's definitely made me feel more reassured that there's options and light at the end of the tunnel x

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  35. I know this post is a little 'old' being 2013 but having found it, I just had to comment.

    I am currently 28 weeks pregnant with my first (baby D due in February 2015) and as I run a 'new' business with my hubby I am starting to look (panic) at how we will cope with both a new business and a new baby. Especially as when talking to others I have been helpfully told "you can't work, you'll have a baby" Duh! Is that what the growing belly lump is? A baby? And other encouraging advice such as "hubby will have to work whilst you look after baby." I don't want to just look after baby!

    Reading your post has given me hope that it is doable. I like the split shift idea of sleep & work - me and hubby have already discussed this and I know we will be implementing this! Thank you for your honest post and for making me remember that 'just good enough' is absolutely fine.

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  36. This post was hilarious! I was sort of half-and-half when my kids were born. I couldn't face going out to work while they were still defenceless 'ickle babies, but also would have lost the last dregs of my sanity if I was "just" a stay at home mum. I thought working at home was the elusive perfect work-life-family balance. And it is. Most of the time. My hubby works full-time outside the home and we rely on his wage to pay the bills but otherwise, your split shift thing sounds totally appealing and probs would have worked for us better. Like you say, we're all just trying to do our best by our kids with minimal fuck-ups! :)

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play nice.