Being a working mum is basically like having two full-time jobs.
We can temporarily put one on pause for a few hours, but we don’t stop thinking about parenting commitments and our list of things to do at work ever.
Having returned to work at the start of this month after having my second child, there are a few things I’ve learned. Nod along and do leave a comment if you agree!
1. The guilt is agony
Mummy guilt is a real pain in the bum. It doesn’t matter if you know you’re trying your absolute best and are putting everyone else first, you still feel like you’ve let your children down somehow.
When it comes to returning to work, the mum guilt fairy strolls up and gives you a good whack just to remind you what a terrible mother you are.
You feel guilty for leaving them in childcare.
You feel guilty for missing out on their milestones.
You feel guilty seeing them cry when you leave.
You feel guilty that you actually quite enjoy the peace and quiet of being in an empty car on the way to work.
There’s no hiding from the mum guilt fairy, but a glass of wine on a Friday night tends to shut the old cow up!
2. Lunch never tasted so good
At home with the kids eating lunch involves stuffing as much as physically possibly into your mouth before the children can steal what’s on your plate.
When they’re not stealing your food, they’re doing something dangerous or destructive that causes you to abandon your plate and make a dive to save the day.
At work you can sit and eat lunch at your own pace. You can read a newspaper or magazine or waste a few minutes on Twitter. The beauty of it is, it’s up to you! Even if all you have is a boring salad, every bite will taste like freedom.
3. Work conflicts are a breeze
When you’ve spent an entire day arguing with a toddler about whether their shoes are on inside out, having someone at work be a bit of a prick is an absolute doddle to handle.
Mamas have the patience of absolute bloody saints. So when Dave from marketing makes Jane from accounts cry with his pig-headed behaviour, we know how to gently tell Dave to stop being such a bell-end and how to convince Jane to get back to work.
4. Always check the mirror
When you’re rushing to get children out of the door on time, you will not have the chance to look down and see what disaster has befallen your outfit today.
In general toothpaste smudges and milk stains can be hidden or wiped off easily. But you want to catch them quick before they set.
Also if your children have been playing with pens, you just know you’ll have a rogue mark or five on your face, and that you won’t notice until after that important meeting you have at 9am.
Always check the mirror before you leave the house!
5. There’s ill and then there’s ILL
With your children in nursery every member of the family will go through a steady stream of colds, tummy bugs, runny noses, and other deeply unpleasant contagious infections.
However there are degrees of ill. A runny nose is a non-event, a sore throat is an inconvenience but survivable, a cough isn’t worth mentioning, and vomiting sporadically requires working from home. It’s only when you’re too ill to open even one eye that you get to call for reinforcements.
6. You’re like a machine
If you’ve managed to get yourself a flexible working deal so that you can still squeeze in some time with the kids at the end of the day, you will find yourself simply doing the same amount of work in less time.
For some reason us mamas feel so grateful to be offered a chance to work at hours set by us, while being paid slightly less for the privilege, that we decide to flog ourselves to prove that we are worth it.
In fact it doesn’t matter what working hours you’ve returned on, you’ll be so keen to prove you haven’t totally lost the plot since having kids (you have but you don’t want anyone else to know that) that you’ll work through lunch, breaks and type like the keyboard is on fire to show you still have the skills to pay the bills.
7. You apologise and explain constantly
Everyone has an opinion when it comes to kids. Unfortunately one of the most passionately held opinions tends to centre around work.
For me this issue comes down to what is right for you. However I’ve read, heard from and debated with many a person who says you shouldn’t leave a one-year-old in full-time childcare.
Kids are only little for so long, so why aren’t us mamas just jacking in our selfish careers and staying at home with our poor abandoned kids?
As a result you find yourself telling co-workers, fellow mamas, relatives, the patrol station checkout person and anyone else who asks why going back to work was necessary. Your family needs the money, you had to go back or you would lose your maternity pay, or, shock horror, you actually love your job.
You find yourself justifying your decision way too frequently, which puts you right back to number 1.
8. You’re tired on a new level
Your entire day passes in a blur of limbs struggling against being put into clothes, coffee cups, meetings, handshakes, emails and traffic lights as you race to get the kids on time.
This means that by the end of the day you’re not only physically tired, but mentally you haven’t even had a chance to process what happened all day.
When Natalie who sits opposite you yawns and remarks she’s still feeling a little bit delicate after her wild night out on Saturday, even though she spent all day Sunday in bed, you think she’s very fortunate that looks do not kill.
9. The conversation is amazing
There are no chats about which of the pups from the Paw Patrol is your favourite. Nope it’s all grown-up talk only. The relief to talk about adult topics without interruption from a small person demanding a biscuit is quite amazing.
You can say f**k freely, though not too much or people will think you’re trying to pick a fight. You can talk about celebrity nonsense, decorating your house, why you love Ikea, your new work shoes, what the hell is up with Donald Trump, whatever you want.
Being able to relax and focus on a conversation is a gift.
10. You can’t wait to see your kids again
There’s a little bubble of excitement in your tummy as you leave work to get your children.
Seeing their faces when you arrive to collect them and asking how their day was is the best feeling. Those cuddles feel even better than ever.