A return to work

Oscar is asleep.  It took plenty of rocking and a bit of boob, but he’s actually sound asleep snoring on my bed in the room next to me as I type.

The house is in disarray; the landing is currently housing Oscar’s changing mat along with a slightly damp towel and the bathroom has his large clunky baby bath filled to the brim with still-warm water, some coloured plastic balls and a yellow watering can.  Downstairs, toys lay strewn across a large playmat in the lounge and Oscar’s half-eaten toast breakfast lays abandoned across the tray of his high chair (and also the floor).

Yet, I am choosing to ignore all of the chaos in my house right now and hole myself away in the office with a sugary snack, large glass of water and my computer so that I may write, as I feel I’ve not had the chance to do so for a while.

As I glance outside of the office window I can see a young Mum sporting a fag, mindlessly kicking a ball around the grass fronting our street, whilst a toddler jogs behind, gripping tightly onto a large Pooh bear.  She doesn’t appear to be paying him much attention, but it’s hard to know the full story looking in from the outside.

I hope that I never appear to ignore Oscar, or become too busy to give him my time and attention.

Since last writing I have handed in my notice at my job.  As a high school teacher I would often be working long past midnight in the evenings, and with an early alarm set for 4am – sometimes even earlier – during coursework submission months.  Running is my love and my escape, but at times even that didn’t make it high up the priority list for the week, leaving me constantly feeling tired and run down and not enjoying life.

Having a baby is so much more work than I ever imagined.  (I admit I was rather naive and blasé about it all!)  I cannot imagine trying to fit a seven, eight or nine month old baby into the crazy routine that had become my life.  Maybe a little selfishly, I want to see Oscar grow up myself, – not have him brought up by somebody else.  As it is, I will be returning to work for the final half term of the year (June-July) and fear that the first time that he crawls and his first steps are going to fall during those weeks.  He’s already pulling himself up using chairs and is never happier than when he has hold of a pair of hands helping him walk around the lounge.

He turns seven months old tomorrow.  I almost missed this milestone as in my head he is still that tiny little baby who weighed less than 7lbs and who I had to feed every two hours.  Sleep deprivation is incredibly difficult, but it does get easier – your body somehow manages to cope with less and less sleep each night.  I joked to Dan the other day that I couldn’t wait for Oscar to become a teenager so that I may enjoy a few lye-ins (something I very rarely had even before Oscar was born).  Dan quickly told me that I shouldn’t wish the time away.  I absolutely do not want to start doing that!

I’m loving spending my days with him at the moment.  Almost-seven-months is a lovely age.  He’s so interactive and cheeky and fun to be with right now.  We have a great little routine going and even though Dan has ended up working more hours in a week than we initially anticipated, we do manage to juggle all of the weekly household tasks alongside Oscar-duty between us.  I feel at the moment we are managing to make a go somewhat of adult life.

Oscar can sit up confidently on his own now, but he always wants to stand.  We bought him a walker-which he adores, but he adores it more if you interact with him whilst he’s in it, paying him lots of attention.  That’s what my days tend to consist of lately; a mad rush first thing to shower, breakfast, wash up, get the washing on and make Dan’s packed lunch whilst he is still around to watch Oscar.  Then comes a day of swimming lessons, or stay and play group, or a run in the buggy and lots of play time, before (hopefully) an afternoon nap when I can start on tea, which Oscar now has with us.  8pm is his bedtime, and he then usually has a solid eight hours of sleep before a brief wake to feed and then heads back to bed again.  I can’t get him down to sleep the way that Dan can, so bed-duty is currently down to Daddy.  It’s nice that Dan has a needed role in all this parenting malarkey.  So often I think the Dads can be forgotten about.

We’re muddling through at the moment.  Does anyone ever feel like they honestly really know what they are doing?  Somebody (a non-parent) asked Dan and I the other day if it felt ‘real’ yet.  There are days when it doesn’t.  Oscar is always the first thought on my mind when I wake up and every decision I make during every single day of the week has to bear Oscar in mind, but I still feel like we are just ‘muddling through’ and hope that one day perhaps we will truly know what we are supposed to do as parents.

The decision not to return to work was in some ways a big one.  I have always wanted to stay home during the time any children I may have were small, but obviously career path and money become factors in the reality of this.  I’ve always worked hard since I was a teenager, – often holding down more than one job at once – and partly because of this we own a large proportion of our house.  Just after Christmas Dan accepted a new job working in the technical side of a large law firm.  The job meant that he would be closer to home and earning more money.  We no longer needed to have a second full time income to survive.  An income of which most would likely have to go straight into childcare costs if I was to return to work.  I spent some time researching costs and money making ideas to discover that I could likely bring in enough money on the side working from home to cover our rainy day fund and so an idea began to grow.

It didn’t help that back in February I was offered a long-awaited promotion, meaning a higher salary and more responsibility.  It was tough to turn down, but I know that long term it will be better for both Oscar, and Dan and I as parents – our entire little family.

A couple of weeks ago at a BBQ get-together, having just announced that I had handed in my notice to finish work at the end of the Summer, one of Dan’s friends responded with “So are you just going to live off of Dan’s money now then?”

This question really got my back up.

When Oscar starts nursery in June, we will be paying £890 a month for the privilege.  Not only does that mean I will never see a large chunk of my salary each month, but I will not have any time to do the things that I want to do.  My life will consist of getting Oscar round in the morning, bundling him off to nursery, working all day, collecting him in the evening, cooking tea, cleaning and clearing, washing and tidying (all inbetween keeping Oscar entertained) until Oscar’s bedtime when I would be able to sit at the computer and plan and mark until the early hours of the following morning, hoping that Oscar would sleep through the night and I might just get enough sleep to let me get through the following day.  He wants my attention during all his waking hours.  At the moment, he is not old enough to be left to entertain himself and all those ‘free’ hours I thought I would be able to dedicate to house renovations and blogging during the day seem to pass me by as I stack brightly coloured cups for Oscar to knock down over and over again, and over-enthusiastically smile, praise and make chewing motions for the tenth time as he turns his nose up at a slice of courgette.

If Oscar was ill, the guilt I would feel for having to take time off from work – letting others down – would be high.  I would miss all of his milestone moments and not truly enjoy my time with him as I would always be waiting for his bedtime, and the time that I knew that I would be able to get on with my never ending to-do-list.  I know that I would feel constantly stressed, rushed off my feet and unable to do anything to the best of my ability.

No time for running, no time for blogging, or walking or taking photos, or volunteering on the running club committee, or social media or watching TV boxsets with a tub of Ben & Jerrys or just hanging out on the sofa with my husband because we didn’t fancy going out.  Life would just become looking after my child, housework and teaching.  I want to be more than that.  I need to be more than that.

A friend recently commented that they would have to return to work when they had children as they would not be able to afford to stay home with a child.  It is what you make it though.  Dan and I don’t want for fast cars and expensive holidays.  Everything we have (bar our house) is paid in full and we saved up to buy those things.  We don’t need money.  We don’t need anything.  Just enough to pay the bills each month and we will get by.

I know that having children was our decision and something that I wanted to do and I absolutely want to bring Oscar (and any future children) up in a loving, safe home.  One where Dan and I have time to spend with our children and can watch them learn and grow.  A home where our children learn to bake, play football and have fun with arts and crafts.  Not one where they watch three hours of TV before bed because I don’t have time for them as I have 100 year 9 reports due by the end of the week and I need to finish writing a new Scheme of Work for year 12 before my head touches the pillow.

My Head of Department summed up how I was feeling when I handed in my notice…

“I know that you won’t have made this decision lightly.  I also know that you couldn’t possibly be just an ‘OK’ teacher and just an ‘OK’ Mum, so it’s about priorities.  It’s so important to be happy in life Mary.”

I’ve actually already been offered a couple of roles that I can complete from home since handing my notice in (marking for an exam board and moderating coursework for my current school) and have a few ideas on how to make the odd tenner here and there alongside my new full-time role as parent.

I know that ultimately I have made the right decision for our little family so let our adventures as a family of three begin…

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