The Classic Work / Life Balance, Juggling Act, Spinning Plates….
I went to back to work when my daughter was seven months old – to some that was too early but I was in the very fortunate position to be going back to a job I loved and missed. Whilst a fabulous and successful company, it is a small company and it didn’t sit right with me to take any longer off work – and no, I don’t feel guilty for prioritising that. Money was of course a factor too. My maternity pay was paid in full for three months and then down to statutory maternity pay every month thereafter – ouch.
Going back to work was the classic ‘going back to work for a rest’ scenario. I absolutely loved my time on maternity leave, it was so precious and memorable but I was ready to use my brain again and to have more diverse conversations! As soon as I went back, I realised how much I enjoyed my own company too – driving in with the radio on, grabbing my morning coffee, having two arms to do everything…!
I don’t work on the doorstep of home – on a normal day, it takes 40 minutes to drive into work but get the traffic wrong and it can be a two hour journey. Add that to the still occasional disturbed night’s sleep that a one year old can bring and it can be a killer. As selfish as it sounds, I dread her catching another cold or teething again – my priority is of course whether she is ok(!) but I can’t lie that I don’t then wonder how much sleep I’ll lose and dread my alarm going off!
I am constantly asked why I do it, why put myself through that when I could maybe find a job closer to my doorstep?
I started out in TV and media but then left it for a while to do something more ‘sensible’ (mortgage companies wouldn’t touch me at the time until I did!) I did so for eight years and had by then worked my way up, travelled all over the world in my role(s), and had a company car. But I was bored. Oh so very bored and it just wasn’t for me. I missed creativity and the art of having ideas and now I’m now back to where I feel I belong, I’m not prepared to throw that away again.
I can honestly say that my job is my passion, my hobby. I love the work and I love the people. I am surrounded by people on the same level and no longer have ‘the itch.’ It is a fantastic, and I appreciate enviable, position to be in, but my God, have I worked hard for it and to be back here.
Life is definitely tougher with a child in the mix too. The nights I get home at 7pm, I have to practically get her straight to bed or ring my husband and ask that he starts her routine as I’m stuck in traffic. I dislike those nights, I have to say, but I do manage to strike a balance, and I hope one day she agrees that I did that.
We also work on a huge, well known TV show which can mean that we are filming into the very early hours, resulting in getting into bed any time between 12am – 5am – these are of course days when I don’t see that little smile at all albeit my husband always sends me a little picture of her all tucked up in her PJs which helps (me at least).
“Work in a job you love and you’ll never work another day in your life” and that is SO true. If I didn’t feel this, I’m not sure that I would feel balance was being restored. The guilt does kick in on occasion but then I know we’ll get that time back and I’ll more than make up for it.
I have been able to find the balance thanks to having a boss that understands the value of flexible working.
Monday and Thursday, when I work full days, I am lucky enough to have my mother in law and parents look after her respectively. Tuesday and Wednesday she is in nursery 8am-6pm – my husband takes her and I pick her up, meaning I leave work at 4pm to avoid the traffic. Fridays I don’t work and we have a lovely, quality mummy and daughter day. That day is so important to me.
Thankfully, our director understands that it is results that are important, not time-serving. I wish for so many people that their companies understood this too. It works both ways. I have always wanted to give my all when it comes to my work but it makes you want to do that more so when you are given the respect and freedom too. Equally, I understand that on occasion, I will have to work a longer Tuesday or Wednesday or go in on a Friday but because the respect and the trust is given, I want to repay it, and everyone is happy.
Yes, I’m absolutely shattered, yes I struggle to get out of bed some mornings and yes, some nights I go straight to bed once we’ve put her down. But to me it is all worth it. The balancing act for me isn’t just about keeping my daughter happy but keeping myself happy too – happy mum, happy baby, I say – I do so by making sure that every extra hour I spend working or travelling is put back into her in the evenings, on Fridays and at the weekend – seieng that little smile light up when we’re playing, doing something simple like reading a book or are on the little train at the park is all I need to know that all’s good in our little world.
Had I not have been in such a great flexible position at work, I would indeed be running for the hills. I have been miserable in some of my more ‘sensible’, ‘real’ jobs and that is certainly not something I want to bring home to my daughter. I hope she too can one day find something she loves to do and pursues it.
Life is tough and we all have to get by which ever ways suits. There is no right and wrong. Let’s face it, every person you look at who seems to have it all covered is winging it just like the rest of us! Hats off to each and every ruddy one of us!