We walked into the modern offices and I felt a little weird again. In my head, I stuck out like a sore thumb.
Today I had a Dr’s appointment in the city so grabbed a lift with my husband who works at World Square.
As I walked around the city with my youngest toddler (14 month old) in tow, I realised that the city has become an intimidating and alien place to me now. I felt like a fish out of water. Pushing along my pram, dressed in comfy trousers, a t-shirt and flip-flops/thongs.
It was as though I’d entered a parallel universe. Everyone was bustling around with such purpose, as though they knew something I didn’t or were part of something I wasn’t.
My husband has recently started a new job so he took me to his office to meet his work colleagues. I hadn’t planned on this and felt a little panicked that I looked rather like a homeless person he’d dragged off the street. I quickly ran my fingers through my knotty hair. I then did the obligatory once over check that all was in order (i.e. no sick on me, no food splattering on me, bra wasn’t on full display – my toddler has a tendency to yank my top down in her quest for milk, no milk leakage and flies were up), all good. I was relieved to have the remnants of nail polish on my toes from a rare night out a few days ago.
We walked into the smart, modern, stylish offices and I felt a little weird again. In my head I stuck out like a sore thumb, I shouldn’t be here in these smart offices with these busy and important people. I’m just a stay at home mum! Everyone was of course utterly lovely and welcoming, particularly excited by the presence, distraction and novelty of having a toddler in the office.
But it got me thinking, what is it about becoming a mum and having a certain amount of time out of the ‘paid workforce’ that makes us feel like worthless beings, no longer fit to enter the doors of the corporate world?
With 15 years’ experience in HR and recruitment, I spent a lot of time wearing suits and working in offices. I have worked in big cities in England such as Manchester and Newcastle. A year of my life in Australia involved working in Sydney’s CBD, I got to know (and love) the city well during that time. Today made me more aware than ever how different my life has become. Since exiting the corporate world in 2012 to go on maternity leave with my first baby (minus a brief stint in-between children for a couple of months), my life has changed considerably.
It’s challenging, fun, monotonous, rewarding and stressful – but in different ways.
I was lucky enough to enjoy most of the jobs I had throughout my career. That said, I do remember times when I wished I could pack it all in. I thought the role of being a mum would be easier, rewarding, fun; and I was definitely in favour of having no one to answer to.
I had a lot to learn.
Being a mum is the toughest, most challenging job I have ever done! Sleep routines, sleep deprivation, cleaning, making food, changing nappies, washing – at times it takes monotony to a whole new level. And as for having no one to answer to, Sir Alan Sugar has a lot to learn from my 2 strong minded and bossy toddlers.
However, the rewards of being a stay at home mum are immense. The happiness I feel when I hear my children laughing, being there to see them take their first steps or utter their first words, the smiles they give me when they do something silly or say something cute and the way they make me feel when they run into my arms to cuddle me. These are the things that make the hard work and monotony worthwhile. Oh, and the fact that I rarely have to wear make-up, brush my hair or dress in high heels anymore!
I don’t intend to be a stay at home mum for ever. I miss having a different kind of purpose and being meaningful in other ways. I enjoyed the social aspect of going out to work and the independence. I would also like to contribute financially to our family.
But for the time being this is my life, and it’s one I love and am truly grateful for. I’m sure one day the city and the corporate world may become familiar to me again. It might take a little adjusting to get back into the swing of it and require a new wardrobe!
I’m not going to lie, I visualised ‘The Waltons’. I thought being a wife and mum would be a wholesome, happy, calm, loving and relatively easy ride. The love I have for my husband and children is immense and overwhelming. I know I’m blessed and we have hundreds of wonderfully happy moments. However, life with 2 toddlers is full on, hectic, exhausting and challenging. I have had to adapt my picture perfect image, lowering my standards and accepting that my perception of a ‘perfect wife and mother’ was a little unrealistic.
I played a big part in my sister’s life when she had her first 2 boys and thought I had a good idea of what life with kids was like. What I was forgetting was that I could walk away at the end of the day, returning to my tranquil haven of calm followed by sleep filled nights. I was an exciting novelty to my nephews who delighted in the attention I smothered them with and all the sugary treats I lavished upon them.
I believed that my pregnancy journey would involve eating nutritious and wholesome food, yoga and other mind and body relaxing/strengthening activities, leading up to the baby’s birth which would, of course, be as natural as possible. I would be a devoted wife and mother, bringing my children up in a healthy and nurturing environment.
The reality has been a little different.
I could barely eat for the duration of my pregnancies, most of what I could face would in no way be considered nutritious or wholesome. Suffering with severe nausea and hyperemesis, the smell of food was enough to send me running to the nearest toilet or bush to throw up. My poor husband was exiled to the veranda to spray his deodorant on despite it being the middle of winter as I couldn’t bear the smell of it. I had acne and ‘bacne’ and the only ‘blooming’ I felt was bloomin’ awful.
I couldn’t face getting out of bed let alone doing yoga. The days dragged and I’ve never wished an end to something as much as I did this. At least in my first pregnancy I had hope, each week thinking surely next week will be better. Second time around my glass was well and truly empty. I was going to be in a permanent state of nauseous hangover for the next 280 (give or take) days.
As for my natural birth, that was going to have to wait. Our first daughter was breech at 37 weeks. The obstetrician and midwives attempted an ECV to turn her around. It didn’t quite go according to plan -her heart rate dropped alarmingly (and my husband’s too as he looked on helplessly beside me turning green). The hospital informed me I had no other option but to have a C-section. Our baby was measuring small and appeared to be stuck. She was also potentially traumatised from the ECV and they felt she wouldn’t cope/survive a vaginal delivery.
I was devastated. It took me a few days to get my head around the fact I wouldn’t be pushing my baby out. Guy Sebastian’s voice wouldn’t be playing out on the CD player nor would my fiancé be massaging my shoulders as we’d practiced in the weeks of ante natal classes leading up to this point. Reluctantly, I agreed. Her way out into the world didn’t change the fact that I loved her immediately, just as much as I love her sister who I did push out 18 months later.
When I first became a Mum I wasn’t married to my now husband. It was strange for me to accept that I would be finishing work and no longer have money coming into my bank each month. In Australia most companies don’t offer maternity pay so, on top of the fact I wasn’t receiving financial support from the government as we weren’t permanent residents, I also wasn’t receiving anything from my employer. At the age of 34, having been financially self-sufficient for as long as I can remember, I was freaking out, aware of my dependency on my fiancé.
Luckily for me my fiancé (now husband) was wonderful. From the minute my job ended and my maternity leave began he gave me a bank card with full access to his bank account which he informed me was now ‘ours’. Regardless of his generosity it still felt alien to me. I continually asked if it was ‘ok’ for me to buy things, feeling guilty when I made purchases that felt like luxuries.
The fact that financially he was entirely supporting us made me take my role in the home very seriously. I felt that our daughter and everything ‘home related’ was my responsibility, an old-fashioned view I know but mine nonetheless. Luckily for me he was not so pre-historic in his views. He adores our girls and helps out in every way possible whenever he’s around, regularly chastising me for overdoing it in my bid to be ‘the perfect wife and mother’. He gets frustrated with my guilt at spending money and encourages me to treat myself from time to time.
Whilst I did manage to achieve most of the day-to-day tasks I set myself when we had one child it soon changed with the arrival of our next daughter 18 months later. My daily walks to do the grocery shopping have now been replaced with online shopping. The children’s dinner is last minute, usually thrown together from whatever I have available in the fridge (my eldest was so hungry the other day she started eating frozen fish fingers out of the box #badMummy). Our dinner is way down the pecking order and if it wasn’t for my husband being such a good cook it would probably be beans on toast most nights. The washing basket is never empty, ironing is a foreign word, the children’s toys remain scattered across the apartment and the jobs pile up.
Before I had the girls I thought the following:
- No processed food
- No eating in the pram or car seat
- Limit watching TV
- Not IPad
- Clean snot from their noses immediately
- Never let them cry themselves to sleep
- No dummies
- Read to them every night
- Brush their teeth twice a day
- Having girls I would enjoy washing, brushing and accessorising their beautiful hair
- I would lead by example not shouting at them or my husband
- Food is whatever is to hand as quickly and easily as possible
- Eating in the pram and car seat is standard (often the only way to negotiate with them to get in or stay put)
- Dinner is in front of the TV most evenings
- Dummies are essential
- Snot regularly pours from their nose (It’s impossible to keep on top of)
- Brushing teeth has become a form of torture to our eldest
- Brushing hair has become a form of torture to our eldest
- I’m often not calm or patient and sometimes I LOSE IT!
Occasionally I joke with other mums that being a parent is about survival. Whilst I know I have only their best interests at heart, sometimes the journey to get to the end point is harder than anticipated and it is necessary to employ any tactic possible to get there. It doesn’t mean that they won’t turn out ok or that my love for them is any less, just that we aren’t quite ‘The Walton’s’.