Work Life Balance As A Mum, Is it Possible?
Career or kids? Is it possible to have it all? There are a hundred different ways to balance work and home life and my story is just one example.
I Wanted To Be A Full Time Mum
I have always worked from home. Very early on, I decided I wanted to be a stay-at-home mum. My ex-husband travelled internationally and was away throughout the working week. I didn’t want the kids to grow up with both of us working all the time. With the birth of my first child, I happily waved goodbye to my career, my salary, my company car and became a full-time mum.
Over the last nineteen years, I’ve popped out four delightful kids. Earning money from my kitchen table (although not a lot of it) has enabled me to be there in the early years and then after school. I have been able to share in the joy of Christmas school plays, attend parents’ evenings and not miss out on any significant events in any of my kids’ lives. I’ve had the time to prepare family meals and take on school arty, crafty projects with enthusiasm. Our weekends have always been relaxed because I did not have to cram every hairdressing, banking, dental and doctor appointment into the nooks and crannies of time. In essence, it’s been stress-free. The downside? Well of course, there is always a downside and it is that I have not fulfilled any personal career, financial or travel ambitions. I admire, greatly, the women that have.
All I Need Is A Fool Proof Mummy Plan For A Great Work Life Balance?
However, nine months ago, with all four kids in full-time education, I decided that it was the perfect time to get a ‘proper job’. The kind where you have to turn up on time and can’t leave when you want to. I picked teaching. I thought that getting into teaching, rather than business, would be simple. Particularly as the country is desperate for secondary school teachers, but no…it was challenging and arduous. There were lengthy application forms and personal statements to complete, interviews with exams, teaching assessments and role-plays as well as literacy and numeracy exams to pass. I did it all, and in September, I began my Initial Teacher Training (a combination of in-school and full-time university hours).
I lasted 3 weeks.
To ensure a healthy work life balance as a mum who did not want to ‘drop the ball’ with the kids, I had prepared everything perfectly: laundry, meals, cleaning, ironing, bed-changing, school drop-offs and pick-ups, after-school clubs, bus passes for the teens, shopping and everything else we all know it takes to run a house with four kids in it. I was super organised with almost military precision. Clothes hung in my wardrobe in colour coordinated order, the house was immaculate, and my diary was planned to within an inch of its life. My home office was ready for all the university homework, future lesson planning and marking. My freezer was also full of pre-cooked meals. I left the house at 7.00am at the latest and got home at around 5.30pm. I worked all evening, once the little ones were asleep, and every weekend too.
The Plan For A Great Work Life Balance Didnt Go To Plan
I missed my third child’s first day of school. I can tell you that FaceTime doesn’t ‘cut the mustard’ when you’re feeling guilty. By the time three weeks had passed my house was a catastrophe. The kids’ routines were all over the place, and I was exhausted. Trying to actually build a career, do Masters level studies and be the same mum that I was before was just impossible. I couldn’t be ‘less’ of a mum, if that makes sense. I’d spent nineteen years parenting in a particular way and being ‘less of a parent’ is like asking someone to ‘dumb down’.
It’s just not possible, no matter how hard you try and plan for a better work life balance as a mum. Not in my case anyway. The kids could not adjust either. I have always been diligent so I couldn’t perform less well at work and ‘drop a few balls’ there. So the balls that I had to drop were the housework jobs, stress-free evenings and weekends, being on top of school admin, sleep, laundry and….looking after my kids.
“One-half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it” – Sidney Howard
I knew I had to stop. We were all unhappy. Part of me hurt that I had jumped through so many hoops to be accepted. I desperately wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I wanted the career, the job security (the pension); and I desperately wanted to work with children and make a difference. But it was all at the expense of my personal sanity and my family’s happiness.
Trying to have it all is, in my opinion, un-achievable. Work life balance as a mum is near impossible, as something is always sacrificed. I could have undertaken a part-time job and managed, but a career, for me, was simply unattainable. The relief of quitting teaching was palpable. I will miss, however, just being me and being pretty good at something other than parenting; even if it was only for three little weeks.
Today, I find myself sat back at my kitchen table, working from home around the kids. Just as I always did. I will never be rich, but I will always be happy.
If you enjoyed this article, please read our article on work-life balance from a father’s perspective: 4 Tips on How to Achieve a Great Work-Life Balance