I left my full time teaching job almost three years ago. I absolutely loved my job but it left no time for my family. My son was already in to double figures and I was really starting to notice the absence of family time and quality time together. I would drop him off at Breakfast club at 7.30am, hot foot it along to school for meetings at 8am, do a whole day at school, returning to collect him from after school club just before 6pm. By the time we got home, it was a case of shoving something quick in to the oven whilst we’d hurry through his homework, then after dinner I would have to start marking books and planning lessons ready for the next morning. It occurred to me that as much as I loved my job, and I really really did, my life was becoming more about other people’s children and less about my own and that didn’t sit comfortably with me. I still believe to this day that if teaching had remained about the children and less about the paperwork, it would still have been possible for me to maintain my teaching career and raise my family in the way I felt was important but unfortunately teaching is not what it used to be and teachers are now under immense pressure with ridiculous workloads.
Three years ago I decided that the only way I could invest the time I felt my family needed, was to go self employed. My Husband, before this, had worked shifts and so we had done our fair share of him missing the important times as a family – Birthdays, Weddings, weekends away, Christmas and the like. We made a decision together, as scary as it was, for both of us to establish a family business so that we could work in a more flexible way that better met the needs of our family.
I’m not saying that we have the perfect work life balance because we don’t. Being self employed is not an easy road and it is by no means an easy way to make a living. We hadn’t fully appreciated the hours upon hours of work that would need to be invested to establish a successful business and at times it was all-consuming and physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting and there were a lot of times where I thought we were even worse off as a family but the more the business grew, the more we were able to relax in to it and find our momentum.
We are now in a position where we work Monday to Friday, office hours and any work that is needed to be done at home on an evening is done after the children have gone to bed. My son is almost 15 now and he is already choosing to spend a lot of time on his own in his bedroom and I do feel bad when I think of all the time I wasted during the years where it was actually semi-cool to hang out with your mum! But we have made the right changes now, even if I do regret not doing it sooner.
We now have a daughter who is almost one and the lessons I learned with my son are definitely holding value now. I am privileged enough to be able to have lazy mornings with her instead of having to get her changed, stick her in the car and race her to nursery for breakfast and often I get the chance to collect her early which gives us valuable time to play together.
I will never ever take weekends for granted. If you ask anyone who has previously had to work awkward shift patterns or weekends before, I am certain they would say the same. Weekends are just everything to us. Having to work full time may mean that we only have weekends to cram in quality family time but I am very grateful for that, some families don’t even have that. Having weekends means that we can make exciting plans through the week and those plans keep us motivated all week long. There is no better feeling than getting home on a Friday evening from work and school, knowing that we have the weekend together to make up for us all having to be elsewhere and busy during the week. We all feel that excitement, even our (sometimes) grumpy teenager!
Having two full days to just do ‘us’ is so important. During weekends we always make the time to be together. Whilst I do promote the importance of our teen socialising outside of school and building friendships away from school, I do think it is really important for us to reserve as much time as possible for us as a family. I am very fortunate that he doesn’t (yet!) view family time as a drag or a bore. I love that he loves spending time together as a family. I really do hope that his view on family time never ever changes.
I’ve always said that it doesn’t even matter what you do as a family or where you go – it’s the being together that really counts. So whilst we love to go on day trips or visit places of interest, see extended family and so on, there is also beauty in just being able to be together doing absolutely nothing. We call those days our ‘Duvet Days’. We love having duvet days together – sitting in our Pjs all cuddled up on the sofa, watching movies and eating treats.
We like to eat out together if we can on a regular basis too so we’ll often head out on a Sunday for Sunday lunch. Getting the kids out of the house, particularly for the little one, gives them a change of scenery and gets them away from the distractions at home – the noisy toys, the laptop, ipad, phone, television etc – and we can just focus on us. It’s then we can have uninterrupted conversations, discussions, giggles and fun together.
That family time keeps me sane. I know that when I was working round the clock, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt for not spending time as a family and I really felt sad for not having that one on one time with my boy. Now we have that time, and my husband now works ‘normal hours’, it is so lovely to know that at the end of every working week, we have two days dedicated to just doing us. I suspect that some stay at home mums would consider two days not enough. And I would totally agree with them; it isn’t enough. But, I have no choice but to work. I hate that I see my children for all of a couple of hours before school and nursery and a couple of hours afterwards Monday to Friday but right now, that is just the way it has to be. However, because I miss them with every bone of my body whilst at work, I make every single minute on a weekend count with them. I value every memory we make. I feel lucky too. I am lucky that we have jobs that assist us to look after our family; I am lucky that I am now able to work on weekdays only, giving us that precious family time we need on weekends. Finally, I am lucky that I have children that value family time as much as I do. I really hope that never changes.
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