A Day in the Life of #ThisMum: Helen from Welsh Mum Writing

Well hello Sunday, you little minx! And what is so great about a Sunday I hear you ask (apart from the fact that it is practically the law to spend Sunday in your pyjamas, not quite asleep but not quite awake either…)?! Sundays are bliddy brilliant because it means we add another gorgeous Mummy to the #ThisMum catalogue of wonderful mummies! And boy are you going to LOVE this little treasure of a read! Welcome Helen, from the Welsh Mum Writing blog. I am over the moon that Helen has allowed us a fast pass in to her life to see what an average day in her life looks like!

A lot of Helen’s post resonated with me. I have attempted to work from home for part of the week and the office the rest of the week in a bid to keep nursery fees down and spend more time with Little Miss. I found the ‘working at home’ days incredibly stressful; this surprised me. I had totally romanticised it in my head though. I would sit during my maternity leave and visualise me sat at the dining table with my laptop, typing with one hand, nursing the baby (who, funnily enough, was always impeccably behaved, happy and mega-cute in these visualisations!) with the other, sipping an espresso (that was the only bit I got right – lots of caffeine needed) and talking to my colleagues in my ‘work voice’ via speaker phone. In my head I was totally going to rock the hell out of multi tasking. I was to be a multi tasking warrior. With a baby that would just ‘slot’ right in with my work. Oh dear. What a long way I had to fall. Oh my how wrong I was. I’m not too proud to admit that I just couldn’t make it work. On the days I would work from home I didn’t like the mum I was on those days and I didn’t like the business person I was on those days. Life was hectic, disorganised and chaos on those days. Utter chaos. It would take me three and a half hours to reply to an email because I would manage two words before I would need to get up and see to Little Miss. I wanted it to work so bad but very quickly i realised that my Little Miss deserved better than that and not being the Mum I wanted to be on those days made me feel very unhappy in myself. I was just way too over stretched. And she deserved better than that. She deserved to have someone to play with her round the clock. She deserved to have the undivided attention she needed. I was sad to admit that I just couldn’t make it work but we quickly realised we were going to need nursery full time. I admire Helen so much that she has been able to make it work for her -she sounds so organised too! Working the early mornings and evenings sounds like a really good idea. 

Helen mentions meeting with a friend for a play date during the day and I think this is the first post in the series that a Mum has mentioned meeting with a friend and I know from personal experience how much brighter I felt when I met with a friend during my maternity leave. When I was at home with Little Miss during maternity leave there were times where I felt lonely, really lonely. We have one car in the family so my husband would take it to work and I would feel quite isolated at times. It was amazing how much brighter and better I felt when I met with a friend for a few hours though. It was good for both Little Miss and me. Socialising and having adults to talk to is so important as a mum. The days can be repetitive and lonely without that interaction with others. 

Anyway – I have warbled on way too much – here’s the lovely Helen with her day in the life of #ThisMum post:

About Helen

I’m a forty something first time in South Wales, trying to juggle home life and working. I blog about the stresses and funny side of parenting, along with things I’ve learned that help save me time and money. I occasionally rant. I DO NOT have this parenting thing down, but happy to share my muddle juggle.

A Day in Helen’s Life

It’s 5am and I’m awake. I’m almost always awake then. Small Boy is an early riser. I’ve been up at 5am for two years straight now. It’s now the norm and I’m even a little surprised when I tell people I’ve often started work by 5.30am and they look at me in horror.

I work full time for a large organisation on a flexible basis. My hours are compressed which means I work the majority of them over three days and work two shorter ones, with the shorter ones being at home and the time work split from early morning to early evening. This means I can work them around Small Boy and don’t need to pay for nursery two days a week.

I’m incredibly lucky. Working for a flexible employer means I’ve been able to change my hours and working pattern twice since returning to work last year. I have no burning desire to work full time, but with husband changing job and the uncertainty that always brings, along with needing to buy a bigger house now Small Boy is here, needs must.

The number of hours I work is calculated carefully as we don’t have any other regular childcare except for private nursery. The knife edge between making it worthwhile working X hours over the cost of Y days in nursery means I’m treading a careful line. I’m currently in a funk trying to figure out if I can afford to cut back my hours, but we are in the process of buying a new house and we need a new car so I might have to stay funky for a bit longer. Still, I don’t need to worry about putting food on the table; even though the cost of childcare means that luxuries like holidays require a good deal of planning and some of my best money saving skills.

Today is a home working day. It’s all a bit manic, and the flexibility rather than empowering feels pressurising somehow. Home working days are a bit more of a juggle. Office days are more straightforward, I get in to work early (around 7am, or do an hour or two at home and get in for 8am), and my husband takes Small Boy to nursery. I always do the afternoon pick up from nursery, normally around 4.30pm as it’s a long day for him otherwise.

So at 5am the laptop is open and I’m logging in at the dining table. I used to have a home office but it’s currently full of packing boxes as we are waiting to move into a new house (if solicitors can get a chuffing move on). I’ve already had a snuggle with Small Boy in bed, as he was up earlier than usual, while his Dad has a shower. This is how days normally begin. Dad showers and has Small Boy, then I shower and get dressed and then start work – either at home, or in the office.

Small Boy is eating his usual wake up snack – a wafer biscuit and a cup of milk. He takes after me and doesn’t like his proper breakfast straight away. He’s explaining something very important to his Dad while I check emails, book some meetings and review a paper that I’d drafted for a meeting when I was slightly less rested. As Small Boy is still up and about and in the background, the early morning tends to be the preserve of admin tasks. I’ve already had a minor melt down over how we will cope when Small Boy drops his afternoon nap and how we’ll manage to do the school runs – although that’s another three years away.

Dad leaves for work at 7.30am so I’m logged off again and it’s just me and Small Boy. We eat breakfast together, then he dresses and we potter about the house, draw on the chalk board or do some puzzles.

Today one of my ante-natal class friends is coming over for a playdate. She’ll be over mid-morning after she’s been to a playgroup. I used to go to them too but it’s practically impossible now (although I’ve set myself a task of finding one on my home working days, something local which I can squeeze in during an hour I’m not working).

I’m looking forward to seeing the as I haven’t made the most of my home working days lately. I tend to be off the clock from about 10am – 3pm on Mondays, depending on Small Boy’s naps. Usually we try and get out and go to the farm or soft play or just head into town and walk about the shops. I’ve worked in excess of my contracted hours the past few Monday’s. Others missed deadlines and I ended up trying to get things done when I wasn’t meant to be working. I wouldn’t have if I only worked in the office though.

By 11am our friends come over and a couple of hours are spent catching up on life. I love watching the kids at play and I tell myself that I need to make more effort to get out and do stuff with Small Boy and learn to say no to the day job more. I make cheesy breakfast egg cups and lay out a living room picnic with the savoury goodies, along with blueberries and soft cheese sandwiches.

They leave around 12.30 and Small Boy is ready for his nap. He curls up in his cot and I tip toe back to my laptop, making a detour to the kitchen to throw some stuff into the slow cooker for tea.

Small Boy loves his daytime sleep (if only he loved the night as well!) so he’ll sleep for around two hours. Lately he’s been poorly and going through a growth spurt so he sometimes goes to three hours!

This is when work proper starts. I’m highly caffeinated by now and my brain is working properly. I only need to do a few hours and I try and do them in the evening but it seems like a don’t waste of nap time to postpone it. Fortunately, I don’t have any meetings to dial into today – on Fridays I can have two hours back to back with my mobile phone burning my ear off.

Before I know it it’s 3pm and small Boy is awake. He’s been sleeping longer recently as he’s had a spate of illnesses. I have been able to use the time to conquer a spreadsheet and set up a Trello board though. I’ve managed several cups of hot tea which is a win.

He’s a bit dopey when he’s woken up so we have a couple of hours of just chilling with books and watching CBeebies. He’s in a good mood as he enjoyed playing with his girlfriend earlier. He has a snack and some milk while I wonder how long it would take for my blog to make enough money that I can reduce my hours. The funk begins to descend but I brush it aside as it’s now incredibly important that we do a Peppa Pig jigsaw.

By 6pm, Dad his home and I serve up tea from the slow cooker. Small Boy is currently refusing to sit in a high chair or on a booster but can’t reach the dining table, so we sit on the floor around a low table – Japanese style – and tell each other how yummy it is.

Dad does the bath while I clear up and quickly check my work phone to see how many emails I need to action – forewarned is forearmed. Thankfully there’s not much so I quickly reply to the essentials.

CBeebies is finishing and despite his protests, Small Boy is wiped out. I take him up to his room at 7.30 pm and we sit in the chair and I sing him a song. He has a selection of night time lullabies – some of them are old standards which he loves (yep, no kids songs for him), while others are ones I’ve made up. Tonight it’s his favourite – “Your Belong to Me” – the Patsy Cline arrangement. He’s beginning to wind down now so I put him in his cot bed, with his trusted rabbit blanky and he rolls on to his side.

I tip toe down the stairs and collapse on the sofa. My husband has a cup of tea ready for me. I take half an hour to write this blog post and Dad has a shower to wash the day away. By 9pm we are in bed ourselves – after all we’ll both be “on” again by 5am.

Helen Treharne

What a fabulous #ThisMum post! I can’t thank Helen enough for being involved and sharing her life with us; it’s a cracking read! Before you move a muscle, make sure you give Helen’s fabulous blog a visit – you can find it here

You can also keep up to date with Helen’s life by following her on her various social media accounts – you can find the links below!

www.twitter.com/welshmumwriting

www.facebook.com/welshmumwriting

www.instagram.com/welshmumwriting

www.pinterest.com/welshmumwriting

Coming up on Tuesday we add another fabulous mamma to the #ThisMum series! I am so excited to share with you a day in the life of the lovely Kate Radcliffe all the way from New Zealand. This is another fantastic post you are going to love, Kate’s family dynamic is different to any of the Mums featured on the series so far – you don’t want to miss it!

 

 

 

 

 

Finding the time to do ‘us’.

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.

 

For advice on how you can spend more time as a family, check out this fantastic article! wooden-furniture-store.co.uk/family-first

My Doctor Prescribed me Mummy Guilt.

Thanks for prescribing me a stonking big dose of mummy guilt, Doctor.

So, you know the way it goes. You spend the best part of a decade longing for a baby (although, granted, that was probably just us – we had fertility issues), you look at mums pushing prams and nursing bumps and you are so envious it physically hurts, you dream of the baby you so desperately want and all the things you would do together if your dream were to come true. Then the magic happens and you conceive. You spend nine months yearning to meet your child. Your pride and joy is born and you feel immersed in a great big bubble of love. You look forward to the long stretch of maternity leave ahead of you and you plan all the lovely things you will do with your baby.

Then, like some sort of bad sci-fi movie, your life speeds up, flying through six months of maternity leave at the rate of knots and before you know it, you’re setting your alarm for your first day back at work and rummaging through your wardrobe desperately looking for something semi-formal (and preferably elasticated for obvious reasons) to wear to the office.

My maternity leave came to an end when my baby girl was just over five months old. I would have loved to take more time off but as my husband and I both work for our own business, it became clear I had stretched my maternity leave out for as long as I possibly could and that I needed to return to the office to ensure our business continued to grow. We started looking at nurseries when our little one was three months old as it was important to us that we looked at as many different nurseries as possible and had the time to really consider which one felt right for us and our little lady.

I was always very acutely aware that I was returning to work quite sharpish compared to the length of maternity leave parents tend to take these days. With my son, fifteen years ago, six months was the norm and those who took a year were the really privileged ones. This time round most of the mums I spoke to were taking a minimum of a year off. So, to start her at nursery at five months seemed really young and I did feel anxiety about that. Every nursery we visited would say on their brochure ‘from six weeks to school age’ but yet when we toured the nurseries, there were never any young babies there to see. The youngest we saw in most of the nurseries was around eight to nine months old so every time I left a nursery I would feel crushing guilt that I was starting my baby way too soon.

We saw the good, the bad and the damn right ugly during our tour of the local nurseries. With some nurseries I knew within seconds of stepping through the door that it wasn’t the right place for our lady. We talked to friends and asked if they had heard any good reports of any particular nurseries and I quickly realised that choosing a nursery for your child is a really personal thing. For every positive referral I heard from a friend, I heard a negative opinion from someone else. I concluded that this is because maybe we are all looking for something different when we weigh up the best place for our child. Maybe when us parents look at childcare, nothing is ever good enough for our children and that is where negative opinions stem from.

We did reach a point where we started to feel quite panic stricken. We weren’t being terribly over fussy (or at least I didn’t think so!) but we just wanted to walk in to a nursery and feel that, in our heart, it was the best place for her. She was still so little, so fragile, it was important to us that we felt 100% reassured that she was in a safe place and the right place for her. We had exhausted every nursery in the immediate local area. I’m not for one second saying that we have bad nurseries in our area, because we don’t. There are so many nurseries getting good to outstanding in their Ofsted reports so clearly there were good nurseries; but we were looking for more than an Oftsed rating. We were looking for that feeling in the gut, that warmth in your heart, that lightbulb moment: this is the right place for our precious girl.

Having visited all of the options in our immediate local area, my husband suggested we widened the search. I wasn’t particularly happy with the idea as I knew that would mean a longer commute on the way to and from work and would have far preferred to have been geographically closer to the nursery when at the office incase she was ever poorly and needed to be collected urgently. However, with very little other options, I agreed, and we visited one further nursery that was just outside of our immediate local area – only a few miles down the road from nurseries that we had ruled out.

I knew within two steps in to the nursery that it was the right place. I actually felt excited as the Manager showed us around; excited at the potential role the nursery and its staff could play in our daughter’s life, growth and development. The nursery was very different to that of the others we had visited. It wasn’t a franchise; brightly coloured plastic toys and equipment were exchanged for more natural materials, there was lot of wooden toys and a huge emphasis on outdoor play. I didn’t know at the time that that particular concept would appeal to me, but it did. Within minutes.We clicked with the baby room staff immediately and one of the most reassuring things we heard that day was that they had recently had a six month old baby start. We talked about how nursery would support us with weaning, crawling, walking and other things and everything just clicked into place. Before we were even told the price of the nursery, we had decided that whatever the cost, we would find a way to ensure that our daughter was cared for there.

Finding the right nursery did, in some ways, make me feel less guilty about returning to work so early but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t plagued with guilt about handing over my beautiful little baby to an apparent stranger for seven hours a day, multiple times a week. My little girl knew no different and that was one huge advantage to her starting so young, she didn’t really recognise that I had left her and she therefore settled in really quickly. I, on the other hand, did not settle in to the arrangement very well.

I remember sitting down at my desk on that first day. I put up some new photographs, sticking pictures of my new baby girl on the wall. I changed my screen saver to reflect our new addition to the family. I must have blamed baby brain a hundred and one times for locking myself out of various accounts by trying forgotten passwords incorrectly and I chain drank coffee from the new swish coffee machine that had been delivered whilst I’d been on maternity. I remember staring at the number of emails in my inbox. I can’t remember the exact number but it was four thousand and something. I felt overwhelmed. I felt exhausted before I’d even begun and I felt emotionally drained. I did nothing but watch that clock (actually, I tell a lie, I rang the nursery a few times to check on the baby too). I was very unproductive. But it was the first day back, surely that was expected, yes?

I wish I could say it got easier but for me it hasn’t. My little girl is nine months and is now at nursery full time. I torture myself with ridiculous ideas like ‘since she’s gone to nursery full time she hasn’t said ‘mamma’ to me as much’ and convinced myself that was because she had bonded with her nursery key worker more than me because I had been so absent from her life due to work. The key worker would write the little lady’s diary ‘she’s really enjoyed tummy time today’ yet when I tried to put her on her tummy she screamed until I picked her up. She tried her first finger food at nursery, she stood unsupported for a few seconds first at nursery. She waved first at her keyworker. I know these sound trivial things (they’re not even significant enough to be called ‘milestones’) but nobody brings a baby into the world to have them cared for by other people and miss out on all the good bits. It’s been really tough.

I can’t say that the separation from me has upset or distressed my little lady in any way. She is 100% happy, content and settled at nursery. Not once has she ever cried when I’ve left her (she has once or twice when I’ve collected her though! Argh!) and she is thriving there. And that is what counts, right? That should make me feel better, yes? So why don’t I feel any better about it?! I have, at times, felt really quite low at not being with her. I’m not someone that dislikes work. I am work focused, ambitious and driven. I don’t long to be off work, or at home, I just long to be with my baby girl. I think about all the weeks on maternity I took for granted and wish I could re-live them again so that I could squeeze every last drop of joy out of every single day. But, given time travel isn’t an actual thing I can only go forwards.

I go forwards, however, with a lot of mummy guilt. My little one has caught infection after virus after infection since starting nursery, so I have felt extra guilt about that, a ‘if I hadn’t gone back to work so soon, she wouldn’t have been in nursery now and wouldn’t have got ill so it’s all my fault’ type thing. When she sleeps in and I have to wake her to get her dressed and take her to nursery, I feel guilt then. When I end up picking her up later because work has overran and then have to start the bath/bed routine the second we get home because she’s shattered, I feel it then too. Some days I feel like I don’t even grab so much as one hour of quality time together from one nursery day to the next. It makes me feel low. Like, I’m just not emotionally built to be separated from her so early on.

Other parents haven’t helped. Even some of my friends. They don’t mean anything malicious but the whole ‘she’s started nursery already? I didn’t even think nurseries took babies that young’ gets said quite often. Meanwhile I sink down in my chair and hate myself just that little bit more. Even just today, I took my baby girl to the doctors on the advice of nursery because there had been a case of impetigo within the nursery and my little one had developed a few spots on her mouth so we went to get checked out. The doctor, who is our regular doctor and knows the family well, asked what was wrong, so I explained. He stopped and said ‘wait a minute, she goes to nursery? Isn’t she too young?’. Cue me, rapidly trying to justify our decision ‘ we’re self employed, I didn’t have a choice’ blah blah blah. He raised his eyebrows, in a judgmental and disapproving way and said ‘I’ve never known a baby so young start nursery.’ With a shake of a head, he goes on to examine my baby meanwhile I feel a little bit wounded on the inside. The doctor thinks she’s too young to be in nursery. He must be right, I mean, he’s a Doctor, right? Doctor’s know everything. As he brings the appointment to a close and I leave clutching a prescripton, I feel a little broken. Thanks so much for pointing out that I am a shit mum, Doc. The guilt is going to keep me up all night. But cheers though, have a nice day.

The fact this judgmental comment was said by a medical professional, a family Doctor at that, made it all the more poignant for me. This wasn’t just a flippant comment made by one of my friends who thinks she knows it all when it comes to kids; nor was it a comment from my grandma, who can be excused because times have changed since women stayed at home and raised their babies. This was from a family medical professional. I felt ashamed. Ashamed of having to go back to work to make a living and build a life for my children. Guilt that I couldn’t have stayed at home with her for any longer. I felt like he had attacked my ability as a parent to make the right decision by my daughter. That hurt.

It shouldn’t have upset me. I should have been stronger. I shouldn’t have let it bother me. But it did. He opened the door to mummy guilt and invited it back in to my head and now I’ll be entertaining it for days. Maybe even weeks. Months.

Cheers Doc.