Saturday, 6 July 2013

A Stranger to Myself

This post was prompted by one written yesterday by BakedPotato Mummy on how her life has changed since becoming a Mummy.   It got me thinking about my own life and how it has changed, or rather it prompted to think about writing it down as it has been on my mind for a while.

On leaving university with a postgraduate degree in Archaeology, I got a job working for local government maintaining a database of all the archaeological sites in that county and providing archaeological information for developers and member of the public.  I loved my job and I loved the people I worked with.  However the reality was the pay was rubbish, there was little chance of any career progression locally until my boss retired (she was in her 30s at the time so that was not likely to happen soon), and our jobs were looking increasingly shaky with every local government cost cutting reshuffle.

My husband worked for a small IT consultancy also doing a job he loved.  He spent a lot of time away from home visiting client sites which wasn’t ideal for a newly married couple but we managed ok and I had a strong friend base around me.

Eventually it looked like hubby was going to have spend some longer spells of time away, so seeing my IT knowledge and keen to expand the company, his boss offered me the opportunity to join the company.  The starting salary would be double what I was currently earning and would mean that after doing the job for 2 or 3 years we would probably be able to afford for me to give up work once we started a family.  It seemed like a no brainer!  At my request we moved house from the Midlands where we were living, to Kent, nearer where I grew up as a child.  My Dad had been diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer and I felt a strong pull to be nearer “home” now we weren't tied to a location in the UK. 

Starting a new career in something I had no formal training in was the biggest learning curve I have ever undertaken.  To go from being an "expert" in your area to a complete novice gives your self esteme a huge battering, not to mention the ups and downs of working with your other half on a daily basis (don’t underestimate the strain this puts on a relationship).  Having said that my husband and I have always had a very strong relationship and we found a way of making it work, much to the admiration of our friends and colleagues.  I found an area to specialise in and actually became pretty good at what I was doing; however my heart was never really in it.  I was on a different wave length to the majority of my (mostly male) colleagues and the politics and cut-throat nature of the private sector did not interest me at all…. in fact it drove me mad.

Unfortunately starting a family took longer than we anticipated and I ended up working for my new employer full time for over 5 years.  We travelled to some amazing places and saw some amazing things and were able to afford to move to a bigger family home in the countryside.   Despite all this, I could not wait for my little one to arrive and I could put that chapter of my life behind me.

The first month of parenthood, my husband spent at home helping out and it was wonderful, however we both new at some point he’d need to go back to working away again.  I guess I was unrealistic, but I assumed the fact that he was so blatantly in love with his new baby, he would not turn back into the workaholic he was before.  However after that first week back at work it was like someone flicked a switch.  He turned back into his old self and the baby and I were relegated to the back of his mind.  His weekends at home were spent either catching up on lost sleep because he’d been working “all nighters” during the week, or catching up with DIY and gardening at home.  I felt abandoned and lonely.  I was literally left holding the baby 24 hours and day, 7 days a week while he swanned off and did what he wanted.

I never intended to go back to work after Celeste was born however when my parents offered to have Celeste one day a week, and my company offered me completely flexible working hours to suit me, I thought  I would be silly to say no.  The money would come in extremely useful and a sanity break would do me no harm either.  I therefore started back (working from home) one day a week while my parents looked after Celeste downstairs.  I am sure so many of you are envious of this situation….  I know I am incredibly lucky!

I’ve been back working 1 day a week for 4 months now.  If I thought work would be a welcome rest bite from mummy duties I was mistaken.  The job hasn’t changed and it makes me as miserable today as the previous 5 years.  It does however give me a change of scenery which I welcome.  Working with my husband has become more difficult as he is assigned to multiple tasks at the moment therefore I really need to fight for discussion time to achieve anything productive on my one day.  I am finding that this is also beginning to affect home life which is something we have always tried to avoid.

Seeing all this, my husband assumes that I will not want to go back to work, even for that one day, after the second baby arrives at the end of the year.  I don’t particularly want to but the alternative fills me with dread too.  No work means no help from my parents and thus at least 4 days a week on my own with 2 children.  I am sure many of you will suggest that I ask my parents to continue helping out anyway but they are not that kind of people.  They will help out if they see a constructive reason for it, they are not interested in wasting hours “keeping me company”.  In their opinion I am supposed to manage this parenting lark on my own!

I know many mummies find being a stay at home mummy difficult and the solution for many was to go back to work.   I don’t really see this as an option as I was just as miserable at work.  If I look back over the last 10 years it is hard to see where it went wrong.  If I was faced with the same life choices again, I am sure I would choose the same path.  We are financially better off now than we would have been and are able to give Celeste a better up bringing how we are now.  Staying in a dead end archaeological job before being made redundant would not have made me happy either.  I know I sound ungrateful but I am bemused.  I have everything I wanted yet it is making me miserable.  How is that possible?  And how on earth do you improve a situation like that?

I feel very guilty about how I feel and that I am failing Celeste but not appreciating her like I should but I can’t just flick a switch and be happy.  I am also concerned that I now feel so distant from my husband after what used to be such a rock solid relationship.  I have spoken to him about both of these.  His response was I was making heavy weather of parenting and should lighten up.  That spoken by the man who is never here to help out!  To be fair to him he has been a little better since this 2nd pregnancy and will have Celeste for half an hour here and there when he is around to give me a break.  I need more than a break though, I need a new lease of life, something I thought motherhood would bring but it hasn’t.  I need to somehow bring back the part of me that has been missing for nearly a decade.

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