Ah maternity leave, what a total dream of life revolving entirely around one perfect little person. I spent her every waking moment interacting and tending to her every need. Then towards the end of this wonderful period I made the truly agonising decision to leave my job and become a full time mother. The wording I’ve chosen might sound melodramatic but for me it really was heart wrenchingly, sucker-punchingly difficult. I felt torn to the core between a job I adored in a great position, with amazing clients and incredible colleagues…and my child. Only problem was, the job was at least a 1.5hr drive away when my husband was already commuting a ridiculous distance and thus leaving before we woke up and getting home well after the baby had gone to bed. I just didn’t think it was fair for my child not to see either parent during the week, so my decision was made.
Fast forward a few months and a major “what is my place in society/I have no status in the world anymore/I’m just a mother” crisis episode set in. I thought people no longer asked me what I did with interest in their eyes, I felt utterly downtrodden and bereft at my new role and felt that all I did was give give give to my baby and husband with nothing in return (don’t judge, I was having a great big pity party). Thankfully I am married to a totally incredible man who rather than berating me for making this decision and giving me ‘this is your bed, now you have to lie in it’ speeches he asked me what we could do to make it better. I wanted to have the drive and ambition that a job gave me but wanted it to be flexible enough for me to be able to look after the baby.
Aha! I’ll utilise my existing skill set and set up my own business! Problem solved. Happy Mummy/wife again.
So my little business became reality with just enough clients to keep me ticking over but still dedicate enough time to raising my child.
Then baby number two arrived.
Now, a fundamental of running your own business when you’re a workforce of one is that you have to actually run a business. That means no maternity leave! The phone is always on and emails are always answered.
Yep, here I am, five days after giving birth, answering emails, putting strategies together…and pumping. This isn’t me trying to be super Mum, this is just the reality of self employment, me desperately trying to maintain some kind of control over everything and not let my clients down. (My husband thought this was a particularly comical sight.)
And this is where the guilt crept in and I felt unbelievably torn again. When my daughter was born she was my sole focus, my entirety, my world. Since Felix arrived any Poppy-free time has been dedicated to work. The little chap plays next to me on a play matt but I’m not cooing over him and rattling toys, I’m answering emails and putting content together. When he wakes from his naps I pray that he’ll wait just ten minutes more in his cot so that I can get an email finished and when people comment on how nice it must be to have Felix and Mummy time the guilt pangs are too much to handle.
The thing is, I really do want to look after him and be around both of my children as they grow, I don’t want to miss out on anything and I adore being a parent. But I also want to have my business, having something that is entirely my own is an amazing feeling and I’m actually good at it! So giving up on either doesn’t feel like the right solution.
So where do we go from here? Is there a perfect solution? How does everybody else seem to be doing it and so successfully? Is there a secret ingredient that I’m missing?
Or is having it all simply not possible?
My current temporary solution is to use my evenings to keep up to date with work and try to dedicate quality time to Felix when he’s awake. Not ideal as that means no quality husband time but a solution of sorts. Sigh.