Having it all and feeling the guilt

OK, so I work in London as Head of PR for a fantastic online luxury lifestyle store, (I waste most of my wages on this company….damnit!) I LOVE working, interacting with a gorgeous team, going for lunches with lots of lovely press, wearing a pair of fabulous heels and flouncing around like I own the place! (That’s a joke by the way, in case bosses and colleagues may be reading this!)

But each time I hand over my two little girls to their fantastic carers, I feel this physical pang of guilt. It goes right through me and stays with me until I return to them later in the day.

I battle with this strong emotion and question why I work. Why am I not at home spending time with these beautiful little people who I chose to bring into this world? Will they resent me for working? Are the daily draining tantrums from my eldest little girl  the result of me going back to work from when she was just 5 months old? What the hell do I bloody well WANT!!?

In April last year after 6 and a half years, I left an amazing job at Laura Ashley’s head office, (again in PR), to spend more time with my family. I was struggling then with the commute to Fulham, the cost of childcare, and the exhausting daily drudge of early mornings, late evenings and the inevitable broken sleep, without any help other than my husband and the nursery. I had to leave, it was killing me. So I left my LA family and decided to stay at home, see more of the other parents who are now incredibly close friends, potter about, help my friend with her PR agency for a few months, and just generally be on tap for my family…. which was fine……but….

But I missed something. Staying at home wasn’t me. I had worked for so many years non stop, my career and working life was part of me. The reason it had taken me so long to leave work in the first place was the fear that I’d lose part of my personality.

Then I received a random call from a girl who had been given my number from one of my old colleagues, (I know, terribly long-winded and random), I immediately jumped at the chance – I wanted to meet the guy who co-founded one of the biggest UK fashion brands, and now this new venture. I wanted to have a  ‘grown-up conversation’ with a hugely successful entrepreneur who needs help with, hopefully, another huge future success – it’s WAY too exciting to let this one pass me by……so I grabbed the opportunity with open arms.

Now I’m back into a bit of a commute, although not as bad as the one to Fulham. I work 3 days in London and one at home, so the balance is just about right. I guess I’m happiest when I am working and hopefully my little girls can see this. There is NOTHING that can be compared to the huge hugs and kisses that I receive on return for those 3 days and the rest of the week I make sure they are showered with as much love as possible.

Personally, I think there is no such thing as ‘perfect’ when it comes to the subject of work/life balance. I’d LOVE to hear feedback from other career mummy’s, who may also be in a similar situation – it’s nice to know I’m not the only one……….or maybe I am!!!

Gosh…is that the time? – I have to be up at 6am – shower, hair, full make-up, dress, change, dress, change and dress again, (I can never make up my mind), put eldest in uniform, little one in a pretty dress (she insists, and it HAS to be pink), brush their teeth, throw breakfast in front of them, struggle to find correct Disney Channel on SKY, attempt to make coffee, pack my bags, Childminder will arrive, sprint out of door with littlest, nursery, screech off to train station, tweet on train, arrive in London, use the tube (ugh), run from tube to work….work….do everything in reverse on return and then try to fit in the gym. I have a personal trainer…he’s evil, but that’s for another post!!

Sweet dreams x

10 thoughts on “Having it all and feeling the guilt

  1. Wooops hit send way too early darn sausage fingers on iPhone…!

    Abi Purnell PERMALINK
    May 24, 2011 5:25 am
    Please Note: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    My goodness reading this was like reading a chapter of my life! I’m a worker just like you I don’t have a particularly amazing job although I just love the crazy work pace, the deadlines the challenge… I myself felt a pang of guilt everytime someone asked “are you going back to work after your mat leave?” me:”yes absoblumminglutely, I’m not a stay at home mummy, I love my little lady but I know for both of us it’s gonna be great, me at work being me and making a difference to a company, my little lady at nursery learning and developing, hopefully pushing her in right direction of best Eton…!” so back to work I go all goes back to normal like you but loving it, baby girl advanced in talking etc etc, this I can I only out down to being at nursery… So baby number two arrives exactly two weeks before baby girls 2nd birthday, 5 months in to mat leave and this time it has flown by. Now the questions come up again, “yes I am going back to work 3 days a week” them:”but how will you afford two lots of nursery fees?” me:”the exact wage I earn will be the exact fees for nursery therefore not actually earning a penny for myself”… Most flabbergasted by me going back to work and paying out exactly what i earn.. Do I go back to work and then have the guilt of leaving my babies and not earning a penny or do I stay at home and have the guilt of not having my children in nursery learning, interacting and developing with others not to mention the guilt of not giving me son the start that his sister had in her life. I’m pretty sure I know where my choices are…..

    1. Nurseries are SO expensive, but we really love ours, I also love our childminder, (who is amazing, reminding me this morning that I left my mobile behind – she’s ace) – and it’s only 3 days a week at work – a friend of mine works for Deutsche Bank – she works SUCH long hours 5 days a week bless her, not sure how she copes emotionally, but she seems to.

    2. You and I work in similar worlds, (head office retail), which can be hugely demanding on top of the kiddie demands we face daily. Your career will grow and flourish and provide you with a great sense of achievement and worth, your children will also develop happily in a loving nursery during your working hours – your happiness will make your children happy – the fact that you don’t spend as much time with them daily makes you appreciate them more when you are with them. There are pros and cons for both working and staying at home and guilt seems to nestle within each camp – I’ve tried work and stay at home, so feel qualified to comment. Thank you for following me Abi – I’m loving the New Look campaign by the way xx

  2. Oh no, you are definitely not alone. Well done you on put this fantastic post together!

    My children (aged 5 and 2 now) arrived after 9 years of marriage and 10 years of a progressing career. I need my job to keep my mental sanity (and that doesn’t make me a bad mum and that is for sure!). I have also tried different alternatives to balance that delicate “working mum” equation, some more successful than others. Now I am working 3.5 days a week and that solution combines the better of both worlds: I can spend time doing an activity on my own, which makes me a more balanced person (better for my whole family at the end of the day…). I can also be at the playground picking my boy up twice a week (which he LOVES) and spend some 1:1 time with my girl while her brother is at school on Friday morning. Still struggling to fit the gym in but that is another history….

    Childcare cost is an issue for families with small children. When my boy was at nursery, almost my whole salary went directly to their nursery. Now he is at school and even though he goes to a childminder 3 days a week for 2 hours in the afternoon and my girl attends childcare while I am at work, the cost came significantly down.

    Having help from your husband / partner / granny is also key. On the 3 full days I work, I drop the children at school / childminder and my husband picks them up in the evening. That allows daddy to spend time with the kids alone and me to complete my working hours and still be at home on time for their bath and to put them in bed. As you said, the welcoming kisses and look at their little faces lightening up when I arrive make my day!

    The guilt however is always there. Only last week I missed an afternoon tea at my boy’s school as I was working in another city that day. Motherhood seems to have that negative thing, making every mum feel guilty about something: being at work / at home, cooking organic meals / rely on Mc Donald too often, play with the kids / leave them alone, teaching them another language, skill, sport / allow them to chill out at home… I mean, the list is endless.

    Congratulations on your blog, I will continue visiting you!

    1. Thank you for your fab comment BB – can I call you BB? Guilt is definitely part of being a parent, career or no career – I’m so happy that we don’t just have our amazing family and friends, but we can also tap into these amazing resources such as blogs, twitter, FB and parenting websites to help us through any issues, (behavior in my case unfortunately)! Thank you SO much for following, it’s amazing to have lovely people like you commenting…..bring on the comments xx

  3. Liz, I’m torn.

    Firstly I want to tell you that you are neglecting you kids and having them brought up by other people is not the reason we had them in the first place. I then want to point out how happy my two girls are with Victoria not working and being there for them at all times.

    However,

    Secondly I want to say that even the nicest of children are horrible most of the time (as much as we love them) and that if I had to stay at home I would end up strangling the little darlings.

    I also have to say that Victoria staying at home has been a major drain on our funds and that she can’t wait to get a job when Amelia goes to school in 14 months. 🙂

  4. Hi Liz, am loving your blog… so far topics that I can totally relate to… have recently realised that whilst I love being a stay at home mother to my 3 pre school age girls, my brain is bored. Having spent 18 years in the city I find the monotony of laundry & washing up killing me… ; never the energy once they are in bed to do anything productive. Am wondering if the solution is to work a couple of days a week for my sanity (so I can wear high heels in the day again!)…. or maybe wait 6 months for the baby to start nursery… but then the issue of childcare; school holidays needs to be tackled……..

    1. Thank you Sarah – 18 years in the City is incredible, I’ve got lots of friends who still work that lifestyle – it’s fast paced and still brutal and it must have been really hard to adjust from the City lifestyle. Although you’re well equipped now to start something yourself. School holidays are definitely an issue – half term is about to start tomorrow, and have had to pay my childminder to look after my Reception little lady for two whole days, 10.5 hours per day at £7 per hour – and then another £54 per day for my pre-school little one for 3 days….ouch!! Thanks for following x

  5. Firstly I love the article..and the blog – I didn’t return to work mainly due to having 3 children very close together (1 son plus twin girls in 2.5 yrs!) and the thought of juggling 3 children under 3 to get to work plus the childcare fees was just not feasible. However, 1 yr in i had to do something, anything, to stop me thinking there must be more to life than nappies, formula, bath time, whats for tea etc… so i set up my own business. Great i thought! Perfect i thought! but now i am in a halfway house – i don’t work but I do work – ok so i don’t get up, get a great outfit on (how i miss wearing anything other than jeans!)and rush out to work – instead i do the drop off, packed lunches, pick up, tea for kids,tea for friends of kids, bath time, cricket club, 2 kids still at home most of the week and try and work!!! at home – with cbeebies (lifesaver – ok I’m a bad mum!) on in the background and 2 shouting, yelping children drowning out the professional conversation i’m trying to have – i think i just made life harder for myself without meaning to! I think really i should have gone back to work proper because working from home is just trying to do 2 full on jobs full time – impossible! x

  6. Do whatever is right for you – my working Mum friends envy me being at home as much as I envy their ‘freedom’! Each family needs are different, I personally think you have the balance about right. I can’t wait to go back to work next year, Amelia has finally dragged me down!!!! I’ll be searching for my 10-2, 5 days a week, term time contract next summer – wish me luck, seems everyone wants that job! xxx

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