Monday, 17 August 2009


About a month ago I took a few days off work with Wriggly while my partner did some full-on work stuff. I had intended to blog, to clean, to bake, to do so many things while at home with my son, when he was asleep. I'd been working pretty hard in the build-up to my leave, to the point where what was originally going to be a whole week off gradually became only four days, then three and a half, and in the end I did a bit of work on the actual leave days too. When I officially returned to work I did nine days straight. Bad me, I know. I'm getting tougher on myself now - leave time and weekends should be sacrosanct.

Anyway what I wasn't expecting was the extreme feeling of disconnection that came with being at home. Work is rarely lonely, even when there's hardly anyone else in the office, as there will be phone calls, texts, emails. Almost everyone I encounter between 8am and 5pm on a normal weekday has more than eight vague word-type noises in their repertoire. When I connect an idea up I can share it with my colleagues and watch them marvel at my ridiculousness/brilliance, not just look blank and then go "ba ba ba" as a bus goes by outside. Showing my colleagues my spreadsheet mojo would not put said Excel masterwork at risk of #VALUE errors from errant button-pushing by a little boy with marmite hands.

That first day, a Monday, that I was off work I enjoyed the time with my son. And I looked forward to putting him down for his nap so I could have some time to myself, and turn off from being Mum for a while. After lunch we had cuddles and a little sing song, then Wriggly curled up with his blue blankie (or maybe it was yellow that week, I forget), while I prepared to shift roles.

But then I didn't shift. I sat on the couch and stared at the bookshelf. For quite a while. I figured I had a couple more days of being at home so I could just take it easy today, read a book on the sofa for a while. Which I started to do, except I fell asleep.

This happened again on the Tuesday. And the Wednesday. I felt quite alone and isolated, despite going out with Wriggly every morning. I couldn't drag myself to the computer even; trying to do it when he's awake is just asking for trouble, and when he was asleep I just ended up curled up on the couch reading, under my own blue blankie, and then napping too.

Perhaps I really needed the rest. Certainly being with Wriggly can be draining, in a physical way that my job rarely is. But I also felt my brain turning to cotton-wool each afternoon. For a while I blamed Robin Hobb, as it was her fantastic books I was devouring each day on the couch, before I drifted off. I still can't quite explain it.

Those few days served to underline to me that I am one of Those Women - the ones that have to work for their sanity. Maybe there'll come a time when I'm happier being at home, or even working part time. I kind of hope there is as I'd dearly like to be an active kindergarten parent when the time comes.

For right now though I need my job. And not just for the money either. I've stopped apologising for working, because it's not something that any parent should need to apologise for (unless they're a contract killer or work for Shell or something). There's a permanent promotion on offer this week at my work. I know I could do it, and the main reason I've been reticient about making a decision has really been, deep down, because I'm a mum now I felt maybe I shouldn't be going for it. I was worried about the judging, not the job. It seems like mums don't go for promotions, at least not until their charges are at school.

Well the judgers can do their stuff their way. I'm not listening anymore, and I'm going to try awfully hard not to even notice their quivering eyebrows and their slightly pursed lips. There's just three people I need to keep happy in this matter; my son, my partner and myself. I can't keep the others pleased if I'm not happy too, so it's yo ho ho off to work I go.


Boganette said...

Go Julie! Great post and good luck with the new position!

Even though I don't have kids I do understand some of what you've said. A while back my partner and I talked about me working from home but I decided quickly it wouldn't be something I could do because I need the stimulation of going to work and being around like-minded people. There are aspects of my job I don't enjoy but I do love coming in each day and talking to interesting people.

On my days off during the week if I'm at home I end up crying over ER or something equally terrible.

Though it sounds like you needed the naps!

Oh and I also have a blue blanky. How's that?

sas said...

thanks for being so brave. i am not a mother and as i get older the less likely i am to chose this path. i completely understand in theory, that being a mother is an incredible, possibly beyond words, level of satisfaction and love.
my perception though, is that coupled with this, is the constant feeling of having no time, being completely knackered and fed up with having to explain your choices over how you parent your child.
from the outside, it feel thankless and at least in the first few years mundane and brain atrophying. it's not a bloody pampers ad. and i think women have been sold a lemon on how fulfilling and wonderful motherhood can be.
i cannot imagine how people parent without the support of a partner.
your words describe a completely natural response to the situation you are in.
i am sending you some good energy :)

stargazer said...

i can so relate to this, julie. i did take a year off after the birth of my second, and really enjoyed it. but i think that was because i knew that i had a job to go back to. but these days, i find that the busier i am, the more i get done. where as, when i'm not so busy, i'm able to do less. and it's exactly that feeling you describe, of feeling disconnected from everything and everyone. i think you should do what you need to do to provide meaning in your life. good luck with work, and with life!

Anonymous said...

I tried studying from home initially, because I thought that that would be best for my son, but it just didn't work. Being back at university now full time finishing my degree (ten years after I started) makes me a better mum. If I was at home (even part time) I wouldn't be as involved or glad to see my son. I found the first solid year at home great, mainly because I could do the same things I normally did, just with him in a backpack but I'm just not cut out to play playdoh and build with blocks.

You can only be a good parent if your happy. If that means being away from home 9-5 (or in my case 8-4) then so be it.

octopusgrrl said...

I've just started back at fulltime work after spending two and a half years at home with my wee boy, and I'm embarrassed that whenever people ask me how I'm "coping" with it, I have to be honest and say I'm absolutely loving it! Don't get me wrong, I enjoy spending time with my child, but I found that being constantly there for him (esp. over a wet winter) I'd run out of things to keep a busy toddler amused and end up feeling guilty for letting him watch DVDs rather that creating "wonderful educational opportunities" for him. I admire my friends who just love hanging out with their kids all the time but I'm very selfish and prefer keeping my own company. Now I feel like I'm thriving from being in an environment where I'm being valued for my own skills, personality and ability rather than just being seen as "D's Mum" :)

Jackie Clark said...

Oh, Julie. You go for it - and if the time comes in the next couple of years where you want your turn being fulltime mum again, then you do that too. No guilt, no regret, happy boy.

katy said...

I think your post hits on an important point about being a stay at home parent and that is that it can be really isolating. A friend who did it for 3 years said it took her a long time to get comfortable with staying at home with her son. Another friend who has a 9 month old forces herself to go out with her son every day and is involved in all sorts of activities such as teaching sign language to a group of babies and she does these activities, much to the disapproval of mother-in-law, as a way of keeping connected. So while I whole-heartedly support those who decide to work, I also wish that there were better networks for stay-at-home parents to tap into to provide something of the community that would support those who are in the role.