I am a mum who works. At a paid job. And I like it. There, I said it. Is that controversial?
I adore my two boys; I love playing in the back yard, building lego creations, making castles out of sheets, jumping in puddles and dancing to the Wiggles. But I also enjoy working, essentially for the independence it gives me, for the sense that I am using my mind, that I can have adult conversations and in some ways because I can go to the bathroom on my own and finish a cup of tea.
Being a working mum is hard, sometimes unbearably hard, but my supportive and fantastic husband and I made this choice. There are days when the thought of putting on my ‘work clothes’ as my boys call them, makes me want to hide under the doona, but others where I’m primed for a challenging day at work. And then there are days when I can see all my carefully made plans go down the toilet and I wonder if it’s all just too hard, then I remember that tomorrow is another day and hopefully it’ll be better. I’m lucky that I am able to have a leave day if one of the boys is unwell and perhaps even luckier that they both adore their preschool/day care centre so much that they get their own bags out in preparation.
Why do I do it? Because I want to, because I choose to and I know how lucky I am that I have that choice. I like my job. I’m a High School teacher and all I ever wanted to be growing up was a teacher. I worked hard, got my degree, got my masters, got a job at a good school where my skills and experience are valued by my colleagues and my students. I worked my way up the hierarchy to what could be described as middle management. I’ve presented at interstate conferences, worked for Universities, collaborated with international colleagues and worked on the previous government’s Education Revolution. I felt like I was making a difference and I didn’t want to completely give that up.
I knew that I didn’t have it in me to be a full time stay at home mum for years and it took me a while to realise that and this came with some soul searching and a healthy dose of the delightful mummy guilt. In my heart I knew that for me to be the best mummy I could be, I had to be the best me I could be and my boys and my husband deserve the best of me. I’m honest enough to admit that they don’t always get it, but I do my best and that’s all any of us can do.
How do I do it? Yes, yes I’m a teacher so I get holidays and work 9-3. That’s partly true. Yes I get holidays, but my day starts at 8 and finishes at 4. Some days earlier, some days later. Anyone who lives with a teacher or knows a teacher well understands that it’s not as straightforward as it seems. I do work in the holidays just so I can manage my time better at home. When I am home, I am completely at home, I leave work at work. When at work I work really hard to get everything done that I can possibly do to make sure that my home time is for my family.
It helps that I am super organised; I love a good list, a plan, a schedule and this helps our house to run smoothly – well most of the time. Household chores are done on particular days and we all do our bit. Both the boys bring their dirty clothes baskets to the laundry and with my supervision, put their clothes in. They might help Daddy unload or load the dishwasher. Toys are put away before bedtime, plates brought to the kitchen. Shopping is done mostly online but with a weekly trip to the supermarket to get what I forgot to order and maybe for a donut with the boys.
I want my boys to understand that women can make a positive difference in the work force, that their contribution is valuable and that when the time comes they should be supportive of their partner’s career choices. I also want them to learn how to be practical, to be tidy, to be independent. I want them to look at their father and me not as examples of how it should be done, but as proponents of a belief that couples should work together, compromise, make choices and do their best. A healthy dose of laughter and a sense of humour about it all helps too particularly if I show up at work with vegemite on my bum, or worse something unidentifiable.