When you meet someone for the first time and the conversation turns to kids and family, there’s always one question that comes up.
“Do you work part time?”
It’s become so common for women to return to work, after having a baby (or two, or three..) compared to 20 or 30 years ago, when the norm was to stay at home and look after your kids, while the dad went out to bring home the bacon. I think it’s fair to say that now, most women who do return to work, go back part time. So people kind of expect you to say you work part time.
But I work full time. And when I’m asked the question, I take a deep breath, smile a big smile and in my breeziest voice, I say “No, I work full time.” I pause, looking for some kind of sign that will indicate whether the other person is thinking “Oh, OK” or “Full time? You are a BAD MUM.”
The other person will usually then ask about childcare and I’ll garble out in a faux-enthusiastic way, “Oh-she’s-at-a-nursery-five-days-a-week-but-she-LOVES-it.” I really over-egg the pudding here, often babbling a bit about how she has SO MUCH FUN with all the other kids and HOW GOOD the nursery is. If I feel like I’m being particularly judged by the other person, I’ll throw in a “Pre-school is SO GOOD for their development at that age – they focus on learning much more than you’d think.”
If I’m ever asked why I work full time, I never tell the truth. But I’m going to do it here. Now. Are you ready?
I work full time because I love working.
Not because I have to, because I want to. I choose to work full time and I love my job. Admitting this is securing my place in the Bad Mums’ Club for life, but it’s the truth, and I can’t be the only mum who feels this way.
Going back a few years, I hated maternity leave. I found it so boring and yes, I suspect in hindsight that I suffered from PND but even taking that out of the equation, I still think I would have hated it. I’m just not the kind of person who enjoys being at home with a baby, day in day out. Some people love it. Some people don’t.
I was desperate to go back to work after maternity leave, and I went back three days a week, to start with. But in all honesty, I dreaded those two days a week that I was at home. I felt a weird panicky pressure to make plans for those days, to ensure I wasn’t alone with a one-year-old all day (still as boring as being with a young baby, if you ask me.) When my daughter was 18-months-old, I started a new job and told my new boss that I could work full time.
It was the best thing ever. And I had a great excuse if anyone asked me why I worked full time – I could simply say that my new job required me to do five days a week.
Of course, my decision to work five days a week is completely selfish. I am thinking 100% about me, about my needs and what I can – and can’t – cope with on a day to day basis. This is the right thing for me. But it’s not a guilt-free decision. I worry a lot that working full time is the wrong thing to do, as far as my daughter is concerned. Will it have a negative effect on her? Will she develop insecurities because of it?
And actually, shouldn’t I sacrifice my happiness for the sake of my child? If she is the most important thing in my life (and she is) then shouldn’t her happiness be my number one priority?
Well, actually, no. When I have all of these worries swimming around in my head, I remind myself of that thing that other mums tell you: You need to be a happy mum, otherwise you can’t be a good mum. And it’s true – if I worked part time and was at home with my daughter for part of the week, I wouldn’t be as happy as I am now. And surely some of that unhappiness would rub off on her?
Perhaps one day, I’ll look back and regret working full time when my daughter was so young, but all I know is right now, it’s the right thing for me. I am happy and my daughter genuinely does love her pre-school. She thrives there. She loves the company of the other children and enjoys learning new things every day.
So she is happy, I am happy – why then do I feel like a bad mum?
I’m linking this post up to The Bad Mums’ Club – a collection of posts by bloggers on our failings as mothers. The Bad Mums’ Club consists of me, Morgana from But Why Mummy Why, Aimee from Pass The Gin and Katie from Hurrah For Gin but really, everyone is welcome. Do visit Morgana, Aimee and Katie‘s blogs to read their Bad Mums’ Club posts!
Now for the technical bloggy bit…. (ignore this if you’re not a blogger)… If you are a blogger and want to write a post and link up, you can add it to the bottom of this post. Here’s the badge, if you fancy popping it on your post:
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