By Fiona Chapman
It is amazing how work, life, balance and parenting can even fit in the one sentence. It’s like trying to fit a Great Dane through a doggy door meant for a Chihuahua. Every parent’s journey is different but from my experience many who are working struggle to get some good balance in their lives.
I remember thinking it was hard at times when I only had myself to look after and was working! What was I thinking? If I knew then what I know now, I’d be like ‘how easy is this?’ Looking back I remember days thinking ‘I’m going home from work tonight but I’m too tired to go out with my friends for the third night this week’. Oh no poor me! I didn’t know what work and tiredness was until I became a parent and then a working parent. As for balancing kids, work and life, it depends on how you look at that. Your life changes dramatically and you are not the sole focus anymore.
Becoming a parent can be the most exciting, beautiful and rewarding time of your life. On the other side is the anxiety, sleep deprivation and fear of the unknown. Unfortunately, some people have to go back to work soon after having a baby. I can’t comprehend that myself. Some mothers who have started back early have an increased risk of developing post-natal depression which we have to be mindful about and be supportive.
Returning early is usually out of necessity but sometimes the other partner will stay home with the baby and the mother goes back to work. This would also be difficult being away from your baby when you are just getting to know each other. These are very tough times indeed.
With my first child I returned to casual work one to two days a week when he was 8 months. I was still breastfeeding so I had to express while I was at work. I was casually working in midwifery so I was in the right place and didn’t even have to bring my pump, so I was lucky. Many mothers aren’t quite so well supported which makes it difficult.
I returned to two days part-time as a child and family health nurse and one day casual as a midwife teaching preparation for parenthood classes when he was 11 months. I really found this really hard going as my son had to go into child care due to the fact that my husband and I had no family nearby. I felt OK about it because I knew it’s what I had to do and I had no choice. OK, there were moments of mummy guilt, but I was doing the best I could.
After my second son was born, I returned to casual midwifery work again at 8 months and then two days part-time when he was 11 months. This was even more difficult with two children. Three months later I was then working three days a week and some casual midwifery shifts. It just kept getting easier and easier….. said no mother ever. Life was busier than ever and I felt I was sinking deeper and deeper into the volcanic lava.
Then I thought how can I get some balance in my life. Well it’s damn hard and I still struggle. My husband is away from home eleven hours a day, five days a week. This puts a lot of pressure on us as parents and in our relationships. What can we do to help ease this pressure? I have learnt a lot from my education, working with mothers and my own personal experience. I hope these insights help you out to try and find the right work, life, balance for you and your family.
See page 2 for some tips to attain Work-Life Balance…