I love being a career-mum. Like, really love it. Although I spent my entire pregnancy in a state of panic about what my life would like like when I wasn’t ‘Lucy, full-time lawyer and career-lover’ (my boss calls it my ‘pregnancy drama’. In hindsight, I guess I was a bit dramatic!), I discovered very quickly that I was destined to be a working mum and that I wasn’t quite ready to throw in the towel just yet.
I love the days I spend at work. I drive to the train station blasting Beyonce, a welcome change from the nursery rhymes that usually accompany my car journeys. I read on the train (at least I intend to, but Facebook usually takes over), chat to my co-workers at the office, meet with clients, think, write, create, teach, mentor, research. I love it.
I also love my days at home with my daughter Lilly. We have dance parties, play with dinosaurs, play at the park, visit the library, go to playgroup and baby rhyme time, see the ducks, read, play, explore. I love these days too.
I recently read Katherine Wintsch’s post about things she does differently to other working mums that make her life saner and it got me thinking – what do I do differently that helps me love my life? Here’s my list.
I’ve written before about how becoming a mum has made me slow down and focus on the here and now, instead of always chasing whatever comes next. I’m no longer interested in rushing to get everything done at once. I much prefer a leisurely approach to life. What has surprised me the most though, is that everything still gets done.
Slowing down means that I do laundry on several days instead of all on one. It means that I work from home in the evenings so that I can spend the days at home with Lilly. It also means that a 3 minute walk to the park might take 10 minutes as Lilly and I stop to look at every ‘bark’ (dog), ‘at’ (hat – you’d be surprised how many hats we see on our walk to the park!) and ‘ball’ (she can say that one) we see on the journey.
Things may take longer, but I enjoy my time. I am relaxed, mindful, calm. I don’t rush. I’m not ‘busy’.
Lilly came to work with me at our city office until she was almost 11 months old. I’m still yet to meet any parent who has done the same, although I now know that they exist (#babiesatwork is a ‘thing’, you know!). I’m pioneering truly flexible work practices at our law firm. While these things aren’t new to the working world, the extent to which I am working flexibly is new to our firm and I am showing others that it is well-and-truly possible. That, and you don’t have to be the business owner to come in late, leave early or work from home!
I returned to work when Lilly was 10 days old. I didn’t plan it this way, it just happened. My career was (is) my passion and it is what I wanted to be doing while my sweet newborn baby slept all day long. I followed Lilly’s lead – if she needed me, I was there, which meant that work always took the back foot. If I’d had a particurarly restless night, if Lilly was unhappy or if I just needed a break, I wouldn’t work. Now I will just power on through, even if I have had a long night, but in the early days the alternative was maternity leave, which meant not working for a few months, not just a few hours or a day. The lesson I learnt though, is that most things could wait. The to-do list for the day would still be there tomorrow, and the world would not come to an end if the tasks were not ticked off that day.
I am a mum and a wife, therefore most people expect that I do the cooking and cleaning as well as all the childcare. I am always surprised that people still think (and live!) this way. My husband and I are equals in every sense of the word. That doesn’t mean that we divide every household chore in half; it means that we both see ourselves as responsible and so we share the load.
I can count the number of meals I have cooked in the last year on one hand. My husband does the cooking. He doesn’t like me to do the cooking. Not because I can’t cook, but because when our daughter was born he quickly saw that the cooking was his opportunity to contribute to our family. He couldn’t breastfeed and he felt useless until he worked out that breastfeeding made me hungry and he could fix that! Now, cooking is his thing, so much so that he even got upset once when I tried to prepare some meals for the freezer because he felt that I was taking away his ‘thing’.
So, no. I don’t do it all. Nor do I want to!
Having a positive outlook comes naturally to me. This is helpful, especially when working-mum life gets stressful! Focusing on the positives goes a long way to helping live a saner life. Instead of getting frustrated that my daughter is still awake at 8PM when I really need to get some work done, I remind myself how prescious these days are and how fast everyone tells me they will go (‘Everything is a phase’ quickly became my mum-life mantra). Reading the same bedtime story over and over again is actually quite enjoyable when I see how happy it makes her – the twinkle in her eye and grin on her face takes away the mundane. That’s not to say I don’t think about the work that is waiting for me, I just remind myself what is more important.
And guess what? Things always have a way of working out. Everything always gets done. Staying calm and positive and enjoying that time means that not only is the time with Lilly more enjoyable, but when I do get started on work, I have a positive mindset and can usually tick my tasks off relitavely quickly.
I don’t sugar coat my life, I just don’t dwell on the bad stuff. Well, most of the time anyway!
Most people don’t believe me when I tell them I don’t feel guilty; but it’s true. I don’t believe in mum guilt. I know my values and priorities and I make sure that I live in accordance with them. As a result, there is nothing to feel guilty about. For me, it really is that simple.
So, there we have it. What are you doing differently that makes your life easier or more enjoyable?