Caroline is Mum to two girls – one who never stops looking at herself in the mirror and another who can scoot at 32mph – and currently juggles part time working with her itch to write. She started writing at Scribbling Mum but can now be found writing at her new blog Letters from your Mum, lurking on twitter as @scribblingmum and writing at various other places around the internet.
Having been a working mum of two girls for nearly five years now you’d think I’d have learnt not get too comfortable, to not take my eye off the ball and be all like ‘this is easy peasy’. Because even after all of that time it really doesn’t take much to see the wheels come off and the whole well oiled family-work-life balancing act have a little wibble.
A few weeks ago our childminder gave us her notice. It has nothing to do with us and she’s stopping all together which, given that she’s also a friend and our next door neighbour, it’s a great relief it’s all so amicable. The thing is though, she holds the title of The Best Childminder in the World. My kids adore her, she can do no wrong in their eyes and I’m gutted.
I’ve also been lulled into a false sense of security and had forgotten just how easy she made our lives.
As she was telling me, my mouth said the right things (the ‘don’t worry’ the ‘it’s fine’ words) but my brain is always a good three minutes behind my mouth and as it caught up with the situation I could feel my tummy starting to bubble.
Our timetable works. It’s slick. We all know what we have to do and when.
Tennis? On a Friday at 4:40 so I can do the school pick up and tennis drop off. And, yes, I can be involved in a rota with other parents because I’m not working that day and able to take my turn.
Homework? Has to be done after breakfast on Wednesday and Thursday as time is too tight and bodies are too tired by the time we get home from work on the working days before.
Dinner? Needs to be quick on a Monday and Wednesday so is usually boring and with no actual nutrients – think hot dogs and beans.
School tights washed and in the draw for a Wednesday morning when their Dad does drop off? If they aren’t I’ll get a phone call to ask where they are. My out loud answer is ‘Have you tried the next draw down?’ as my head screams ‘Really? Are you serious?! Open your ****ing eyes! Six pairs of tights can’t have all upped and left the house can they?! I’m DRIVING!’
Sometimes my answer is ‘Ach, you’ll need to take a pair from the dirty washing.’
So as the panic rises and my chest tightens, a thousand questions fill my brain, each one without an answer or its answer only confuses the previous question even more.
Which of the other childminders would I want? Are they even available? No, no they’re all full on the days I need. Every single one of them.
Ok, what about a nursery? Do we go back to nursery as a childcare option? But that would mean taking Littlest out of the pre-school she loves and involve a car journey to get there.
And who would have Biggest after school? Is there an after school club? Oh yes, it’s looks a little like a Lost Property room for forgotten children, but lets push that to one side. What about school holidays, does after school club stop over the holidays? What do parents do then?!
And what about the fact that my husband’s just taken voluntary redundancy and might be around a bit more? But of course that’s an unknown, not to be relied on as it could change at the drop of a hat. Come to think of it … when he gets a new job he might be around a bit less so what does that mean?!
I’ve always thought that buying or selling a house is the most stressful thing to do. But childcare when you’re working is worse. Because when it comes to someone other than yourself looking after your kids it’s not all about what works on paper, there’s no magic formula. It’s way more laden with emotions than that.
And whatever you do won’t be good enough. Unless you’re looking after them yourselves then there will always be some guilt lurking about, some time when your kid asks you why you’d rather be going to work than staying with them. Some price to pay whether it’s in emotions or pounds as you seek the utopia of family-work-life balance.
Maybe that’s the problem, in this situation there is one too many things to balance, the maths simply don’t add up.
At various points in this game either Family, Work or Life will be forced to stand up, straddle the see-saw with one foot going up, one foot going down all the while trying not to fall off completely.
Wow, sorry about that. I got a bit carried away there with my see-saw imagery.
So for now we’re sorted. Lots of change, a new schedule and what is effectively a patchwork quilt of childcare, shoddily tacked together. And when we hit summer holidays we’ll need to go back to the drawing board. My head hurts a lot when I think about it and I genuinely worry that I’ll have forgotten some vital detail that means the new plan won’t work anyway but heah, what else can I do?
I’m trying my best and my Mum told me that’s all anyone can expect of me so I’m cool with that.