Ok, I’ll be honest and hold my hands up here when I say: I think I suffer from FOMO. The Fear Of Missing Out. Not in a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses kinda way. For a long time now I have accepted that there will always be people who are more successful, richer, prettier, thinner or have a better (social) life than me - or at least are much better at portraying *bluffing* this on their Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Pinterest and other social media platforms than I am. Whatever.
No, I have FOMO when it comes to my kids. I fear that I am missing out on elements of my kids' lives because I'm a working Mummy. A full time working Mummy. The issue isn’t per se with the fact that I work, and that I work full time. The decision to do so has been carefully considered by both John and I, and it’s honestly with the best interest of our family in mind – aside from the fact that I love my job and it’s a big part of who I am. So I refuse to feel guilty about that, and I stand fully behind this decision. So far, so good.
But of course no decision in life is ever without “side effects” or impact on other elements of one’s being, and lately I have started to notice these a little bit more. It’s an undeniable fact that if you work full time, you have less time to spend with your kids than a stay at home Mum, or even someone working part time. Again, that’s a given, and I would like to think that the time we do have, we spend consciously and make the most of. Quality over quantity, if you will.
One of the “side effects”, however, is that I have much fewer (almost no) opportunities to partake in parent activities at Becky’s school. Now, this wouldn’t bother me, if it didn’t bother Becky. But it does. And herein lies the crux of the matter. This is where the Mummy guilt creeps in.
It's only really become apparent to me since Becky started school. I have to admit, I was naive and didn't fully appreciate what this would involve. In my head, she'd go to school 9am to 3.15pm and then to after-school-club, and that would be it. What I didn't realise though is how much onus is being placed on the involvement of the parents in their children's school life, and how tricky it is to juggle this when you work full time (and don't get me started on all the term holidays!).
Maybe it's just Becky's school, but nearly every week there are meetings or activities or things going on that require / invite parents to attend school. Information sessions, play mornings, behavioural advice sessions, PTFA meetings, parents reading afternoons, parents gatherings this or other, not to mention things like special assemblies etc.
Since Becky started school, I have barely managed to go to a handful of events, having had to prioritise how essential they are and how compatible they are with my work commitments. There has been a literacy and phonics meeting, showing parents how phonics are taught at school and how they can support this at home, the nativity play (which brought tears to my eyes, it was so lovely!), a couple of parents evenings (luckily outside of work hours) and the other week I managed to attend a math's information meeting.
I’ve not been able to attend any other sessions, and in all honesty, most I’m not even bothered about and am perfectly ok with missing. But – and this is a big “but”: Becky is starting to notice my absence, and it’s bothering her. And that makes me feel bad.
The other week parents were invited to a play morning, and as I was on deadline (and John was tied up at work, too), I had to explain to Becky that lots of Mummies and Daddies would be coming into school, but that Mummy and Daddy couldn't make it on this occasion, because we had to work. Instantly Becky went into meltdown, crying her eyes out and giving me the “but I will be the only one whose Mummy won’t be there!” treatment.
Of course I know this isn’t true, because I know that a few other Mums are in the same boat as me and can’t attend many things either. However, nothing pulls at your heart strings more than the feeling that you're letting your child down! It’s awful, and this is the kind of guilt that gets me.
Or there was the Easter assembly a few weeks back. Again, I couldn't attend, because it was on a morning and I was away with work (and frankly, I kind of under estimated that the Easter assembly would be a big deal). But it was, for Becky at least, and she still keeps bringing it up, visibly upset and still thinking about it, that "Mummy was the only one who didn't come".
On the flip side, when I managed to come to the maths meeting and subsequently was able to sit in on a teaching sessions with Becky, she couldn't have been more excited to see me. She kept coming over to me to hug me and kiss me, and kept waving and smiling at me. It meant so much to her, bless her. And there it was again, right there, the Mummy guilt that I can't do it more often.
But how do you manage? I only have limited holidays per year, and it's difficult enough as it is to stretch them over the whole year and all the term holidays that the kids have. And I don't want to take the p*** at work either, taking random hours here or there while my colleagues without kids do their regular day's work.
It’s such a fine balance to strike, and I increasingly feel like I don't have it. That I don't have a Work / Mum balance. And I'm not sure how to get it. Whether that’s even possible.
I've never felt guilty about being a working Mum - as I said, I refuse to. I see a lot of good in being a working mother. I can be a role model to my children, teaching them about dedication, commitment, values and that you have to work to achieve things and have things. My own Mum has always had a career, and I don’t feel like it has damaged me in any way; to the contrary, I grew up always knowing that I wanted to be successful and have a good career, too. And obviously my salary constitutes a big chunk of our family income and lifestyle, so this is no small detail.
But on those days, when you're the "only" Mum who can't attend a school event or other, it does give you the wobbles. Whether the choices you made are the right ones (I do know that they are, in my rational moments). Whether you're a good Mum. Whether you’re good enough.
Sometimes I’m really strong about this, and take comfort from the fact that the working Mummies I know are all great women who are doing their best, and have made the same choices for the same, very good reasons. And we are all in the same boat, doing our best. And that’s all we can do, isn’t it? Doing our best.
But some days, I think about what it would be like to be able to pick up Becky from school, rather than after-school-club, to be able to go home with her at leisure and chat about the day, take her to ballet or swimming or play dates and not have to compact everything into an intense weekend.
Juggling a career and children was and is never going to be easy, but I don’t think I realised just how tricky it can be, especially whilst they are so little and now that Alex is also in the picture, with yet again, very different needs.
Hopefully, as Becky moves up to Year 1 in September, there won't be as many parent things going on – and I’ll manage to find that elusive Work / Mum Balance, or at least edge closer to it, whatever "it" may be.
* Linking up to Lets Talk Mommy and the #ShareWithMe blog hop.
* Linking up to Lets Talk Mommy and the #ShareWithMe blog hop.