Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Working from home: the perfect solution - right?

So I've been a working mother.  When Oldest K and Middle E were born, we still lived in South Africa. Things work differently in different countries.  In South Africa full time individual child care is cheap, but living is expensive.  So in South Africa Mum's work full time - pretty much all of them.  We certainly couldn't afford to even consider me not going back to work.  When we moved to the UK I went to work full time and discovered - as I've said - that different countries are different.  Here child care is extremely expensive.  I was giving more than half my salary for other people to look after my kids.  Most families here have a parent at home, at least some of the time.  Then I started to notice that the schools and life style were not designed to accommodate two working parents. Lots of events that parents were expected to attend where held in the working day.  After school activities were held when I was still at work. Suddenly my kids were missing out, big time.  And I started to dream of being a stay at home mum... so when Baby G was born there was no question of me going back to work.  All other issues aside - I would be clearing £75 a day and my child care would cost £65 a day.  I'm a high school teacher.  My pupils, even as we speak, are looting and setting fire to London (not really, but only because its 75 miles away).  Would you teach the yoff of today for a tenner?  No I didn't think so....  so stay at home mum is was.

But here's the thing - I'm a dreadful stay at home mum.  Some people can do it, and do it with such style and panache.  They must be Good mums. But its not for me.  I lost the plot.  I desperately needed to find things to fill my day, and to justify my being at home.  Suddenly everyday tasks became Tasks.  Like doing the washing.  And the ironing.   I began to iron everything. Yes, even muslin clothes. And tea towels.  I cleaned my house obsessively.   Things that just took care of themselves when I was a working mum were suddenly a big deal.  I could not cope, there was just too much ironing.  But in reality I was also mentally starved, and this was the bigger challenge.  I found myself checking my face book every 10 minutes (although in fairness I may still do this) just to get some stimulus. I started playing online games to challenge my brain (too many horrors to even begin to discuss).  I started tweeting. And when I'd done all that I checked my face book again.  But the straw that broke the camel's (that being my husband's) back was when I started getting addicted to shopping.  Real shopping, on line shopping and even virtual shopping (pintrest anyone?).  Once I realised that this had to stop (boo), I started looking into studying some more (like I don't have enough qualifications).  I even convinced myself that I would put aside a day a week for my mental health.  I'd draw and paint.  Doesn't that sound like a lovely idea?  With a baby, a 4 year old and a 7 year old - was I drinking when I had that thought?  Anyway - when would I do the ironing?  The tea towels might get neglected.

And so I made peace with my failings, and looked for work again.  But - this would be work I could do from home.  I mean - that's the perfect solution isn't it?  Come on - how hard can it be?  Well, you'd think I'd know from watching Top Gear, that when you say "how hard can it be?" disaster is normally 2 nanoseconds away.  I'm tutoring Science from home a few hours a week. The girls will watch TV, G will sleep.  right?  FAIL.  I'm teaching with Baby G in the room.  This was okay when she was a few months old and went for a convenient nap.  But she's not a few months old any more.  She's 10 months old.  Old enough to butt-shuffle up to me, or my pupils should I ignore her, pull our jeans and raise her arms, giving us the "I'm a third child.  You are my slave. Pick me up. I'm cute" look.  Failing that, she will unpack my pupils handbag.  This can be rather embarrassing.  She's dug out cigarettes, feminine hygiene products and, the ultimate treasure, car keys which she has subsequently vanished *somewhere* in the lounge.  Then, I'm also doing some data analysis and other computery adminy odd jobs for my husbands company.  This involves me sitting at my computer, getting up every few minutes to entertain G.  I expected 4 hours worth of work to take me about 6 hours.  Right?  Suprise! Wrong.  First few weeks I was lucky if I managed an hour of honest work.  The rest of the day quite simply vanished.  Where did it go?  What did I achieve?  Running around after G.  Tidying the house (it still has to be done, I can't work in a mess).  Washing clothes.  Hanging out clothes.  Chatting to mum's in the car park (I can't let my friends down!). Buying the groceries (although we could all do with losing a little weight).    That first week I was lucky if I went to bed before 12am, and I'm a morning person!

Now I know what you are thinking - Why exactly have you taken up blogging then?  Well to be honest, so that I have a bit of me time in the 12 hours of stuff I do in a day. So that at least 20 minutes a day is actually spent on something I want to do.  And as for the working from home thing -well we are getting there. I'd say it only takes me 4 hours to do 3 hours worth of work. I've saved time in my day by significantly reducing my face book time (surely you've noticed). I've got into a house work routine.  I tumble and shake the muslins.  I've stopped ironing (its is done on a need only basis - expect to see me creased in future).  And I'm reaping the rewards, at least a little bit.  I can be there for the older girls when they need me (sports days, singing spectaculars, teddy bears picnics and other "joyous" events parent are invited to when all sane people are at work), we still go to all our after school activities (a whole other can of worms - look out for a blog on this in the future), baby G gets to spend the day with me (even if it is on the floor unpacking unsuspecting teenager's handbags) and there's a wee bit more money around. I might be able to take up shopping again. Or maybe not. More importantly, however, my brain is stimulated and I have a real purpose in my day.  I still sleep less though. A lot less.

So now I just have to make sure my house of cards doesn't fall down.  How long can I run on 6 hours sleep? I'm a nine hour a night kinda girl.  Am I seconds away from collapsing in a heap of exhaustion and crying "Its all too much.  I need to go back to work and to get a cleaner again"? Its possible.  But to be honest the thing I need to control at this point is the blogging.  Must limit the amount of time I spend doing this.  Must stay in control.  I can.  I know I can.  You know I can.  Of course I can. Am I will. Yes. I will. Now, please excuse me, I'm off to see how many times my last post has been viewed since I last checked, 15 minutes ago...


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