Prior to being blessed with Austin and Rory, my work, my career, was my everything. Anyone who knows me well enough will know that I have ridiculously high expectations of myself and have always thrown myself into my job. Whilst I was a bit of a job-whore in the early days since graduating, the chess-moves were always well justified for better pay, bigger challenges, up-skilling myself or ironically, for a better work-life balance. However, in hind-sight, my lack of family life in the IVF days was most probably the reason for not having had a work-life balance in the first place, because I let work define me, rather than letting ‘not being a mum’ define me instead.
I was always really proud of my achievements, my first class honours degree, my teacher life (both primary and secondary) and my management roles and I think it says a lot that I am still friends with many of my ex-work colleagues from across many different work places, with a mutual respect. In fact, some of my old ‘bosses’ are in fact my greatest friends and mentors and have taught me so much about who I am (or was prior to A&R) and what I am capable of and mentored me into being the best that I can be. You know who you are…
Giving up work was never my plan. Except I have now been a Stay At Home Mum (SAHM) for a year, and including my maternity leave, it is almost two years since my last official working day. How did this happen? It was never meant to be this way. But who plans on giving birth 14 weeks early to two poorly children, one who needs around the clock care? Certainly not control freak, plan for a plan, ME!
It was always meant to be a partnership, work and family. One reliant on the other. Both required for a harmonious mother. They were meant to be a pair. A balance. Now don’t get me wrong, I know there are mothers our there who HAVE to work and would love the opportunity to stay at home with their children, equally there are mothers out there who CHOOSE to be a SAHM whilst their children grow up. I am not casting an opinion on any Mother for either of these lifestyles / choices, but rather on what my choice would have been before Austin and Rory were born, had I had a choice at all.
Having gone through so much to become a Mother, I knew that I didn’t want to return to work full-time. Especially as a teacher as I know that the work-life balance is tough. I knew I wouldn’t be that mother at the school gate, nor the one stood sobbing at sports day or mouthing the words in time to every song at the nativity. However, I also knew that I didn’t want to give up the career I had worked so hard for. I didn’t want to give up ME.
When Rory’s windpipe collapsed and he gained his Trachy in October 2016, it became clear that he required around the clock care and Austin wasn’t short of his health challenges, and so together they were going to require a lot of looking after. Twins alone was a big ask for any Grandma (regardless of her childcare quals and experience) never mind for her to take on their health aswell, just so that I can have that little bit of something for me, I’m too selfless for that. We could have had carers, 19 hours per 24 hours. But they would have just cared for Rory as he needs 1:1. I didn’t want that. Here it was…..the challenge I had every day at work, my new challenge was this; could I possibly care for both Austin and Rory on my own at home, trachy included? Did I have a choice?
So I did.
And here I am having been a SAHM to disabled twins for almost two years. And here I am longing to go back to work.
In the early days I was killing it. Every day was a busy day, I held on to my independence and I was SOOOO proud of that as I know many twin mums and trachy mums of one child, who don’t make it out of the house alone, in fact I know new mums of one healthy child who struggle, but every day by 730am, I was ready to face the world. I managed the food shop, the laundry, the full house clean….play groups, lunch dates and so on without any help, no reliance on anyone else and no option for a night off either, because it was almost a year into Trachy life before My mum was able to complete the training to be able to care for Rory’s needs. The winter months first time round, hiding inside from the germs, were tough. But I could get out for walks with the boys wrapped up in the pram, we had plenty of visitors and it was still all very new. We had lots of appointments and nurse visits. This year, the second winter staying in, in fact almost 6 months of it, has been very very different.
We don’t have nurses coming out to us anymore, we have very few appointments, we don’t have many visitors either. Austin and Rory aren’t fond of the pram and so we don’t even manage many walks. It may seem that we get out when looking at time in a snap shot through the blog, but I can assure you that within the 5 or 6 months, September to now, that we have been on limited contact, we have probably had less than 15 outings. Sunday evenings we are looking ahead at an empty diary, most weeks.
I have never felt so lonely. So isolated.
They are long long days at home on my own, with no adult conversation. I don’t even watch adult TV.
My friends are either at work themselves, or have small children and cannot visit, because if they did, well what would be the difference between that and us going to groups? I get invited out, but the reality is that I can’t twin on my own any more, Austin & Rory aren’t happy being pushed around a shopping centre, or sat in a coffee shop, and I just can’t do that to them for my own sanity, and of course we can’t really join in on the play dates. When people do plan to visit, it pretty much always gets cancelled because someone gets a cold, or the tiniest sniffle or ache and we cancel. It just isn’t worth the risk. I know that this is for all the right reasons. Of course Austin and Rory come first. I fly that flag daily. I know that the reason they are doing so well is because I have give them EVERY possible chance. I have given them my soul, I have given up everything, so that they have every chance to grow and aren’t hindered by bugs. I have sold my mental health, my friendships, my soul (did I say that already) down the river…..for them. And I would do it again.
So what is my point?
The thing that kept me going, when I had given everything else up, was that I still had my independence, and I haven’t even got that any more. Is it normal to feel this way?
I returned to what I know best. literature.
I read an article by Elizabeth Mcfarlane (2012) ‘Giving up your career for children leaves you sad and unfulfilled’ and so much of what she said resonated with me, albeit her situation much different to mine. In fact there is a lot in the press at the moment about women being out of work and not being able to return after starting a family because of the rise in childcare costs and lack of flexible working opportunities. This doesn’t necessarily apply to me at this moment in time, but the frustration of not being able to return to work when it is something of such importance to who you are, is the same.
Here are some snippets from her article…
‘fast -forward 16 years and here I am, albeit 3 lovely children, stuck in a terrace house day after day, grilling fish fingers at tea time’
‘and to be perfectly frank – its boring’
‘lots of Mums say how it is much easier at work than at home all day, they say ‘I don’t know how she does it’…..’I don’t know how she doesn’t do it’ Works both ways.
‘I felt invisible, without a proper role. Nose pressed against the window of society looking in’
‘the primary school playground was my saving grace, like my new office. The bike racks – my new water cooler, to discuss last nights TV with like-minded parents. Involved myself in everything, the PTA, The Governors…..’
And to be honest many of it draws parallels with my thoughts and feelings. I love my boys beyond words. I am forever giving them my best, my imagination, my teacher skills, my mummy love…..I spend every single minute of every day with them, but when you are used to holding down a challenging career with pressure and thriving on it, staying home all day every day is boring. I do feel like I don’t exist, I’m just a robot, an empty shell, doing the cooking, the cleaning. I am not a housewife, per se! It’s not in me! I can do all of this alongside a career. I need that to function.
Lots of mummy friends say to me, ‘I don’t know how you do it’ and to be honest, neither do I, but I look at mums who choose to stay home all day every day, and I think ‘I don’t know how she doesn’t do it’ and I suppose like my Husband would say, ‘we are not all the same’.