When I was pregnant with my daughter I couldn’t even begin to work out how I was going to look after her and earn money. Everyone said it would just work out. Somehow the most sensible option will make itself obvious and we’d be fine. It did. Through my maternity leave we worked out that hubby could do childcare on Monday and Tuesdays, I would do Fridays and we found a nursery that Pickle could go to on Wednesday and Thursdays. So I submitted my flexible working hours to ensure I had Fridays off and worked a shortish day on the nursery days so I could do drop off and pick up if Hubby wasn’t around. It was accepted. Hoorah.
When I was pregnant with my son I couldn’t begin to work out how I was going to look after 2 children and get two children out of the house and into nursery and then make the dash to work. I also had no idea how we were going to pay for it either. For 2 children, for 2 days a week for a month was nearly £1000. I also wasn’t paid for the majority of my maternity leave and we had needed to cash an ISA in to get me to 10 months. Somehow we managed to tighten our belts and thought we should be able to do it. My company had kept paying my childcare vouchers (themselves. Not taken out of my statutory maternity pay) and my nursery had kindly given me 2 half days for free during the maternity leave so I accumulated childcare vouchers ready for the expensive onslaught when I went back to work. The big help was having a little bit of financial help from the family every month whilst we had the year of having both kids in nursery. That was a wonderful gift.
Now that Pickle is at school and The Monster is at nursery we have an altogether different dilemma. Pickle started school at the end of September and we got our first choice which is within walking distance. The Monster is still at the original nursery which was a 10 minute, traffic jam ridden journey away. Hubby and I went through every conceivable scenario to see how it would all work and quite frankly this is it, but oh my goodness it’s a stressful old setup.
I follow a lot of stay at home mums on twitter and have a few friends who are and things aren’t rosy on that side of the fence either, especially when they have several children still at home. Of course, when I’m dashing about like a mad woman all I can think of is easy it must be for them, although I’m not that stupid to actually believe this to be the case. I can only talk about what it’s like to do the school run from a working mum perspective and it’s true what they say…………You really can’t have it all. Not that I ever thought I would.
Firstly I have to get everyone out the house on time, fully dressed, fed (well at least Pickle), school lunch done, reading bag ready, nursery bag packed (dummy, nappies, drinking bottle, comforter, spare clothes) and into the car. I drive the 10 minutes to The Monster’s nursery where he is dropped off ready for breakfast. Pickle and I (annoyingly) have time to spare, so we take our time, kiss TM goodbye, natter to the nursery staff and then get in the car. I then drive 10 minutes back again, to right near our house to park up. Pickle plays on the phone for 10 minutes or so, I stare out the front windscreen like a deranged inmate muttering to myself that “I used to just stare when I didn’t have a smart phone and what is the matter with me, how about doing some thinking?” We then walk the 5 minutes to school where I hover like bee by the door anticipating every shadow that walks pass it might be the teacher about to open the door. Finally it is opened and Pickle is shoved through so I can turn and do that embarrassing half walk/run back to the car. From this point I have 1 hour to get from the classroom door to work. I start at 9.45am. I do my journey, park up about a 20 minute walk away for free parking, don my cycle helmet, high vis vest, bicycle clip, put my handbag in the brompton C bag, unfold the Brompton (I blogged about it here) and ride for 5 minutes to work. Where I unfold the cycle, take off some of the stuff I have on me that makes me look like a plonker and push the Brompton up to my desk. Depending on the day, I arrive dead on 9.45am or at about 9.50am. Either way, I am breathing like Darth Vadar and my blood pressure is sky-high.
**insert 6 hour work day here which, quite frankly, is a doddle after kids and the journey. I get to drink several cups of tea too**
So the whole journey is in reverse on the way back (obviously). Bike ride, in car, drive to nursery, pick up the Monster (get slightly annoyed that the slow talking nursery teacher is trying to tell you something because all you want to do is get out the door) and then drive 10 minutes to pick up Pickle from the after school club. At this point I find out whether her journey from school to the club was smooth or peppered with tears and attempt to find all the bits to her school lunch bag that has been overturned and scattered about in the room. I’m stressed for my car journey to both of them because any slight traffic jam can push the journey back 10-30 minutes. 10 minutes is about the only buffer I have.
I then get both kids back in the car, drive the 2 minutes to the house. Off load kids and bags and make a bee line for the kitchen because it’s now 5.45pm and I need to feed them around 6pm.
Of course, my journey is not unique. This is the same journey thousands of working mums have to juggle with whilst getting to work and I’d like to say that I work to keep my own identity, to have adult conversation, to challenge myself, but the honest truth is that I do it for the money. All that other stuff, yeah, great, I’m sure it helps and I probably couldn’t be a full time stay at home mum, but I do really wish I had the option. It’s cheaper for me to work and pay childcare than it is for me not to work and not pay childcare. In fact, we just couldn’t afford to live if I didn’t.
Those 2 days in the middle of the week are so stressful that I start thinking about it on Monday. I check my diary in the hope Hubby isn’t working on those days (he’s self employed) and if he is, I start bracing myself for it. Things will only improve when The Monster starts school as well (although the dash from school to the office will still exist and that isn’t great) and that’s another 3 years away.
So now I have a child in nursery and one at school I have worked out how I’m going to do it. It isn’t easy and is incredibly stressful, but we get through it, somehow. I’d be interested to hear what you do, whether you have an easier journey or find a way to deal with the stress of it. I’d also like to hear from any stay at home mums, is it a walk in the park? 😉