Before I go on, I acknowledge that being a working parent is, generally, a situation of our own making. We have chosen at some point to combine paid employment with raising our children.
Loving your children and enjoying work is not mutually exclusive. People will judge (see coverage on the recently announced pregnancy of Yahoo's Marissa Meyer) and articles will publicise statistics which prove that it is either the best or worst thing for children daily. So it's hardly suprising that, at times, we wonder whether we have made the best choice.
Nursery was easy. I had happy kids being well-cared for during my working hours. Naturally, I'd have a wobble now and then but, instinctively, it felt right.
School was a game-changer.
The hours are short. The holidays are long. Your child notices that other parents are there when you are not - and they ask you why. Ouch.
If this sounds familiar, I empathise but don't despair. The points below helped me during the times I was convinced I was a shoddy employee and an even worse mother.
Ask your children questions about their day. It can be easy, when we're still in work-mode, to go through the motions of "How was school?" or "What have you done today?"
Changing your questions can help your child think back on the fun parts or the memorable parts of school and make for more interesting answers for you to listen to.
Talk to them about your day. What did you do that was fun or exciting? I know I found myself telling them that my day have been boring or stressful, which prompted the obvious question "Why do you do it then?" Out of the mouths of babes..... When I thought about the best bits of my day, I felt better about my day and they could see that there was a positive reason that I was not at the school gates with the other parents.
Really listen. It took me a while to be able to do this but it genuinely made a difference.
When you get home, create a time where you focus on nothing but being with your child/children and you listen to them. No tidying up, no preparing food, no phone, no emails, no TV. Just you and them.
For me, it was bath time when the outside world stopped and we connected properly. It made a difference to me and to them.
Check inYour intuition is important. Even if your professional decisions are based purely on facts and figures, your personal decisions are likely in involve a good dose of intuition or gut instinct. This is because your intuition is tuned in to your values. Checking in regularly helps you distinguish between "just a bad day" and something that is genuinely not working for you.
Consider your options
Whether you're happy with how things are or want something to change, working through your options is a really useful excercise. Even if you feel "stuck" with how things are now, the truth is you always have a choice.
Let your imagination run wild for a bit and write down or sketch out as many potential options as you can possibly create. Everything is allowed. Even the impractical, improbable and seemingly impossible.
Just acknowledging that you have a choice is usually liberating in itself. When you review your page(s) of options, there may be one or parts of one that draws your attention. Pay attention to it.
Be kind to yourself
Wobbles are normal. Children have wobbles too. Yes, even children with stay at home parents.
Be gentle with yourself. Only you know what's best for you and your family. Trust yourself and, if that's hard, imagine what the person who knows you best would say to you.
We can only ever do what we believe is best with the information (whether facts, figures or intuition) and resources we have available at the time. So give yourself a break and know that, whatever you decide, you can change your mind!
If what you've read resonates with you, do visit my website or drop me an email. I'd love to hear from you.