I’ve wanted to sit and write all week, but somehow when the opportunity arrives it’s so difficult to do. Where do I start? It’s been so long, there’s too much to catch up on, so I’m just going to leap off into the "now". Thank you to everyone who’s encouraged me to start writing again, and to those who have inspired me during these months of blog-silence.
We’ve just changed our routines. I've been back at work for a year, following a career break while the boys were little. For Westboy, the time at the childminder’s after school was the final straw. Both boys were beyond tired by the time I picked them up at 5.30pm. We headed home through tears and tantrums, to a frenzied scramble getting tea ready. I wanted to meet their need to reconnect, but whatever I tried was sabotaged by the inevitable meltdowns of tired, hungry children. Half of my week was characterised by the intensity of juggling work and family, and half of it was spent getting organised, giving my boys the attention they needed, and recovering.
After several months of thinking and talking about it, I switched to doing the same hours, but over 4 days, so that I could pick Westboy up from school and Westbaby* from preschool or the childminder’s. The boys (especially Westboy) were really excited about this change. It looked like it was the answer to the working mum conundrum. Despite my apprehension, I was looking forward to spending more time with my boys and having a more balanced family-life.
We started the new term with high hopes. They quickly evaporated. It was awful. I wondered what I’d done and if I could switch straight back to working full days. The children I picked up from school were whiny and demanding. Everything I did was wrong: if we went home, they wanted to go out. If I took them to the park, it was the wrong park. They wanted a snack, but not THAT snack. A trip to a café for a treat sparked-off demands to go to a café every day, and (my personal favourite) a request to go to a cafe in Morocco to eat bread like Jesus ate with his disciples....(?!)
There were some good moments, but overall it was a daily how-long-is-it-until-bedtime squabbling mess that left us all unravelled.
After a bit of grumbling about how hard it was and visits to 5 different parks in a week, I realised something.
The problem (as ever) was with my expectations.
I realised that if something is not immediately satisfying and enjoyable, it still might be important and worth doing. And it doesn’t just matter what I do, but how I do it. Whether I am there gladly or reluctantly, fully present and ready to listen or still preoccupied with work, intentionally preparing or hoping I can wing-it. Those transition times between school and home need careful handling.
So, I’m sticking with it. I’m finding ways to work more efficiently within a shorter day, planning our time after school, being intentional in engaging with them rather than tuning-out, budgeting to take the boys to cafes (but probably just in the UK), and seeing this time as an investment that I've chosen to make.
I’m learning to celebrate the “difficult but good”.
The decisions that are difficult, but feel like the right thing to do.
The beauty in this messy, imperfect, everyday.
*He is no longer a baby, but for blog-consistency I’m going to keep calling him that until I think of an alternative.