The Rambling of a Working Mum. Trying to find a balance
My working life was very different before I had my son, I was in full control of my day and how I spent each hour. Fast forward and now a 9-month-old co-runs my calendar. No matter how I put it parenting and working full-time might be one of the hardest things I have ever done. I constantly get asked ‘How do you do it all?’ and the honest answer is ‘I just try ‘and truthfully most days I feel the brunt of the juggle. At the start, it was more difficult as all the assumptions I made had been proven wrong from the onset. It felt like I was not able to give both roles the attention they needed and as a result, I went to bed each night feeling unaccomplished. How was it that I was awake early each day and in bed late, but it felt like nothing was being done. My to-do list was getting longer each day. It had me thinking, surely there was a better way to do it this. I searched the net for how other mums juggled their new role with their careers and the one thing that was consistent was that it was hard, like extremely difficult but the consensus was that it gets better with time. I genuinely have so much admiration for mothers since I became a parent and have even seen my own mother in a different light. Lord only knows how she has been able to juggle it all.
One of the biggest things I have learnt this year is that it is all about compartmentalising and asking for support when you need it. I initially found it hard to ask for help, I was determent to do everything myself. A friend would advise me against this and highlight to me how as women we need to stop glorying being a martyr for our families. She would go on to advise me to take care of myself and that it was okay to do things that were directly only for me. I would later take this advice and would find that it made the juggle much easier. My advice to working mum is to take it easy on yourself. It is important to be present in both roles and to give each role the attention it requires. When you are with your child, have a cut off time and stick to it. This means no work calls or emails; you will quickly realise that your child will understand that you’re not fully present and believe me that does not help with the usual mum guilt. The same principle goes for work, use the time wisely and that means no to social media and texting. In order to get the juggle right, you have to immerse yourself in each role and be effective at using your time. We are all better at our roles when we are fully present in the moment instead of when we try to multitask in areas that do not require it. Lastly, my advice to working mums is to know your limits, you are no good to anyone if you are burnt out and both your roles will suffer. Please remember to stop and enjoy the moment. Both your work and family will change over time and it is easy to miss out so try to slow down and live in the moment.
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1. All parents have a unique parenting style– When I first became a nanny, I did not know the extent to which the parenting styles for young infants could differ. I quickly learnt that as a nanny I needed to be able to adapt to the priorities of any given family. Whilst some parent’s top priority is for the nanny to ensure that their child is positive and happy, others require that the nanny’s role is to guide the children towards success – often through the use of stricter rules.
2. You have to take initiative every single shift – I had been looking after the children for a few months when a novel situation occurred. After school in the playground, a classmate of the young girl I nannied for was offering out chocolate cake to the class. I did not know how the parents would react to me allowing chocolate cake before dinner time (on a school day) and so I felt conflicted. I did what I thought the parents would appreciate and I kept the cake in my bag so that the parents could make the decision when they returned home. This, in turn, caused a huge tantrum at the time, however, it is never sensible to disrupt the parents trust in you just to keep the kids from shouting. Even though you may think that you have asked the parents all there is to know about the children, there will always be new situations. As a nanny it is your role to make an informed decision based on what you believe the parents would want you to do.
3. You cannot call in sick last minute – Unlike in other job roles such as bar work, calling in sick last minute is far more than a hindrance for your boss. Doing this can put the children in danger and can cause serious confusion and upset for them. Being responsible for children is one of the most important jobs you can have because the truth is, they do need you to survive. Although this can sound daunting, these responsibilities make you a more reliable person; a trait that you will then carry with you throughout the jobs you take on in your lifetime.
4. Your general knowledge will be scrutinised! – I thought I knew why things are the way they are and why words mean what they mean, however, this job taught me I knew less than I thought! Children from 3 years up question absolutely EVERYTHING. And it is your job to try and answer as accurately as you can whilst also encouraging them that being inquisitive is an amazing thing (despite how tiring it can get for you when there is always a “But WHY?” to everything you say).
5. You will have a significant impact on their lives – The infant years are crucial for the development of knowledge, personality and behavioural traits of an individual. This comes with both negative and positives. On the negative side, it means you need to seriously watch what you say and do – for example any phobias that you have must be kept hidden as best as possible to ensure that the children do not develop the same fears. On the positive side, impacting on somebody’s life in this way is extremely rewarding; you will teach them a huge amount of information that will stick with them forever.
6. Attachment can occur on both sides – For me, I enjoyed this aspect of nannying. You form a connection to the children; you enjoy their company and you get excited to see them. Therefore, calling it ‘work’ can (sometimes) feel silly since you would want to see them whether you get paid or not!
7. Looking after the child(ren) can be escapism – Due to how reliant the children are on you, there is not enough time to worry about anything else but them. You may start a shift feeling super stressed about an upcoming university assignment but by the end have forgotten you even attend university! Your attention is fully concentrated on the children and their needs.
8. It is impossible to be perfect – Depending on what the family set up is, sometimes the children’s parents may be in the room next door whilst you are nannying. I struggled with this at first because (whether they were or not) I felt that the parents were listening in to see how I was doing. Whilst the children were being well behaved this was not a problem – it was when they began misbehaving that my worries began. I did not want to be too strict also I did not want to be too lenient. I didn’t want the parents to think I was too harsh on the children but at the same time, I didn’t want to make it seem that I let them get away with anything. With time, through observing how the parents reacted to bad behaviour as well as becoming more comfortable with the whole family, I learnt to have confidence in my response to any behaviour.
9. They grow up – FAST!. – When I started, I would push the 2-year-old boy home from school in the buggy whilst his 4-year-old sister would scoot by the side of us. One year later and they were both biking back from school. With so many roads between the school and home, I had to be fully on the ball to ensure that both children (going at different speeds) were safe. The point here is that you need to be able to support and adjust to the children’s development – even when it makes your life more difficult.
10. The job is surprisingly simple – Despite on the surface being both physically and emotionally draining, at its core being a nanny is surprisingly simple. You need to keep the children alive. It sounds slightly abrupt, however, if you are keeping the children safe from danger, if you are feeding, changing and washing them as frequently as they require and finally if you are teaching them why all of these things are necessary for them to survive, then you are doing just fine!
By Madeleine P – Nanny for over 4 years