5 months and 3 weeks; is how long I have been a mother, and it truly is the hardest job in the world.
Being a woman, I am used to over thinking, planning, forecasting the outcome of situations and dealing with the general stresses of life. I have also heard all the stories about how motherhood changes a woman and how much more stress and anxiety mothers deal with, which I totally understand, I mean it is expected. Not until last week this time did I know what real mom-stress is, but before I get into that…
I have had to return to work from my maternity leave, and I can’t believe the lifestyle adjustment that I’ve been going through. Especially when it comes to time; you think you have it, but you really don’t. I have been writing this blog post for just over a month, this is probably my 5th draft, and to be honest, I really did not think it would be this hard.
To think, last July, I was celebrating my 26th birthday, living my “best life” and the next week there was a positive pregnancy test. It all feels like it happened just yesterday, but at the same time, it feels like this all happened a lifetime ago.
The past two months have been very difficult, as my worlds were colliding – my professional life meeting my new personal life that includes a then 3 month old baby. I knew my return to work was imminent, and I needed to prepare myself mentally and physically. As I was planning to return to work, I also had to plan for child care. Unfortunately, in South Africa, there are very few companies who offer some relief for child care, thus you are left with very limited options, which each have their own pro’s and con’s. For me, these were:
Quit my job and become a stay-at-home mom
- Pros: You are able to bond with your baby for longer
- Cons: One less income at home, can we afford it (especially with the added costs of baby), you will have no down-time from baby
Find an Au pair or nanny to look after the baby in the comfort of your home
- Pros: Ideal option, offers flexibility, the baby will be in the comfort of their own home / their safe space, convenient as they come to you , you won’t have to pack bags and prepare feeds everyday – this saves you a lot of time
- Cons: Salary demands can exceed your budget, may create an increased cost in your household, employees can be unreliable – if they are late, you are late; if they can’t make it to work, and you will have to make last minute plans.
Find a crèche or day-care centre
- Pros: Can be less costly compared to an Au Pair / Nanny, there will always be someone available to care for your baby, can be convenient, just drop –off and pick-up, good opening and closing times, so you don’t always have to rush.
- Cons: Can be costly, there can sometimes be many children, you don’t always know what is going on at crèche – you have to have trust, your child is exposed to other children that may of been exposed to germs/bacteria /viruses.
The commonality of these options is money. Ideally, we don’t want to choose an option just because of the cost, but it does play a large part of the decision making. Ultimately you as a parent want to do your best for your child, but also we have to consider what will be best for us. Making a choice that could have major affects on your household budget should not be taken lightly.
When considering my options, I also realise that I need to be realistic about the situation. I would of loved to become a stay at home mom, and dedicate all my time and energy to my son, but I do realise that even though I think I take care of him better than anyone else; am I equipped enough and do I have the necessary resources to help my baby’s growth and development – I mean, I have a degree in Food Science and Technology, I could probably make him some power snacks and innovate some new baby foods for him, but I don’t know how good I will be at stimulating his mind.
Finding an Au Pair or Nanny would be a generally be a good option, but how do I know that I am choosing the right person. Whoever you choose, they will have to be reliable, trustworthy, and skilled enough to care for your baby. Skills are discretionary, but I look at my general work place, there are generally many people coming in late, those who have had emergencies in the morning, car trouble, issues with public transport etc. This makes me wonder how if people I work with are sometimes late, will my employee be late to get to my house to look after my son, will they arrive on time so that I can leave on time thus arrive early at work, or will my attendance record be tarnished.
My husband and I decided to go with the crèche option, it is not the best or the ideal option, and not one we took lightly. We have heard the stories and seen the videos on social media about what happens at these day care centres and crèches. We know about all the germs and sicknesses that get passed around at these places, but in reality, there are so many other places they can be infected too. We did our rounds at the crèches in our area, and decided on a crèche that made us feel the most comfortable, and luckily, they were (kind of) within our budget. We started off by sending our son to spend some half days at the crèche to make sure that he was comfortable too.
Now, I know for most mothers, leaving your child for the first time with a stranger or even if it’s someone you know, it can be a very emotional experience and there are many tears being shed. It is almost like you’re abandoning your baby, and won’t get to see them for few hours. Well, I must probably be broken, because the minute I got back to the car after dropping him off, I felt such relief and then a rush of excitement came over me – “I get to spend a couple of hours doing anything I want”. I went to do some errands in town had sushi with a view for brunch, stopped at the mall, met up with a friend for coffee and got to pick up my on-line order, all before I had to fetch my son. On my way to pick him up, I started feeling that “mom-guilt”. I felt guilty that I had enjoyed myself so much without him, guilty that I didn’t check up on him, guilty that I didn’t feel guilty earlier. I walked into that crèche feeling like a bad mom, thinking that I need to take my son home and shower him with even more love and attention than the usual. That feeling of guilt quickly disappeared when i walked into the baby room at the crèche. I have never felt such utter disappointment like I did at that moment. I saw my son, walked up to him, flashed him my biggest smile and showed him how happy I was to see him. His reaction was not to be desired; he basically just looked at me and nuzzled up to his caregiver a little more. I was so shocked, I couldn’t believe he wasn’t even a little excited to see me, but I was also so grateful to see that he was so comfortable in his caregiver’s arms.
Sending him to crèche was a very difficult decision to make, but I am glad that it has worked out for us so far. There have been many days when I get there to pick him up, and I have to pull him his caregivers so we can go home, but I suppose that’s a good sign.
With all these new and additional costs when it comes to child-rearing, it can take a strain on ones finances. A new budget has to be drawn up to include the crèche fees and the cost of diapers and formula, and not to forget all the clothes for a growing little boy. As a parent with new responsibilities, you realise you need to make some sacrifices and changes in your own life to pay for all these new and ever arising expenses. I then decided that I need to make some changes so that I can contribute more to my son when I return to work. When I say contribute more to him, I mean, even though I am giving so much of my time and efforts to work, I want to be able to be there for him, give him what he needs – attention, love, my time and any other material or in-material item that I think he needs. But I can only do this for him I make a change, and the change I decided to make, was to find another job that offers me a little less work hours so that I can spend a little more time at home and also a little extra cash so that I can afford all the additional expenses.
Changing jobs was an incredibly difficult decision for me, I was in a position where I was comfortable, I had made my mark and I know I was doing my job very well. But if I did not make this big decision to change now, I don’t think I would feel the peace that I’m currently enjoying. Leaving my colleagues that I have grown to care for, and have gone through so much with, is also difficult, it’s like saying good bye to your friends / family. Of course a new job comes with new challenges and having a young baby at home doesn’t make it any easier. It is difficult when you’re in a new place and need to find your feet and settle into your new role with it’s own new challenges.
I had been at my new job for just about 3 weeks when I experienced my first challenge of the “clash of personal and professional life”. My son was not feeling well. I always thought I was not going to be one of those super stressed out mom’s who over-react and panic, so at first, I thought, “okay, it was just some throw up, there’s no fever, he will be fine”. We decided that just to be safe, off to the doctors we went, and he was found to be perfectly fine. Nothing could have prepared me for what came next. We sent him to crèche the next – I mean the doctor said he was fine. I received a call from the crèche, immediately when I see the name on the screen, I start panicking, the lady on the phone tells me they were changing him and noticed some spots on his body. This news, regardless of how small or even insignificant sent me into full on panic and stress mode. I called my husband, and just telling him about the news made me want to cry. All I wanted to do was bolt out of my chair and sprint out to my car to go and pick my son up. Then another stressful idea popped into my head – I’ve been at my new job for 2 and a half weeks and I am already being an inconvenient employee, “how will leaving affect my image” is what I began to think. Fortunately, I was able to leave and go and fetch my son from crèche. Long story short – 2 doctors and a paediatrician visit later, we were sent home with some Panado.
My son being ill was one of the most stressful situations I have been in, in the past few months. The last time I felt that amount of stress was during my epidural before having my c-section. It really makes you realise that even though you thought you would be a cool, calm and collected mom, just a hint that your child is hurting can throw you into the panic zone. For me, that was the first time I realised that nothing else really matters; except maybe in another sense keeping my job so that I can feed that little boy. Seeing my baby become himself again after his short bout of not feeling well is really heart warming. I’m going to use this experience as training for if something more serious ever happens to happen. Making decisions as a mother is very difficult; there are always so many variables to consider. Even when the decisions you make for yourself, your professional career and what you do in your downtime (if there is even such a thing when you’re a parent). I can only hope I am making the best decisions for my family and me.