“I decided to go freelance so that I could be with my family more, not so they could watch me stare at a fucking laptop all day Adam! I feel like I’ve really cocked up”.
Pretty much a weekly phrase in casa de la Shearsmith. Working mum guilt GETS me.
In my past life as a retail assistant for Mothercare, I never really had to worry about much regarding “being there” for the kids. I worked part time hours and childcare wasn’t a huge issue because I was able to ask family to have the boys. The major issue for me would arrive if the boys were poorly – I truly hated leaving them, even though it was a necessity. I had to work, sadly, money was an issue – as in we didn’t have hardly any. The only qualifications we had were those we had built up through experience and they soon became useless for Adam when he left hospitality management to pick something with more social hours. All in all, we were like a lot of people – working to live and occasionally that meant that we missed things.
When I started the blog back in 2013, I kept working and growing. Eventually I was lucky enough to say that I could take the blog and my social presence to the next level, donning the cap of “social influencer”, “professional blogger” and occasional “social media manager”. I was able to do something that I truly adored, was 100% flexible around the kids and that pretty much meant I was working when I was baking with my loves, crafting, going on days out. Then I started to grow and as offers to collaborate started to flood (trickle, it was more a trickle) in, I started to get the bug – higher aspirations. I’m not saying I want to be the next Zoella (lying, that woman has hair to die for, I’d totes be the parenting Zoella if I could) but I wanted to take the blog to a place where we didn’t have to feel the butt clenching “Can we afford the bills this month!?” that we often felt. Going freelance took it’s own toll on our finances, what little we had was replaced with air and then my monthly wage was up and down like an enthusiastic kids on a pogo stick (complete with the occasional fall of the side, rendering the bank balance empty). Pretty much in the way that you feel pride in watching a child grow, I felt an immense pride in watching my hard work come to some sort of fruition, even if it was more dinted pear that orchard. I had to make sure that this succeeded so that when the kids were ill, I could be there. When there was a sports day, I could BE THERE, without having to plead with someone above me.
As I said, things started to get more successful, I got that soft trickle of offers for collaborations and I jumped at them. Well, most of them – I’ve turned down a few including working with a penis enlargement company, I just didn’t see how that was going to fit in between a post about science crafts for toddlers and cute children’s shoes. Perhaps I missed a trick. Anyway, things started to pick up and I started to say “yes”… which meant more work. Which meant pre-arranged deadlines and suddenly I’m working double the hours I did before, turning down invites to play groups and sitting the kids in front of the TV on a more frequent basis.
A few weeks ago Reuben had a school Harvest Festival. The kids were going to the local church to celebrate and with it being a C of E school it happens from time to time and I try to avoid it. I really don’t like religion at all, I’m getting worse as I’m getting older, so I signed off going. It’s not like it was a Christmas performance and I had so many articles to write for so many people… apart from Harvest festival is one of the three “big ones” where parents actually take time off work, and here I am with my flexible self employment telling my son I couldn’t make it. I only realised my balls up when all the other mums were telling each other they would be there in a couple of hours… shit. I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt, and I actually took off work, working until 1am that night to catch up… but it’s not the only time this has happened and it won’t be the last.
“I’ll just do this one email” turns into 40 minutes of work, “we’ll head out to the playgroup as I don’t work on wednesday” turns into a full blown 9-3 work day, complete with 7-12am catch up on what I missed. I frequently find myself missing things at school, the specific reason I decided to become self employed, in order to work – and yes, I can choose but I really do think that makes it even harder. Secure the deal that could pay our mortgage for the month or go and be one of the mums that can make it to the friday morning assembly?
I am NOT complaining about working, heaven forbid, as I know there are so many mothers (and fathers) would would KILL to work as flexibly as I do and earn a decent wage, but I feel that mother guilt like never before because the onus is all on me, with no boss to blame my busy schedule on.
I truly believe that guilt in motherhood is inescapable, we put ourselves under such pressure, so frequently that it becomes impossible not to feel guilt over the work life balance.