written by Sarah-Lee Patterson
I returned to work as soon as my 18 weeks of PPL were up. Not just for financial reasons but because I love my job & also because I knew my daughter (Parker) would thrive 110% better at Daycare, than she would at home with me. I do love being a Mum but staying at home & being responsible for my Daughters learning & development just wasn’t for me. It sounds terrible when I put that in words but I know I’m not the only one who worries about how much pressure that is felt to ensure you’re supporting your child in hitting their milestones.
I returned 3 days a week initially then gradually increased back to full time hours from there. In hindsight, I wish I had worked 3 day weeks until Parker was 12months old. Unknown to me, once Parker hit 7-8months old, I found that my life was a constant cycle of work, washing (to ensure there were plenty of fresh daycare clothes) & pureeing baby food. Especially because help at home was limited (my husband is out of town a lot for his job). This is when mild PND set in & I started to wonder what I was doing with my life. I had a discussion with my manager & it was agreed that I was able to work from home 1-2 days a week so I could keep on top of things. I feel really lucky to have had a workplace that supported this at a time where it could have gone the complete opposite way.
Everyone’s return to work situation is completely different – some will have more support at home, some will have less. But just know that there ARE other people in the same situation as you & everyone copes with similar situations in different ways. Talk it out with someone you feel comfortable with or your Doctor if needed & come up with a strategy to lessen your load. Both physically & mentally. I didn’t respond well to medication so a change in work/life balance was really only option.
Because I put Parker in Daycare so early & had friends going through the same battle of working out how to approach it after me, I often got asked my tips/tricks/hacks for starting Daycare & keeping on top of things, so here they are :
CLOTHING : Leave the cute stuff at home & keep it simple. In Winter, dress in bodysuits, trackies/leggings and sweatshirts. In summer, the same again but with short sleeves and shorts. We frequented the Warehouse, Kmart & even Baby Factory. They grow so fast that I used to buy things in a range of sizes. Especially if it was black or another dark colour with less chance of being stained by food.
USE THE DRYER : It’s my holy grail. If I had to hang every piece of Parker’s clothes out to dry, I’d certainly go stir crazy. If you insist on hanging out washing to save a few bucks on the electricity, use those offers of help to get it done.
PRE-PACK OUTFITS : If you’re OCD in terms of outfits that need to go together/colour co-ordinate, put together your baby’s weeks worth of individual outfits in plastic sleeves (I kept the ones that our cot sheets came in) or laundry delicates bags (which I used when she grew up a bit and her clothes were a bit bulkier), then in their own drawer or shelf. This makes for getting dressed quickly in the mornings & when Dad is there to help out with the morning routine, he doesn’t have the stress of finding a suitable daycare outfit either.
STOCK DAYCARE UP WITH THE ESSENTIALS : We would stock Daycare up with whole boxes of nappies, tins of formula and breakfast (Farex etc) so that all we needed to do was ensure there were a couple of changes of clothes & a sleep-sack in Parker’s bag each day. Then the addition of lunch once she started on solids. To make this easier, I would highly recommend finding a daycare that provides meals.
BULK MAKE FOOD & USE PRE-MADE POUCHES : Bulk make a weeks worth of puréed foods and pop it in Kai Karriers ready to go to Daycare for lunches &/or dinners. You can also do this for breakfasts and bulk containers of yoghurt. However, don’t feel guilty if you opt to send them along with pre-made pouches from the Supermarket. I did this a lot too to save my sanity and even now (Parker is 2) we still have a stash of fruit pouches in the cupboard and opt for yoghurt pouches for breakfasts or an easy snack.
DAYCARE BAG : You can use basically any bag – a lot of people use their nappy bags for the first little while. I invested in a Herschel bag for Parker last March and she has used it every day since. It’s still in great condition with no signs of wear. I highly recommend them. Also, Pop a wet bag in their bag for wet/dirty clothes (I believe most daycares are advising this now as they’re trying to go plastic bag free)
NAMING DAYCARE ITEMS : I went through the painstaking process of ironing Dymo name labels on all Parker’s daycare clothes. Realistically, this was more of a pain than helpful. Their clothes rarely go missing when they’re smaller as they generally have less changes of clothes. Name labeling is key when they’re transitioned to a toddler room though. Stuck on You labels are great but get the larger sized ones. Name all plastic surfaces with vinyl name labels – bottles, drink bottles, kai carriers & lunch boxes. I personally love using Vinyl Junkies. Their service is top notch and their labels last well too.
MAKE TIME FOR YOU : Take a day off work every now & then just for you and don’t feel bad about it. Everyone needs this. In fact, I checked myself into a hotel for the night a couple of times just to get some rest without worrying about anything else.
ACCEPT OFFERS OF HELP & DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP : I had friends bring dinner over a few times. Not just because I’m useless at cooking when it’s just myself at home but it was also nice to have the company on those days. Also, I know personally that if any of my friends needed help folding their laundry, doing their dishes or vacuuming their house, I would happily be there for them. If anything, I’d make me feel good knowing that they feel like that can reach out to me for help. This goes for babysitting too! It’s not so daunting looking after someone else’s kid now that I’m somewhat “experienced”.
HIRE HELP : if finances allow, just do it. We had someone come to do the essentials for us for a few months last year & it was so good knowing that each fortnight, the kitchen, bathroom and floors were getting a decent clean. I would walk in the door with a feeling of relief knowing I could just sit down for a few moments without feeling like my house was a absolute sty riddled with germs. Of course the cleanliness didn’t last with a toddler but at least temporarily, I could breathe a little.
Once Parker was somewhere between 12-18 months, juggling things did get easier. She can feed & entertain herself (mostly) which means there is some room for getting housework done while she is occupied & I got a new job that allows me to work flexible hours so now I get home a lot earlier than I used to.
So, if you’re about to return to work or have recently returned & are feeling like everything is a bit much, remind yourself that the best is yet to come. You may feel overwhelmed at times but it will pass & it does get better.
I purchased a new pair of togs yesterday, decided it was finally time I graduated from my maternity ones (I’ll always love you ole faithful) and in my usual style of shopping I grabbed a pair off the rack, held it against myself and said and “yep – she’ll be right”.
She won’t. By god they’re high cut and the downstairs tenant didn’t get the memo about the requirements. I put them on in the changing room, looked down and had one of those ‘oh shit’ moments. It was way too late – she’s festively thick and bushy like a Christmas tree. Oops #mumlife.
Being a mum is all about putting them first and us second. At least it took away from the fact that I haven’t shaved my legs in weeks.
I’ll keep the weed wackers handy for our next excursion.
Gosh, that heading leaves a lot to the imagination doesn’t it.
I’ve written about my experience as being a stay at home mum back in November 2015, 3 months after Baxter was born. It wasn’t for me as horrible as that sounds. I wasn’t coping and I missed the adult interaction. I loved my child to bits but it really wasn’t healthy for me. Baxter ended up coming to work with my until he was 8 months old and then we made the decision that Reuben would stay home. It was an adjustment for all but Reuben really loved (and still loves) being a stay at Dad. It’s a conversation thats for sure and I feel like I am judged a lot because our situation may not be the norm but it works for us.
Being a stay at home Mum is tough, people often what you do and assume its an easy role. It’s not, I may have only done it for a short period of time but I know how tough it can be. How the days can feel so long and lonely.
Being a working Mum is really tough too I tell you. I think some people think (and joke) that I get to leave in the morning and just walk away from the drama and work almost acts as a hiding place. While some days, the break may be nice – I miss them all like crazy. I know what I am doing and I know the reasons behind why I am doing it. I know that by being at work I am able to provide a better future for my family but it doesn’t make the decision any easier. Last night Baxter ended up in our bed and Reuben went and slept in his bed, it’s not something that we make a habit of but he generally only does it when he is unwell. I woke up about 1am to him vomiting through our bed – goodie. He was sick again a few hours later.
Getting up in the morning was not only difficult because I was tired but it was tugging my heart strings because I knew I had to leave him when he was feeling his worst. I knew that all he wanted was me and that I couldn’t be there because I had meetings I really needed to be at. While I knew that he would have been fine with Reuben, it still ate away at me all morning. I kept messaging Reuben for updates and couldn’t wait to get home to him.
As a Mother you’re going to get judged no matter what you do. Whether you stay at home, go to work, put your kid in daycare or feed them with a bottle. Do you know what though? Every single decision you make it tough, cos being a parent is tough.
I find being a Mum who cares about her job and career is often skoffed at, like I value that more my children – bullshit. I just have a strong desire to do well and I am bloody good at what I do. Being out each and every day working my ass off actually makes me a better Mum. Now please don’t look into this and assume that if you’re a stay at home that you don’t care – that is not the case at all and I honestly, whole-heartedly take a bow to you because I couldn’t do it. Some don’t have the choice and that breaks my heart too.
Coming home each night at the end of a long stressful day only to have 1 hour with your kids before they need to go to bed is tough.
Today I really struggled, today I felt like I failed as a Mum. Seeing your kid/s is one of the most difficult things as all you want to do is help to fix them but 9/10 you can’t and it hurts.
Every Mum is walking a different path, struggling in different ways. Lets ease up on the assumptions and just be kind x
Maintaining a relationship post-baby takes a lot of time and energy, exactly what you’ve got f*ck all of right now.
Reuben and I decided way back when I started the blog several years ago that our relationship was something I would never go into great detail about on the blog. I see woman slagging of their partners online and this was something I never wanted to do. I see people discussing their sex lives opening, kudos to them but that’s not us. We like to keep some things private.
Reuben has been incredible since we first welcomed Baxter into the world, sure, like I was – he was scared. We were delving into the unknown, we were sleep deprived and we let it get to us. By the time we had Lily we were confident in what we were doing. We are certainly not experts, but we were much more clued up on what to expect (especially in the first 12 weeks). There have been rocky moments where we’ve yelled at each other and questioned or criticised each other’s parenting, but we still love each other.
When you have children, all your attention turns to them and you quite often forget that your relationship with your partner needs attention too.
I can count on one hand the amount of times that Reuben and I have been out without the kids on an actual date since having the kids and that’s pretty sad. With me working full-time (+ some) and him being at home with the kids it’s so easy to get lost in the day to day life. We have had countless offers from people to watch the kids while we spend some time together, but something always comes up. A kid gets sick, one of us get sick or we’re just tired. We worry about their routines being interrupted and we just worry too much.
After recently attending one of Reuben’s best friend’s wedding last weekend (he was a groomsman and I was the Photographer) it reminded how important love is, and spending time with each other. The past few years I have been so focused on so many other things – the kids, my work, housework that I have failed to make my relationship a priority. We’re too tired to have sex, we’re too tired to go out. We’re just tired.
My parents have a weekly date night that they do every week without fail and I am so envious. Between this and the wedding, we are both looking at things with a fresh perspective. We’re now spending quality time with each other once the kids go to sleep instead of doing our own thing (Reuben will do some work and I will do admin stuff on my blog/group etc.) and we actually look forward to it. Sometimes when you’re tired and your mind is cluttered, it feels like a bit of a chore or it can easily be put in the too hard basket but with a small shift in my mind – things are improving, and I am feeling really good about it. We became parents and that was it.
I thought I would put together a small list of things you can do to keep your relationship alive after kids! I mean hey, what would I know – haha. I am only just re-beginning the journey but have been reading about it a lot and thinking of ways to refocus.
Lower your expectations – yeah, those chores you asked them to do? They’re probably not going to get done. And if they do, it won’t be up to your standard. Unless you are part of a small percentage of women who have a partner who happily partakes in household chores – lower your expectations a little. I am told a lot that I need to lower my expectations, that I expect too much and to a ridiculous standard. I moan about how he hangs the clothes on the clothes horse. I mean does it REALLY matter? They’re still going to dry. It’s going to annoy the shit out of me, but I need to learn to lower those expectations and pick my battles.
Be appreciative – Reuben does a lot for me when it comes to the kids, the house may not be spotless, but the kids are happy and fed. Like everybody, we like to be told when we’re appreciated and that our work isn’t going unnoticed. So instead of telling them everything they’re doing wrong, focus on what they’re doing right and make it known.
Prioritize sleep – I know, it’s easier said than done but hear me out. Researchers think that one of the reasons the transition to parenthood might be hard on relationships is because kids wreak havoc on your sleep. When you’re low on sleep, you might find yourself feeling more irritable and hostile therefore reacting badly when something happens.
Talk – Sounds silly I know but how often do you two just talk, no kids, no distractions, nothing? I know us, it’s not often other than a quick call after work to see if we need anything from the supermarket. When Reuben and I first met we would talk on the phone (and in person) for HOURS! To the point I think one of us actually fell asleep one night. We would talk until we were so tired we could barely stay awake or until one of our phones died. Often when we talk now, it’s about the kids (obviously) but I think it’s so important to talk about other things, how each other is doing etc.
Make time for each other – As I mentioned earlier, having time together, away from the kids is important. No matter what comes up, make it happen.
I could carry on forever, but you guys get where I am going. I am using this post to hold me accountable because I am currently not doing half of these but with small changes, the two of us are noticing a big difference.
Being a parent is tough. Go back to basics, remember why you fell in love and prioritise alone time.
I am keen to hear what things you do with your partner to ensure you have some time away from the kids and keep your relationship alive?