As I sit here to type this, I am taken back to a few hours earlier today. Let me set the scene, I joined an online networking meeting with people I've never met before. Hi, Hello, Welcome, everyone is chatting & interacting - I am dreading turning on my mic, dare I even speak? I full well know that once I do speak, my 3yr old, technically nearly 4, will interrupt, shout, jump on my head/back/lap and try to be the centre of attention.
You see, this is my third child, a late to the nest child and she is wildly different to her older siblings. Trying to work from home while she is around is akin to trying to get a broken egg shell out of the yolk, near on impossible!
It wasn't always like this, my eldest child is 20 and the teen is 15, I was able to take them to work with me & get work done! Shock, I know. So here was me, naively thinking, hey, I did it before, I am definitely older and wiser, I would absolutely be able to do this again with the third child but, I was sorely wrong.
I was truly lucky with my past experience, I was able to take my older two with me to work, paid work, in an office / at a location and it worked out. I won't lie, it was a balancing act, everything takes a lot longer when your child is at work with you, but I did it and I was good at it. My children had the best of both worlds, they could spend the day with me and they had the freedom to play and learn about a very different world than their tiny counterparts.
How it all started, I volunteered to do PA work for a Pastor of the Church I was attending. This led to many opportunities, the committee asked me to become a trustee and eventually I became an indispensable part of the team, meaning they wanted to pay me. Wonderful! They also accepted that I would be bringing my child with me to work, as I had done that while volunteering and it was working out well. (Not to mention, there is no way I could have afforded childcare at the time.) I started doing this when my first child was three months old! As time went on, I had more "titles" to my name, I became a key holder & managed the Church premises, I helped start up a charity, I started up a toddler group, I facilitated other groups who used the building and many other things. All this I did with my child, who by this point was nearly 3yrs old.
Now, I hear you all, the past two years were manic and a lot of parents (not only moms) experienced this "work-from-home-with-kids-insanity" and it didn't go well. It really didn't! I did it too and my tiny one drove my older two & myself up the wall - they have vowed never to have their own kids because of it, haha!
However, I did this during normal times and I have to admit, I didn't always think I was succeeding or achieving much. Despite people around me telling me I was doing a great job of balancing it all. In fact, I was doing so well at it all that when we moved due to my then husband's new job, they told me they'd researched me too and hired him because they were keen to hire me too. How crazy is that? Now, it wasn't to do his job, it was to run a very large toddler group, which was basically a small business in its almost 25th year. It ran over 3 mornings, had a total of 90 adults, plus children on the books, including a waiting list and a group of volunteers doing all the work. They wanted me to manage the whole set up, they wanted me to start as soon as possible and they wanted to pay me!
Wow! When I think back, it makes me smile and realise my worth. At the time, I really did not realise my worth, and I wish I had!
Bringing my 3 and a half year old with me to work was a part of my terms, she eventually did a few hours at nursery, but it was fabulous that I had this opportunity again. She could play with other children while mommy was busy organising and sorting. Once my second child came along, I knew I would be fully capable of getting back to work with her when she was about 3mths old. Again, I did this job very well, I managed volunteers, a waiting list, planned systems so everyone knew what went where, did singing time (I still hate "the wheels on the bus") and more and balanced it all while looking after my tiny one. I thrived on it and I loved it!
In the years since I have always felt frustrated that more places weren't keen (absolutely wouldn't) be flexible for parents to be at work with their children. Yes, we all know it can be tough as heck, I mean, look at my current 3yr old! However, it can work for some of us in some professions or even with more work from home opportunities. In fact, a lot of mothers in particular, start their own small businesses so they can do exactly this!
For mothers to be with their children in those first 3 years especially, is such a precious time, it flies past! So if we can and we want to, why aren't there more flexible options for us? There is so much pressure for us to get back to work, to feel like we have to "contribute to society"! Errrm, raising a child / children IS contributing to society, it's bloody hard work, not to mention all the other pressures that we have & we are raising the next generation of humans! Why can't there be an option for us to bring our little ones to work. I applaud those moms in parliament, breast-feeding their baby while also arguing a point, huge yes to this!!
And, yes, I know some Fathers stay home with their children too and I also know some mothers would very much rather be back at work to "get a break", but both of these deserve another conversation, another time.
This is my experience, it absolutely defied expectation, my expectations and others expectations of me and my children. I'll admit, my experience is not usual, except for those who work from home. I have not yet met anyone else who also took their child / children to work with them. Because it's not the norm, in fact, it is frowned upon, I know the look. I also know children are a handful and a fair amount of them are more like my 3yr old than my older two were. I can guarantee you I would not take my 3yr old into any work space, she'd probably try to manage the place for one, but she would also drive everyone barmy after 20min. However, if I had been able to do this since she was 3 months old, it would be normal for her, she would know how it all works and we'd have a system we would grow into and I could bloody well make it work again. I did it twice successfully after all!