Second-best blues: how it feels to be the least favourite parent

Second-best blues: how it feels to be the least favourite parent

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I was inspired to write this post after the J had a crying fit because she didn’t want Mummy to put her to bed. She only wanted Daddy. And I have to say, it hurt my feelings (I may have the beginnings of PMT today, but I still feel this is a justified response).

We as Mothers don’t often have to play second-best with our children. In the traditional family model, it was the Mum who primarily looked after the kids (and so got to be the favourite) – it was certainly like that when I was growing up. These days things are very different and have certainly changed for the better in terms of shared parental duties etc. I always wanted Grump and I to have equal responsibility for the J and he is a very ‘hands on’ dad (I don’t like this phrase, as it implies that being ‘hands on’ is extra special and not just part of his job as a father, but you get my gist).

As Grump is a teacher, he has more time off than the average father to spend with our daughter. This works well for me, especially with freelancing, as it means I can take on more work in the school holidays, with free childcare to boot!

However, I have noticed that during those times when I am working more and Grump is in charge, the J goes off me. She constantly asks for Daddy, runs to him for cuddles and just seems disinterested in me.

She did this once before at around age 1. I vividly remember being at a friend’s son’s 1st birthday party that had a children’s entertainer. All the Mums were sat on the floor with the children, singing and joining in and the dads were stood at the side chatting. I tried to sit with the J, but she wasn’t having any of it. She wanted Daddy. And so I took on the role of a spectator with the other Dads and felt really left out. It hurts when you are not wanted. Granted it was nice to have a break and scoff down some party food, but I was embarrassed when every time I tried to pick up or cuddle my child she cried. I had spoken to a friend about this problem beforehand and she came up to me after the party and said that she had no idea how bad it was. Of course, over time things got better. Grump went back to work and Mummy was favourite again. But that party always sticks in my mind. I wonder if this is how many Dads feel on a regular basis?

As she has got older (now almost 17 months), the J has become more confident and now has close relationships with Grandma, Granny and her childminder. She is happy to be left with them, as well as myself and Grump. As her affections are split between more people, she tends to be happy with whoever is happy to play with, feed or cuddle her.

Over the last week or so, Grump has broken up on school holidays and he has become the firm favourite. I think this might also have something to do with the fact that he gives her more treats (fruit juice from his glass, chocolate etc), whereas I am perhaps a bit more strict (water only!!).

Tonight, it was me who spent 20 minutes singing songs with her, throwing balls down the hall way, and getting splashed during bath time. When we tried to get her ready for bed she kept running off and wouldn’t get dressed. Grump was unsuccessful at getting on her PJs and he admitted to me that it had taken him half an hour to get her dressed this morning. I decided to show him what I normally do, which involves firmly holding her down and putting clothes on her.

She cried a little, but nothing major and then Grump put his arms out for a cuddle and said “Horrible mummy”. Now I know he was joking, but the J is taking everything in at the moment and understands a lot. She looked at me with a heartbreaking stare as if to say, “I don’t like you”. Then she wouldn’t come to me for a cuddle. I had to tell Grump to leave the room and force a crying child to be cuddled until she had her milk and settled down. Not fun at all.

The only way I can describe that feeling is when you were younger and you fancied/had a massive crush on a boy, and you found out that they didn’t like you back. That sad sinking feeling. Your affections are not returned.

But when you’ve carried a baby for 9 months and gone through labour, you expect to get the best cuddles and kisses from your child – not Daddy who didn’t go through any pain (apart from a squashed hand). It’s not fair.

Now I’m sitting on the sofa, feeling put out. The answer…?

There isn’t one, except the knowledge that at some point the tables will turn and I will be her favourite again. Although it makes me sad to think that Grump will feel like this at some point, or has done in the past. Being number two just isn’t fun. A big shout out to all the Dads or Mums out there who know how I feel. But when they do run to you for a cuddle or desperately call you name, that feeling is so amazing and special that it makes all the other tough times worthwhile.

 

Women at Work: copywriter and author

Women at Work: copywriter and author

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This week we have an experienced mum with three kids at school. She currently works from home and has done a few different jobs throughout her career before sticking at, what sounds like, her passion.

Name: Nicola Young

Current profession: copywriter and author

Town or county you live in: Sevenoaks

How did you get into copywriting?
I’ve been writing copy since I started my first job following university. I worked for the Food Standards Agency and wrote articles for trade magazines, text for leaflets, speeches and q&a’s for parliamentary question time, and answered enquiry emails. Every job I had after that always saw me gravitating towards anything involving the written word, so moving into copywriting was a natural step for me.

Briefly describe a typical day at work…
I work from home so there is no typical day for me. I have an office in the garden, so once the kids have gone to school and I’ve walked the dog, I’ll make myself a strong coffee and take myself down there for a few hours. What I do depends on what I’m working on, but generally, I do a lot of business blog articles, product copy and website pages. If I get time, I’ll do some editing, writing or planning for my fiction work.

What is the best part of your job?
I like the flexibility of what I do. I can go from meeting mode, to mum mode within five minutes and back again. That’s not for everyone, but it works for me.

And the worst?
Some of the things I have to write about aren’t of any interest to me, but it’s the nature of the job. I also find that some people aren’t prepared to pay very much and don’t appreciate how much research you have to do before you even begin to write the words.

How many children do you have?
I have three children – 13, 10 and eight.

How old was your child when you went back to work?
I first worked part time when my eldest daughter was just a few months old. I trained as an exercise-to-music instructor when I was pregnant! And ran a few classes in a local hall.

How did you find going back to work after having a baby?
It was hard because she didn’t particularly like being left with anyone else, but at the same time, I enjoyed those few hours of free time.

Did you go back to the same job? Or consider a career change?
This was a complete move away from the market research job I had pre-children. I didn’t start freelance copywriting until I’d had my third child.

Who provides childcare for you?
I don’t need childcare because they are all at school now.

Would you say your attitude to work has changed since having a baby?
My children are my priority and the older they get, the more they need me around for support. I would always make sure I work around them.

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?
If you think you might like to continue with your current career, I would advise you to keep your toe in the water. The longer you are away, the more difficult it is to get back into work mode. On the other side of things, don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself, if that’s what you think you might like to do. Having time off is the ideal opportunity to think about where you see your future career going.

Nicola Young is a freelance copywriter at Nicola Young Copywriter.

She writes children’s fiction under the name Nikki Young and runs a food and health blog at www.afreefromlife.com

 

 

Women at Work: exam invigilator and clerk to school govenors

Women at Work: exam invigilator and clerk to school govenors

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This week we meet Laura, who has three kids and three jobs! There seems to be a recurring theme with the levels of multi-tasking each working mum I interview manages to undertake. I can see why Laura’s blog is called Musings of a tired mummy!

Name: Laura

Current profession: exam invigilator at one school, clerk to governors at two other schools, and blogger!

Town or county you live in: Camberley

How did you get into your school-based jobs?

I did both roles as part of a previous job from before I had children. I wanted something part time that I could fit around my family. It took a long time of applying and failing before I got the first job and then within a year I’d got the other two as well. Eight months ago I started blogging to allow myself to be a bit creative and let the world know that parenting is crazy.

Briefly describe a typical day at work…

Exams are spread through the year, obviously most in May and June. We arrive and set up the exam room with the papers etc, then supervise the candidates while they do their best (hopefully)! Clerking involves me taking minutes at meetings and writing them up. I’m also responsible for filing and other admin. I spend a lot of time at my computer, checking emails and organising. Blogging happens everywhere! I lay in bed, on the school run, cooking, out and about, watching tv; I’m always thinking of topics and have to jot them down or write a note on my phone to remember them.

What is the best part of your jobs?

The variety in all of them. The exams are always varied; I like the music and languages exams best, as they are more interesting but more can go wrong if the CD player breaks down! Every meeting is different and every governor brings something special to the schools I work at – they are deeply committed to providing the best for the children. Blogging is something that is just about me and my family; a chance for me to express myself, as my kids generally don’t listen.

And the worst?

Seeing kids in exams not even trying and waiting for other people to get back to me before the school run so I can sign off for the day and concentrate on my family. Oh and finding time to blog!

How many children do you have?

Three.

How old were your children when you went back to work?

Matthew was four and Anya was two when I got the exam invigilator job. I worked the very next day after having Zach (!) for clerking and invigilated an exam within a month.

How did you find going back to work after having a baby?

I wanted to get a job to set a good example to my children and be able to afford treats. It is hard leaving them, but most of the time I can work around the older two’s school hours.

Did you go back to the same job? Or consider a career change?

I was training to be an educational psychologist while working as a teaching assistant in a primary school. I simply couldn’t afford to continue, as the childcare costs were higher than my wages.

Who provides childcare for you?

My mum during the day and my partner in the evenings.

Was it easy to negotiate flexible working/returning to work?

I set my hours around the kids with the exception of Zach who is more than happy to go to my mum for a couple of hours (never longer than three).

Would you say your attitude to work has changed since having a baby?

Definitely. I used to begrudge working parents having time off and making my day harder. Now I am much more sympathetic and realise how busy parents are!

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?

Don’t feel guilty: whatever you decide is best for your family.

Laura’s blog is called Musings of a tired mummy…zzz…

Women at Work: Content Marketing Director

Women at Work: Content Marketing Director

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Name
Hi, I’m Hayley, a 30-year-old new mum living with my husband, one-year-old son and our dog in rural Devon.

Current profession
I went back to work part time in January and am currently working as Content Marketing Director for a national retail company. I also write a parenting, food and lifestyle blog called Devon Mama in my spare time.

Town or county you live in: Devon!

How did you get into content marketing?
My route into content marketing isn’t the traditional one. I’ve worked at the same company since I was 13 and a Saturday girl. It’s a family company and with almost all of my family involved, I was bound to end up there. Prior to going to university to study Business and Management, I worked for 12 months as a Marketing Assistant. I credit that with being one of the best and worst jobs I had, I worked directly for the Marketing Director and would cry relentlessly as my work was never ‘good’ enough to meet his standards. It both put me off marketing and inspired me to do better.

After leaving university, I came back to the company and joined as a buyer, quite different from my previous experience! In our organisation it still allowed me to have input with product presentation and promotion, especially as I was sourcing and developing own-brand products from the Far East. Over the years I worked my way up to Procurement Manager before joining the Board as Procurement Director back in 2014. My role at that stage was overseeing all products and stock from conception through to it leaving the organisation to go to the customer, giving me a team of 15 and a budget of £25 million annually. I was still heavily involved in promotion planning and worked closely with our branding and marketing team throughout.

As time progressed we realised there was a gap for a content marketing team. Previously our copy and content product was spread across various individuals in the company, each technically employed to do another job! In 2015 I set up a small team, working directly with them to develop how we presented and promoted our products digitally. It fitted well alongside my procurement role even if it was two very different skills and sides of my brain!

When I had my son, I started to look at which parts of my role would have to go in order to accommodate a shorter working week. I realised quickly that I wasn’t prepared to lose my marketing role and with that, stepped aside as Procurement Director. Since that point, I’ve brought all content production into one team allowing us to give a clear, branded and consistent message. I actually bumped into my old boss the other day, he couldn’t believe it had taken me this long to get back into marketing!

Briefly describe a typical day at work…
A typical day at work for me starts at 7.30am. I get into the office, grab a drink and get settled in. That first 30 minutes before everyone else arrives is the golden time – I get so much done! As a Director I’m expected to still be ‘on’ when I’m at home, so I tend to do a quick pre-check of my emails the night before and first thing in the morning. When I’m in the office I start by going through my inbox and getting any quick wins out of the way first. I have sign off for all content, which means I spend a huge chunk of my day editing and proofing work before signing off; sometimes that can take minutes, other times hours.

Around 8.30am I go into a Director’s briefing where we discuss any issues arising, sales and performance. After that, it’s usually meetings with people in my team to catch up on what they’re doing, chat through ideas and sort any issues. I operate fairly openly with my team, nothing is off the table (unless it’s ridiculous), so there are always plenty of ideas and suggestions to talk through. Over lunch I’ll do a bit more copy reading, check emails and sign off adverts or marketing materials; unfortunately, part-time hours mean that a lunch break is a necessity I just don’t have time for these days.

In the afternoon we’ll have a campaign planning meeting, getting the entire team together to plan and schedule campaigns. We work 3-6 months ahead as a minimum, thankfully a habit I’m used to from my days in Buying… it can lead to being very fed up with Christmas by the time it comes round! Finally, I usually end up dealing with staff issues or a management issue such as strategy work at the end of the day. I sign off at 4.30pm to pick up my son before going home to another hour or so on the sofa later.

What is the best part of your job?
The team. One of the best bits of bringing together a relatively new team is being able to handpick them. They all come from different backgrounds and have different levels of experience and technical knowledge, but somehow it just works. I’m also very lucky to have a hugely supportive team of fellow Directors; my desk is in a corner with three of them and we’re constantly collaborating, discussing and laughing. I also love the flexibility I have. If I need to swap a day in the office, I can. If I need to leave early, I can. It’s taken some adjustment, but it works well for us at the moment.

And the worst?
Ha! Being part time also has its downsides. It’s very difficult to be in a high-level job and not be there 24/7. It’s not as if my job role ceases to function or can be covered when I’m not in the office, which means I have to be constantly available. People often think it’s easy being at the top of the management structure and while it does have huge benefits, it’s also the worst bit of my job. Ultimately, the buck stops with me. If one of my team make an error or something goes out incorrectly, it’s on me. It’s my role to develop and support those working for me and prevent mistakes from happening.

As a Director, there is no-one really above you, which means that you are expected to have the answers and the fixes. I’d often look over my shoulder as if someone more senior was going to be stood there and answer the question I’d been asked! I’ve had to make tough decisions that go against my personal feelings in order to put the company’s best interests first, including making roles of people I like redundant. It’s an incredible feeling having that responsibility; it can be very stressful, very lonely and completely exhausting.

How many children do you have?
I have a son born in May 2016.

How old was your child when you went back to work?
I planned to return to work in September 2016, but didn’t feel quite ready. I took back the Content Marketing part of my role at that stage, working from home while my maternity cover was on an extended holiday. I loved it but it just proved that I wasn’t mentally ready to return to work! From September onwards I returned to work for Board Meetings and in January 2017 I went back to work properly.

How did you find going back to work after having a baby?
Oh gosh. I found going back to work with a baby so much harder than I thought I would! Even though I felt ready, I don’t think you can ever fully be ready for that change again. It helps that my son loves his childcare, but there are days when I don’t get to see him in the morning, meaning I get an hour with him maximum. I find myself riddled with guilt about leaving him when I’m in work and guilt about not working more when I’m at home. It’s tricky!

Did you go back to the same job? Or consider a career change?
I went back to an element of my old job. I genuinely considered not returning for a long time. I looked at our finances and realised that although we could cope, we would be doing just that; coping. We wouldn’t be able to afford to do anything beyond that. I looked at stepping down from a management role but decided it would be a huge backwards step for me and leave me frustrated. If I’m going to leave my baby, I want it to be for something worthwhile.

Who provides childcare for you?
My son goes to nursery one-and-a-half days a week and to my mum for one day. I was nervous about both of those options, but he loves the nursery and has come on leaps and bounds since joining there and being among other, older, children. With my mum, it’s been wonderful to see their relationship blossom and develop. I grew up close to my grandparents and I want the same for my son.

Was it easy to negotiate flexible working/returning to work?
My work has been very accommodating of me returning to work on a part-time basis. We’ve never had a part-time Director before, so I do feel a pressure to make sure that I’m constantly over-performing in order to show it can work.

Would you say your attitude to work has changed since having a baby?
Definitely. I’m still career driven, but I now know that it’s okay to take my foot off the gas a little! I find myself far more appreciative of part-time workers and other working primary caregivers. I used to think it would be easy working part time, but now I realise it’s anything but. I don’t do 3/5ths of my old job. I just do it in 3/5ths of the time for 3/5ths of the pay! On the flip side, I’m far less tolerant of office politics. I’ve not left my own child at home to have to come and deal with ‘children’ at work. I put it down to tiredness and a lack of patience these days!

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?
Enjoy it! I spent so long worrying about what I was missing, whether I could go back part time and then how I’d cope, that I forgot to enjoy it half the time. Spend some time doing proper research into childcare with plenty of notice; we had to book our nursery place prior to our son even being born. Good childcare that you trust removes one of those horrible guilt-inducing stressors.

Finally, be realistic about what you can manage. It’s all very well returning to work part time, but that does mean your role needs to be adapted to suit that. Likewise, with full time, don’t over commit yourself to the point that you’re running yourself ragged. You’ve got a full-time role at home as well, parenting doesn’t change to part time or flexi hours… be kind to yourself about what you can achieve. Most of all, know that what’s right for you may not be right for another. Don’t feel guilty for wanting to be back at work (or not!). Your career. Your family. Your choice. Not the neighbour’s, the woman at Tesco’s or your mum’s. Yours.