Women at Work: Stay at home mum

Women at Work: Stay at home mum

Vicky

This week, the mum I have interviewed has an extremely demanding job that involves long unsociable hours, temperamental work colleagues and is completely unpaid. Yes, she is a stay at home mum (SAHM) or (as my cousin who is also a SAHM likes to say) she is working in the home!

Name: Victoria Whitewood

Current profession: Stay at home mum (SAHM)

Town or county you live in: Sevenoaks, Kent

What was your profession before you had children?
Deputy Headteacher

Why did you decide not to return to work?
A few reasons contributed to this:

  • I have loved being at home with my daughter Kitty full time much more than I had thought I would. I had thought I might want to return to work in some capacity, although I definitely knew I would not want to be full time again. As the time drew closer to go back, I knew I didn’t want to.
  • Teaching is not set hours and I didn’t want to go back to marking all hours once I am back at home. Now we have a baby, I want to make sure that my husband Chris and I get some time together of an evening.
  • I can easily go back to teaching at a later date. (Especially if the worrying shortage of teachers continues.)
  • I have a health issue and decided that at this moment, returning to teaching would not be the right thing for us as a family.

How many children do you have?
One.

Briefly describe a typical day…
Sometime between 6-7am we wake up and I get Kitty changed and dressed, head downstairs and get her morning bottle ready. I normally give her to her Dad so he can feed her bottle while I feed our animals (we have cats and rabbits). I try to jump in the shower while Chris is still at home, as Kitty is at that stage where grabbing the shower screen and throwing things into the running water constitutes fun for her (and nobody else).

In the morning we normally do an activity, could be a class or playgroup, but if we aren’t going out then I will try to do a messy play or an activity at home to break up the day for us both. Lunch is sometime between 12-1pm, depending on what time she wakes up. Sometimes she naps in the morning, or sometimes after lunch; her routine isn’t quite set yet. In the afternoon we do lots of play and always lots of listening to music, which is one of Kitty’s favourite things to do; thankfully I have quite a few CDs for her, which keeps it fresh for me!

Dinner about is about 5.30pm and afterwards, we play in living room, but this playtime can be more subdued than earlier in the day as she is often starting to get tired (although sometimes she can suddenly find a ton of energy!).

Bath time every other day at about 7pm; bottle around 7:15pm; and bed time about 7:30pm.

What is the best part of being a SAHM?
Not missing out on anything that my gorgeous girl does. At this moment in time, laughing every day with her is the best thing in the world. She is so funny and loves playing games and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

And the worst?
Occasionally losing sight of the fact that I am not just a mum. There are tough times and, when things are tricky, it is easy to get bogged down in it all – especially if there is a severe lack of sleep involved. I had a few days away recently and that has totally reinvigorated me.

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?
Enjoy it, whether you are returning to work or not. Spend time with other mums, as that support network can make such a difference in the early, often disconcerting days, but also as time goes on. Baby classes are a great way to get out and about. I had some quite tough times with Kitty’s tongue-tie affecting feeding and then she had awful reflux; it would have been easy to stay home and not see people, but getting out definitely made it all seem better. Even being able to hand over my baby to someone else for five minutes made a huge difference. Getting out of the house can be hard, but it is totally worth it, even if you are very late for something.

Do you have any tips for other SAHMs?
Take some time for yourself each week if you can; I know this isn’t always possible for everyone depending on family and/or partner circumstances or support, so it is easy to say, but for me, it makes all the difference. Buddying up with another mum can work to give each other a short break if you don’t have the family support available.

Why 13 months is my favourite age

Why 13 months is my favourite age

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Like mother, like daughter – I always knew she would have a shoe obsession from an early age!

So it turns out, I’m not really a baby person. They are cute, but also quite boring. They just don’t do much. I have only recently come to realise this, as I am absolutely loving the J at the moment. She is almost 14 months and she is so much fun. She’s just started walking and she’s trying her best to talk (it’s mostly random sounds, but she really goes for it with the baby babble as if she is having a proper conversation).

Her personality is starting to come through, which is slightly unnerving as she really is her mother’s daughter – we are talking tantrums, mood swings and hanger. She is fascinated with everything and has this pure, ecstatic joy when she likes something, such as going on the swings, playing with her best dog pal Alfie, and getting a biscuit. There is something pretty special about watching your child discover the world. The crazy thing is, I know that she is hitting all the normal milestones at the normal times, but every time she learns something new, I feel like she is some sort of child genius and I am so amazed by her. She has this thirst for life, which is infectious.

The bond she has with both sets of grandparents is just lovely to watch. She wants to spend time with them and they seem to love being with her. They have that same sense of joy at watching her learn. It is almost as if they haven’t had children of their own and are experiencing it all for the first time. We all sit there, getting excited about the fact that she pointed at the dog and said “woo woo”. (Ignoring the fact that she also pointed at the chair and said the same thing.) She must be a bright! A child-genius in the making!

Typically, this period of fun has coincided with me working almost full-time and Grump being on Easter holidays – so he is off having great fun with the J and I am slaving away in the office. To be honest, I can’t complain. I love being back at work, and although it is tiring, I feel like I have a higher purpose. I really like being part of a team again and I’m finding pride in being my own boss, bringing in a bit of extra cash (and planning how to spend it), managing my own invoices and getting advance bookings.

I know that freelancing can be tough and I certainly found that out when I had two and a bit months with not much work. Plus the hours can be unsociable – I stayed up working until 11.30pm the other night, because the client didn’t send me the work until 8pm and I had to finish it that night (if you are a non-parent reading this, 11.30pm is VERY late for tired mummies and daddies to go to bed. In fact, 10.30pm is late. My ideal bedtime is 9.30pm and if I’ve had a really busy day 9pm. Oh how times have changed!). I also find that I do bits of work at the weekends and on my ‘days off’ (I’ve put this in speech marks as it may be called a day off, but I’m looking after a now fully-mobile toddler, so it can’t really be considered a break). But I’m enjoying the work, the responsibility and the flexibility that being freelance brings.

But back to the main subject – the best age so far. I’m sure as the years go by there will be other ages that I love and there are elements of each stage that have been fun, frustrating and bloody hard. I miss those lazy days of cuddling your newborn baby on the sofa, watching endless episodes of Downton Abbey/Games of Thrones/(insert favourite box-set here), drinking hot chocolate and ordering Grump to bring me things because I was breastfeeding and couldn’t move. I liked taking the J to baby sensory and watching her lay on the floor (not rolling over or crawling away) and staring up in wonder at the pretty lights and floaty mobiles. I liked watching her learn to crawl and discovering the different tastes of baby rice, puree and solid foods (now she only eats sweetcorn, peas and blueberries – and she will not be spoon fed).

All of these things I liked, but at this age, right now, I am so in love with my little girl. In the past, every now and again, I would get a moment where my heart melted and I felt this surge of love for her. I get those moments every day. Perhaps it is amplified, because I am at work from 9am-5.30pm and so the time first thing in the morning and in the evening is precious? But she is constantly surprising me, making me laugh and showing me her new skills. She seems so much cuter, more fun, more herself.

She has suddenly gone from baby to child. It is as if she has found herself and is loving it. When she catches her reflection in the mirror and gives herself an almost flirty look. When she hears music and starts to do her funny little bobbing dance. When she knows she is about to do something that she’s not supposed to and she turns to look at me and gives me a cheeky, knowing grin, and then does it anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, having a child with a big personality means that she also goes big when she’s in a bad mood. And my goodness, she lets you know if she’s not happy. Things that upset her include:

  • Having her nappy changed

  • Being given food she doesn’t feel like eating

  • Having anything taken away from her (toys, stones, the dog’s ball, dirt she picks up from the floor)

  • Pointing at something and you not bringing her the correct thing right away

  • Getting dressed, undressed, basically any removal of clothes

  • Having her face and hands wiped (I think this is true for all children, though)

And sometimes, there’s just nothing wrong at all and she throws herself down on the floor in a rage as if the whole world is ending. I thought tantrums didn’t start until they hit two years old? But I wouldn’t change her for the world, even if it made my life a bit easier. So here’s to enjoying motherhood – it’s only taken me 13 months, but I can finally say that I’m properly enjoying it… for now

Unicorn day

Unicorn day

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Last week, something rare and exciting happened to me. This sort of day is so unusual that, for some people, it might not ever exist and so will henceforth be known as Unicorn day.

Seeing as we had been house bound for much of the Christmas period due to illness, I thought it would be nice to take the J out for the day. I made plans to visit my friend who lives in Lancing. It is about an hour and 15 minutes drive from us, so I had to work out when I would be driving to fit around the J’s naps. There were lots of variables that meant the day could go very wrong: the J not going to sleep; her screaming for the entire car journey; her doing a poo in the car seat (they always leak out); her refusing to eat lunch/sit in her high chair/throw food at people, etc; so I was a little bit nervous, but had my fingers crossed that it would all be OK.

Instead, I had the perfect day; one of those days where everything went just right. I felt like I was winning at life and at being a mum. I don’t want to boast too much (please don’t hate me), but it all just flowed so easily. We set off after breakfast to tie in with the J’s morning nap and she slept for a good hour in the car. She didn’t scream when my friend wanted to cuddle her (she’s a bit hit and miss with who she likes at the moment – typical female) and she played happily on the floor while I enjoyed a cup of tea and catch up.

We went out for lunch and the food took longer to come than anticipated, but the J sat in her highchair nicely and only threw the odd bit of food on the floor. She was smiling at all the waitresses and generally being a pleasant human being. Then, on the way home she had another snooze in the car. She was a pleasure all day.

When Grump got home from work, the J greeted him with a huge smile and we were all in high spirits. I feel like this is the version of motherhood we are all sold. Happy mummies and happy babies all the time. We all know this is far from reality, but it was nice to just have one day where I felt I had done everything right; the first one in almost 11 months. Most days for me are a mix of moments of happiness and laughter interspersed with crying, poo and clearing up food that she’s thrown across the room.

So if you are having a bad day, a bad week or even a bad month. One day, hopefully, you will get a Unicorn day and it will make all the crap that came before worthwhile.