It is awful dropping off a sick child at nursery knowing that you are pulling a fast one on the staff and just because he hasn’t vomited – yet – doesn’t mean he is not ill. Your heart bleeds for your sad little child and you feel guilty that you are pushing the nursery’s boundaries. Some employers are more understanding, but others send tangible waves of irritation over the phone lines when you decide your child is truly unwell and you have to stay at home with him. That is only the start of it when you are juggling too many balls – working late, business trips, tight deadlines and waking up tired children to drop them off at childminders – all takes its toll on a working mum and her family.
Parents struggle to find a balance and may feel they have to put career first even if it affected their family relationships. This is not right and should be avoided if at all possible. In the conflict between the needs of a family and the needs of a job, something has got to give in a family where two adults are both wedded to their careers. You may struggle with the idea of ‘not doing anything’ but for some families, if both parents are in full-time work, their lives will fall apart. By choosing to prioritise your family and putting your own needs second, you can bring calmness into your family.
One mother thought she had the ideal job as a family consultant at a holiday company, advising the wealthy about family holidays. However, with her husband in a competitive career, trying to get children to school on time and never eating together as a family, it became too much. She was tired of all the juggling and stopped work to become a stay-at-home mum. I respect this woman who realised that raising capable, sensible children needs time and attention and her working life took up that time to the detriment of her family life.
Some find it possible to continue working with one child, but often it is the logistics and childcare costs for two or more children that tips the balance and the wheels may truly come off the bus. Of course many families are in different positions, some are single parents and some need both incomes to survive and these families also need to find a work balance to raise capable, happy children and to have a healthy family life. But if it is possible, you may decide that for a period of time one adult in the household should not be in paid employment. Both of you are still working – one within and one outside the home – and need to support each other emotionally and financially to sustain balance in life.