Kelly Chennells | February 2018
When I typed the title to this article I had a twinge of guilt. Guilt is one of the certainties of being a part-time working mom. Guilt about working too little, about spending too little time with the children, about running the household inefficiently, about sacrificing my career … to name a few.
For me everything changed when I became a mom. I totally underestimated the impact that having a child would have on my life, on my work and on my psyche. I had my son at the age of 34, which meant that I had many established ways of being and working and it meant that I was properly selfish with my time by then. I’ve been a mom for just over a year and while it now feels like it’s the only thing I’ve ever known, this year parenting has been both my greatest challenge and my greatest joy.
Having my son has allowed me to re-centre – or rather, forced me – to name what is important to me and where I want to spend my time and energy.
A nanny raising my child
Probably my greatest challenge is the reality that if I’m at work and don’t have family close by to look after my child, then a nanny will be looking after him.
Naturally this also means that the values, beliefs and personality of my nanny are being instilled in my child on a daily basis. Not to say that there is anything wrong with the values, beliefs and personality of our nanny – she’s a God-send! But, I can’t escape the fundamental belief that I’ve been blessed with a little human in order that I should be the primary input into his life – that I would raise him, nurture him and instil my values in him. This belief is what has fuelled my journey out of full time work and into the murky waters of part-time work.
Friendship (and other relationship) challenges
Another difficult area to navigate, particularly in the first year, is that of friendships. The overwhelming nature of having a child, feeding every two hours (initially), lack of sleep and lack of time to take care of myself, meant that I had very little emotional energy for anyone besides myself and my baby. For some of my friends this was experienced as a distancing, an avoidance and a lack of inclusion in the baby rearing phase.
Once I was back to work the balancing act of work, home, baby and friendship has proved equally difficult. And to this day it’s an area that I’m constantly re-balancing and re-weighting. I value authentic relationships – I’m equally a mom and a friend – and finding the emotional capacity for both is a constant challenge of learning boundaries and finding rest.
Constantly (feeling like I’m) dropping balls
Being a leader in our local community, a wife, a mom and a consulting actuary means that it always feels as though I’m dropping a ball, forgetting an appointment, missing an appointment or being less proactive than I am comfortable with. I have a diary. Yet, the only thing that’s helped me feel somewhat on top of things is regularly and intentionally slowing down and taking life one step at a time, one week at the time.
Feeling like I’m letting the team down
I’ve always loved working in a team, particularly small teams. I love that sweet spot when a team “just works” and the synergy and interdependency between players is maximized. I love people.
Part-time work means that I often need to hand over part(-time) work. And that I need to rely on the rest of the team to pick up the outstanding parts. Given that I generally place high expectations on myself, I’ve really really struggled with letting go of incomplete work and trusting the team to take it further.
Sacrificing time with my child
The biggest drawback to working (at all) is sacrificing time with my child.
When I first decided to leave the working world I thought that I should leave entirely – that I should spend all my time at home, lavish all my attention on my child. The financial reality is that our family needs me to work; but at the same time I’ve come to appreciate that keeping one foot in the working world has helped me retain a sense of self, a sense of autonomy and a sense of being me (alongside ‘mom’, ‘wife’ and all the other names that I could call myself).
At the end of the day, we only have so many hours and what has been my objective is to truly be present wherever I am – whether at work, with a friend or at home – and to believe that I’m doing the best that I can with what I have now.
I’m very conscious that the process of raising a child is as much about nurturing and inputting as it is about letting go. I constantly remind myself that this little baby will someday be a grown man, a husband, a father, a leader. And he doesn’t need me to be there every waking minute of the day. He needs a mom who is true to herself, who is strong and who prioritises him. He needs a mom who can hold conflicted feelings and navigate uncertainty – and he needs me to teach him that.
So nowadays I’m learning that instead of constantly entertainingly guilt, I can put it to bed, tuck it in tightly and let it sleep…at least for a few hours at a time.