Looking after that special someone

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This week has been pretty average in the Abrahams household. We’ve all been sick to varying degrees which is bad but on Saturday I was told I should avoid contact with Hugh until my test results came back so most of his care has fallen to Tim. Sunday night we has the after hours GP around as Hugh has a virus and yesterday morning Tim woke with a cold. Probably something our germ infested kidlet has shared with his Dad. Kids are gross.

Today the two germ infested males are out of house and I have found myself with some Mummy alone time. While there is washing in the machine and jobs to be done I’m also making sure that I try and look after myself for a while.

Before Hugh I was Amy “the wife/partner” and Amy “the Individual”. Now I’m also Amy “the parent” and that definitely requires most of my time. I enjoy the “parent” identity but this week in particular I have felt the lack of the other Amys in my life and I’ve become determined to rectify that. At this point I would like to point out that Tim has a very similar problem. Between work and Hugh neither of us really have much of an opportunity to have some quality time alone or apart.

I think there are a few tricks to achieve this quality time. These have been shared with me by experienced parents who seem to manage to balance their needs and their children’s needs reasonably well so I thought I would share with you. Having said that I also think it’s a balancing act that I haven’t quite got right yet so it’s a work in progress.

1. Get a baby sitter and use them!

Tim and I finally have a local baby sitter in Canberra. We met her last week and she is just a delight! I have no problem with leaving Hugh with her however I am sure that if I dallied we would never book her in unless it was absolutely necessary. So with that in mind we booked her for 2 weekends time. We have no plans yet but we also now have no excuse to not go out, just the two of us, and have dinner or go to a movie or just be somewhere together without our baby.

2. Say yes to the help!

Many people offer help to me. A lot of help. And what do I say when help is offered? “Oh thanks but that’s ok”. Sometimes it’s ok to say yes to help. If someone offers to watch your baby or run and errand or two then why not take them up on it! If it frees up a little bit of time for you to give yourself a little bit of self love then why not!

3. Redefine what’s important!

It might be getting your nails done, it might be going for lunch, it might be going to the gym, it might just be reading a book in peace. Self care is an individual thing, it’s about what makes you feel good. While it might seem silly to book a baby sitter to go to the gym perhaps find one with a crèche or some nearby occasional care you can use. Or use family and friends if you have the option. Perhaps you can take an annual leave day from work on a day that your little cherub is in childcare. Leave them there and enjoy a day to yourself!

4. It’s all about give and take!

Negotiate with your partner. It takes some timing and organising but you can both make time to look after yourselves and each other by taking turns to have your “you time”. It might be once a week, it might be once a fortnight, it might only be once a month but it can be really important that you make it happen. There is a word of caution with this one, it has to be a give and take. While it doesn’t work if one person does all the taking it also doesn’t work if you’re both determined to all the giving. Tim and I have an unfortunate habit of not wanting to relax or indulge in “me time” while the other person has Hugh. This means we both insist the other person goes first but we both feel bad that the other one misses out so in the end neither of us do it. Completely counterproductive.

5. Remember the couple part too!

Tim and I are going away this weekend for my birthday without Hugh. We’re staying at a hotel in Sydney for my birthday and Hugh is staying in Wollongong with my Mum. We try and take advantage of having family down to go out for dinner, just the two of us, to spend time talking about each other and about “us”. We feel it’s really important keep the couple part of our relationship strong. It makes us better people and better parents. Going away for the night is the ultimate in couple time and we cannot wait! And I don’t feel bad about leaving Hugh. He’s with my Mum and he will be safe, well looked after and we’ve done it before so no need for stress and anxiety.

So now that I have sprouted these words of wisdom it all sounds pretty simple. It’s not. It’s hard. But anything worth doing requires a bit of hard work.

I’m off to indulge in my me time now, might paint my nails, might watch some Netflix, might write a self indulgent blog about me time…who knows 🙂

 

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Workin’ 9 to 5

IMG_5108Last week I had my first day back at work in 48 weeks. I’m easing myself back in with one day a week before I go in for four days a week in June which (if anyone is interested and has the option) is a great way of getting back into the swing of things at your own pace.

The decision to return to work is hard and it varies from family to family. Everyone’s circumstances are different and there are a lot of factors that contribute to the decision about whether one (or both) parents return to the workplace.

For us, (Tim and I) me going back to work means childcare for Hugh who is still only 10 months old and that was not something I was thrilled about at first. The closer the day got the more worried I became. On the first day I tried to leave him at childcare the tears that rolled down his fat little cheeks broke my heart and I’m not ashamed to admit I cried myself in the car all the way home.

On top of that was the overwhelming fear that I had forgotten how to do my job. As a facilitator I teach leadership and management skills. I speak to adults about adult things, like emotional intelligence, communication and team performance. For the last 48 weeks my primary focus has been keeping a small human alive, just stringing words together so they make sense and learning the words to the entirety of the Wiggles back catalogue. Needless to say the two don’t really align.

As my return date got closer my nerves were in overdrive and my concern about my ability to rejoin the workforce was at an all time high. But at no point did I think I wouldn’t go back.

There are a few reasons why I was always going to return to work.

Obviously there was a money factor. While my salary might not be huge and childcare costs big bucks, financially we are definitely better off with me working four days a week than not.

The other and more important reason is that I am actually ready to go back to work for myself, to engage with people on a professional level and, to be honest, reclaim a little bit of pre baby Amy.

Being a Mum is great and I love the time I spend with my baby boy (most of the time) but I do miss parts of my pre baby life. I miss the discussion about the merits of different leadership theories when I facilitate a program. I love researching new ideas and seeing how they can work for my organisation and I love being part of a team of like minded individuals working together each day to make the magic happen.

I’ve always believed that work should mean something more than just something that pays the bills and believe me when I say I know that I’m lucky to be in a position where that is the case. My job is such a big part of who I am that I can’t imagine giving it up indefinitely.

I think it’s important to reinforce here that this is not a slight or judgement on anyone who decides to stay at home with their kids. I’ve only done it for 10 months and I know that it is not all “lattes with the ladies”. Looking after children is a full time job and in someways I feel I have taken the easy option letting childcare take care of my boy while I go and have an uninterrupted coffee in the office or eat my lunch with two hands while not being covered in baby food or vomit.

I have felt that going back to work also makes me a better Mum to Hugh. For 8 hours a day on a Wednesday I put away “Mum Amy” for a little while and indulge in my old ways. The first time I sat down at my swingy chair at my desk with my pens and my coffee my insides did a little happy dance. My brain powered up and tapped into a part it hadn’t used for a while and I felt brilliant! Then at 3.30pm I go and get my baby and I am so excited to see him! I want to cuddle and snuggle. I have oodles of tolerance for little whinges and needy moments of “Mumma pick me up” and “Mumma I just want to rip your hair out”. I just want to spend the afternoon bonding with Hugh and I feel that sometimes I have more quality time with him on a Wednesday afternoon than I do the days where I have him all day, when life generally gets in the way.

The Mum guilt is a thing. While I don’t suffer too badly from it one day a week I feel when I go to four it will hit me a lot harder. Having said that I still think the pluses I get from working will outweigh the nagging voice in my head that says I’m not being a good Mum to Hugh.

And if the nagging voice continues I’ll shut her up with a strong two handed coffee and a good old turn in my office swingy chair!