I feel a strange sort of privilege that this year, if I write some thoughts down about a topic, a few people might actually read it and of those, it may strike a chord with some of them.
I could write about all number of things for on the topic of women and indeed promoting the equality of men and women. I’m not a political person so I wouldn’t dream of going down that route but I am passionate about women choosing, or it seems be able to choose, their family and working style once small people arrive on the scene. Now, I am going to stay clear of politics but it does seem that the decisions around whether a new mother returns to work are becoming increasingly made because of political decisions and that women are as free as I would like to be able to make the decision that works best for them.
If you are new to my blog, then firstly “Welcome” *waves* and secondly, let me tell you about my working arrangements. I work full time as a secondary school teacher. Now, I know that when I say that many people will respond with ideas about finishing at 3, loads of holiday time etc (Thanks Waterloo Road for portraying teachers in a completely unrealistic light). But here’s the truth. Before Sprog arrived, I worked 11 hour days most days and at least one 8 hour day at the weekend, I took student’s on school trips on Saturday’s and school holidays (for no extra pay) and I responded to student emails at any time of the day including school holidays. I worked for at least half of the week in every school holiday except the summer where of the 5 1/2 weeks, I normally worked for about 10 days/2 weeks. That is the world of a ‘full-time’ teacher.
When we got pregnant, I knew that would have to change. But when weighing up the financially choices, I could only afford a minimum of 4 days at work if I were to be able to pay for just 2 days of childcare a week (thank goodness for grandparents for the other 3 days). It was easier to go back for 5 days a week than ask for less.
So now, I juggle the same workload as before but at the same time as finding time to play with, care for and look after my little boy. It basically doesn’t happen very well. Either I’m on top of the work stuff and feeling like a terrible mother, or I feel happy that I’m being a good enough mum and an awful teacher. My husband works full time too and he is studying so spends at least 3 evenings a week tucked away working. So we rarely see each other.
How does this have any relevance to International Women’s Day?!
Last weekend at the Work and Family Show (which was part of The Baby Show) at London’s ExCel, I met some women who were inspiring and motivational in helping me to think about a way forward. Women who whilst they wouldn’t claim to have it all sorted, definitely have it more sorted than me. Women who are strong in their career paths and their family lives. And they talked about a term that I haven’t come across before. “Work-life blending” not “balance” as we are all too used to hearing. And I mean for me, I had no “balance” or “blend” before we started a family so I do feel a bit lost in this concept.
Many of the women that I met and spoke to or listened to, were now self-employed so they could make the rules for themselves. This is something that I am eternal envious of as I would love to be in control of the working time that I put in, the environment in which I work, the people that I work with but having reflected upon this now for a week, I don’t think that at this time that is right for me. It certainly wouldn’t achieve equality in my marriage in terms of what time and energy we would both be able to give our family. If I were to set up something from scratch on my own, it would mean my needing to be totally selfish in the time that I gave to that venture and actually at this stage all I really want is to be able to spend more time with Sprog and being his Mama.
Other women there were employees of various companies. Some had a delightfully understanding and flexible working environment where they were able to “blend” their working time with family time and really get the best of both worlds. Sadly, I felt that the majority who were working for someone else really couldn’t hide their ways through the fog to find a way to make this “blend” or even “balance” work for them and their families. This saddens me greatly as I desperately want to be there for Sprog and any subsequent small people, and I want to work ,in fact, I couldn’t imagine not working.
So I guess, if I could have a wish for International Women’s Day (that’s obviously how this works right?!) then I would be calling for a revolution of women, to take hold of the politician’s, give them a good shake and get them to help us be able to do both…but I’m staying away from politics so it would actually be that all women who feel like they can’t win, could meet another woman who seems to be “blending” or even “balancing” and content with the way it works for them. I know that I haven’t let on much here but I do harbour a secret plan for the future which should allow me more time with my family but like I said, that’s a secret for now. It may or may not happen, when the time is right I will share, but for now, during the crazy 13 hour days of parent evening and the 6 a.m. weekend alarms so that I can do marking before Sprog wakes up, I hold on to my little dream and that was thanks to my little bit of inspiration.