Ive been in my temporary job for just over a month and even with good day care, a flexible employer and a helpful husband Im already concluding that work and small children dont mix. L has had two minor illnesses in the last five weeks that have meant that she cant go to nursery and Edward and I have had to take time off work. There have been cases of chicken-pox at nursery; if she gets that she may be off for a week.
I can write this blog this morning because Im not working. On the days Im working a full day I have to be out of the house at 7.30 am. On a good day Im back at 6.30 p.m., on a bad day its nearer 7 p.m. This is actually pretty easy as far as commuting from Hitchin goes – one couple Ive spoken to recently mentioned getting the 6.40 am and 7.20 am trains respectively. Ls nursery is open 8 a.m.-6 p.m.: its only the fact that Edward has a relatively short trip to work that makes using it feasible.
Even the pay doesnt really stack up, if I consider it objectively. I earn, gross, just under £250/week. I pay £60+/week for travel, £90+/week for day care. By the time Ive paid tax, theres not an awful lot left.
I end up feeling Im short-changing both L and my employers. I think one of the big problems with most professional jobs now (and a lot of non-professional jobs) is that there is too much work to be done in a normal working week. Staff have been cut and workloads increased so that youre running all the time just to keep in the same place. As a parent you have more excuse to avoid the long-hours culture, but when you have to take off time to look after a sick child, it still means inconvenience and problems for the employer. (And of course theres never any corresponding flexibility from schools/nurseries etc – we had to close today, so well make up the time for you in the holidays etc).
So why I am doing this? At the financial level, it is at least self-sustaining, which my time studying was not (paying for daycare for studying, while not actually earning). One alternative is being a full-time stay-at-home mum, but I would find that immensely frustrating. The job Im doing is interesting; it gives me a certain identity and even status. Equally, it looks good on my CV: my skills are being updated and broadened. L will be starting school part-time in September, full-time a year after that. I have another twenty or more years till I retire: I have to try and make a career for myself. In the long run this job makes sense; in the short term, though, its tough for L, Edward and myself.