I wrote recently about organising talks with work about returning and two months later I am still organising that return to work. Now that my return to work is a lot more imminent a lot of things are dawning on me for the first time.
Dave works shifts over a ten day shift pattern. This means no day is the same each week – Every Monday is different, every Tuesday is different. This is incredibly hard to organise childcare around. Luckily, Dave’s amazing Mum has offered to look after the children for me on her days off when both Dave and I are working – This is a huge help and something I wouldn’t be able to return to work without – I am so appreciative already and I’m not even back yet!
Trying to organise working hours around Dave’s hours is impossible. Nurseries and childminders nearly always ask for set days each week and the cost is huge now that we have two children. With shiftwork, if Dave was off work and wanted to look after the children we’d have to pay for the nursery/childminder regardless. This means that realistically we don’t want to use official childcare as it will cost us money that we shouldn’t really need to pay at times.
The problem I have is work need me to work more days than I have childcare for and so I have agreed, provisionally, to work an extra day per week, averaged over a year, when I can work depending on Dave’s hours. This means I’ll work three days some weeks, two other weeks and 4 on occasions too. I was originally looking at going back 2 days a week so the realisation that some weeks I’ll be working 4 days is a bit of a shock to the system.
This also means that a lot more of Dave’s time off work will be used up by me going to work – He works ten days and finishes on a night shift, spends the bulk of his first day off sleeping off his night shift and then has three days off – I will more often than not be working at least 2 of those 3 days off. The work/life balance that I was hoping for is rapidly depleting.
Looking at our life after I return to work, each month will include two full days where neither Dave or I are working. It will include two other days where Dave is sleeping off his night shifts and then there might be a handful of other days where Dave’s around for a couple of hours in the morning or a few in the evening where I’m not working either.
I had not, until now, sat down and looked at the calendar, written down our lives until the end of the year and worked out how much time we would have as a family. Shifts make normal day to day life so hard but it is only now that I am really finding it hard, having children changes your priorities hugely and the most important thing is the family unit and quality family time is so important.
Dave and I have made a promise that those two days a month where neither of us are working will be used for great days out – Zoos, the beach, Legoland. When LP starts nursery in September our lives will have the added restriction of nursery drop offs and picks ups as well as school holidays. I am already thinking of the next six months and planning how to make the most of them – I’ll then be focused on October half term and the Christmas break!
These last 3 years of pregnancy and small children have been a privilege. When I return to work I will have only worked 6 months out of the last 36 and I have been able to spend such a great amount of time with my children and for that I am hugely thankful – I know many don’t get even half the amount of maternity leave and accrued holidays that I have had.
But one thing I hadn’t taken into account is that when LP starts nursery our life will revolve around the school calendar, we will never again have the freedom that we do now to do whatever we like, go wherever we like – We will have to fit things into school holidays. The last three years have been amazing. Looking back, I have loved my two lots of maternity leave. I hated my 6 months of working in between and I had hoped to stay at home this time and not return to work BUT long term going back to work will be the best decision for our family as a whole – I now just have to make it work.