Losing myself at home

Over the last five and a bit years, since having my first baby, I’ve switched between being at home full time and working part time, usually in one year stints.  After my first year at home I was keen to get back to work.  As it turns out the admin position I took up at a university wasn’t quite what I had hoped.  While it ticked the box of not having work to bring home, it wasn’t professionally fulfilling and the woman I worked for was not all that pleasant to be around.  At the end of the year I had my second baby so it all worked out for the best.  After another year at home I opted to return to teaching, the job I loved.  I struggled to get the balance right.  When I didn’t bring work home my classes and my teaching suffered, when I did my kids suffered.  There was also no flexibility in hours and I had to work a minimum of three days which was a lot with two little kids as well.  Add on the travel time from home, to child care, to school and then back again and the days were long and stressful for all.  It was this that prompted the move to Ballarat, with more affordable housing and a smaller community.  And it’s been good for us, but having spent a third year and a bit at home, I have a feeling of losing myself which I just can’t shake.

It seems I’m not cut out for long periods at home with only children for company and that is once again beginning to make itself known.  I wonder if in a time when this is what women did I would feel the same or if a neighbourhood of other mothers and children all in the same position would alleviate this urge to escape that I get.  For me the isolation of being alone with kids day in day out leaves me frustrated, bored and unsatisfied.  I guess it’s now compounded by the fact that I have fewer close friends nearby, but I felt the same in Melbourne.  I’m not implying that there is nothing good about my days, I enjoy lots of things with the girls.  I also appreciate the fact that I have been able to have these years at home, not everyone gets that opportunity.  The girls are definitely more secure and settled not being in long day care (and I mean long, 7.30am-6pm three days a week).  I love the Kinder Miss Five goes to, but the hours wouldn’t work if I wasn’t at home all day.  I have a much closer connection with Miss Three (but we also butt heads a lot).  These are all advantages to being a stay at home mother.

It’s probably no co-incidence that this feeling has built up to boiling point towards the end of a cold and dreary winter.  Whether it is a lack of Vitamin D or just the stir-craziness of being stuck inside too long, I am definitely susceptible to the Winter blues.

Knowing I am like this drove me to enrol in university.  The course certainly gives me a level of professional satisfaction and stops the grey matter from turning mush, but it’s still me on my own with my laptop.  Not exactly the human, adult interaction I need.  So now I am on a mission to fill the gaping void before the blues turns into something worse.  I would love part time work, but I can’t quite get my head around the logistics of that.  Childcare arrangements would be complicated with one child in Kinder four days a week.  Relief teaching is pretty unpredictable and only comes in whole days which adds to the complications.  In the meantime I’m thinking of some volunteer work for me giving me the contact I need and some occasional care for Miss Three which would give her the stimulation and socialisation she’s not getting at home.  I do, however, wish it were easier.  To find, to co-ordinate, to use my skills and intelligence without compromising the other side of my life, my family.

I feel like I’ve written this post before – in fact I’m sure I did write something similar two years ago as I was making the the move from home to work last time.  Life really is all swings and roundabouts.

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17 Responses to Losing myself at home

  1. Sue says:

    I did struggle with the tedious repetition of babies and young children when my second was 9 month I enrolled to do my diploma of massage and finished it 2 weeks before my third was born. I was lucky as I was able to set up my clinic from home and hubby worked 2 day 2 night shifts so tons of time to massage. I the. Still didn’t fill the friendship void so much so did a couple of volunteer jobs and that filled the void. Now it’s swung the opposite way and I’ve had to cut back on things as I seem to busy. I long for the babies and toddlers again, lol. I understand your feelings though completely.

    • Barbara Good says:

      Sounds like a great way to balance work and family – perhaps I should retraining instead of doing what may likely be a useless masters degree?

      • Sue says:

        I suppose if depends on your passion, mine was in natural therapies and massage was perfect for me bit within that essential oils are now my interest so I’ve blended my own. Now I am considering retraining in baby massage.

  2. renlikesred says:

    I feel exactly the same.

  3. Jess says:

    I feel this! I was going to start doing some volunteer work if I hadn’t been able to sort out a way to go back to work this year (as you know childcare was difficult to find) but now will be returning to work in 5 weeks and commencing the difficult task that is juggling work with being a parent. I’m excited to be going back to work and looking forward to the mental stimulation but man I’m starting to dread the thought of leaving bub!

    • Barbara Good says:

      Yes, that dread of leaving the first child is a real wrench, and doesn’t get much easier second time around either. Good luck with the juggling – hope you’re better at it than me.

  4. Wendy says:

    I can so relate to this dilemma mrs good. When I’m working my family life turns to poo, when I’m not, my brain turns to poo. Sadly I think it’s impossible to get the balance right. At the moment I’m pretty close – I’m working 15 hours over three days so I’m there for the kids, and run my blog on the side of that. But of course the job isn’t that fulfilling but it brings me in contact with other adults.
    Winter doesn’t help – hard to shake that melancholy at this time of year. Just an enforced bleakness so that we REALLY appreciate the beauty of spring. Xxx

    • Barbara Good says:

      Yep, just call me poo brain! Probably not helping my masters!!!! That choice between fulfilling work and work that fits in with family but is mind-numbingly dull is also one I’ve encountered. I’ve tried it both ways, clearly without success. Damn this living as a grown up stuff is hard.

  5. Jenny says:

    I went back to work when my daughter was ten months old, and hubby stayed home with her for the next six months. At the end of that time, we worked four days each, so that our daughter was in child care three days a week. We continued with various iterations of that until she started school. You are right – we had to use a (wonderful) child care centre, rather than the local, free pre-school as the hours just didn’t work unless you were at home. When she started school, I changed my hours so that I could drop her off and pick her up every day – but I hated it, as I felt I had no life of my own. The following year, we opted for one day of after school care and I picked her up the other days – so I had one long day at work and (bliss) one day off without a child at home.

    It is really difficult to find the right balance. Not working at all wasn’t going to be an option for me. I needed the mental stimulation and the contact with other people. Part time work was probably the best option, but it is hard – possibly even harder for teachers as the hours aren’t flexible. Is there any chance that Mr Good could share some of the time at home with you, so that you could work, say, three days a week without too much long day care?

    By the way, I doubt that you would have felt any better about this situation back in the day. Yes, there might have been more mums at home for you to connect with but, after all, this is the time that inspired Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique.

    Good luck with finding the right balance for you. It does get easier as they get older, and perhaps the shorter commute times in your new home will help with that, but I do understand your need for more adult time.

    • Barbara Good says:

      I would love to go back to work and have Mr Good stay at home (though I suspect he would last even less time than me!) but given he earns significantly more than I it makes it a financial impossibility at the moment. I dream of just being able to get myself ready and walk out the door without have to dress, feed, clean and pack for two others (as he does). I would love to really commit to my career for a while and not have to always be the one leaving early to pick kids up, missing out on PD opportunities because I don’t have childcare on those days and being overlooked for promotion because it’s assumed I couldn’t juggle more responsibility with kids. Both working part-time however would be a very happy medium. Perhaps one day that will work for us too.

  6. skud says:

    I think in the old days there were a) lots of mothers groups who’d get together, informally or more formally, and b) let the kids run wild with much less supervision than we have now. There just isn’t as much of that around now more women are working, I think. Though I suspect more in Ballarat than in Melbourne.

    Hmmm would study dates help at all? I mean, just getting together with people who are studying their own things, and doing it in company. Though I seem to recall you mostly study in the evenings at home, after the girls are gone to bed? That might be trickier to schedule with other people, I guess, and less helpful to break up the long day at home.

    As someone who works from home and gets a little cabin-feverish at times, the thing for me is my online communities. The worst time is in the afternoon and weekends when many of my US friends are asleep or having social lives. But hanging around in chat rooms, skyping with friends and colleagues, having video chats, etc, really helps. I have lots of intellectual conversations with them and find it really stimulating.

    • Barbara Good says:

      I definitely agree on the less supervision of the ‘old days’. Can you believe you can get sent to prison for 6 months for leaving any child under sixteen at home alone or in the car! And a neighbour or two with young kids who I had a ‘drop over anytime’ kind of relationship with as my Mum did would at least alleviate the stir craziness of being home with two kids all day.

      My study schedule is non-existent – a just grab the time wherever it presents itself – so committing to a regular time would be hard. Plus I am totally hopeless at studying with others around, I get too distracted, especially with the opportunity for a ADULT CONVERSATION!!

      I too have found solace in the online community – but rarely in ‘real time’ so an actually conversation takes a long time. I really should start skyping or something. Anyway, I am in pursuit of something to fill the void so hopefully something will come of it all soon.

  7. Jenny Pearson says:

    Don’t have a lot of answers for your dilemma, however us “old chooks” suffered from this too in the dim dark ages – solutions then were hard to find as well, however a few thoughts, obviously volunteer work – but it’s the place you volunteer that matters, what about the hospital, university, fine arts gallery your local community centre and the like – are there any courses to learn a new skill, language, sewing (improve) or some such that your local community house provides, can you teach a skill such as preserves, cooking, sewing, crocheting or even teaching English to an adult that finds it a challenge. You belong to a book club, what about a walk and talk club with like minded people of all ages, walk your own district, or discover other parts of lovely Ballarat, either make it dog and kid friendly or not, and make a permanent day each week, a cup of coffee after finishes it off, and who knows, you may find someone to go the movies with or other interests you could share. CWA is no longer just for oldies, it is open to all ages and they particularly like younger members it keeps the organisation alive, they do charity work and are a big voice in government these days. I was asked back into the paid workforce 1 day a week for about 2 hours as an aide at a local kindergarten (they had the funding but couldn’t get an aide), and it was also about this time that I started at the Op Shop I work at, then it was purely helping with sorting, now I am one of two managers (promotion without pay!!) I loved doing both, kindergarten was a challenge and I also had some adult company, people I knew and respected, and the Op Shop provided the adult company and loads of entertainment (hence I’m still there!!!) So get out there and give it a go, you may not find the perfect place the first time, but keep putting yourself out there because you will eventually find something either paid or unpaid that will fit the bill and good luck. On another note, tried the pickles last night, and it is a sure winner here, having it again today on my cornbeef sandwich, YUM!!!

    • Barbara Good says:

      Sorry if I sounded as if I was referring to your generation as the dark ages Jenny, not what I intended to do. I suspected, as you said, that these issues are universal, but maybe we’re more able to voice them now.
      Your advice on the place to volunteer is greatly appreciated. I have contacted the local volunteering coordinator (though my first two options both fell through disappointingly) to see what she recommends. And I will certainly persevere if the first one doesn’t fit well.
      Glad you liked the pickles too.

  8. Liz says:

    My experiences as a stay at home mum were/are really similar. For me volunteer work (mainly at the school & kinder) has been the difference between sanity and complete frustration at the banality of life with young kids. Whilst being on a committee isn’t my idea of fun, working with other parents on activities to help the kinder and school has been great (even if I do whinge about it from time to time….). Things I have done include: working with other parents and teachers to start a kitchen gardening program at my daughters school, developing websites for both school and kinder, revising the kinder’s policies, etc as well as being involved in fund raising activities at both. Via volunteering I have met contacts that I am now doing some paid work which is a wonderful by product of the whole thing.

    • Barbara Good says:

      I too have been volunteering at Kinder. I do duty twice a term which entails staying for the session and cutting up the fruit for snack time. It’s great to see the kids ‘at work’, Miss Three comes with me and has an absolute ball and I can have casual chats with the teachers which is great. I’m also on the committee which is both good for the contacts and friends I’ve made and bad for the sheer frustration that is fundraising. I’ll volunteer at school next year too – though I need to make sure I don’t try and actually ‘teach’ which I do have a tendency to do (being a teacher by profession). I know I would hate it to have some other teacher come in and think she knows what’s best in my classroom!! You’re very lucky to have picked up paid work as a result of your volunteering, good on you.

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