Although this difficult for me to admit, for the last few months I have really been struggling with my work-life balance. If you read this blog regularly or follow me on social media you may have picked up on this through my moaning!
I will start by making clear that I genuinely love my job. I’m a Probation Officer and it’s a role that is throughly demanding and harrowing at times but, it is ultimately rewarding and therefore I gain a LOT of job satisfaction. Of course, there are days I want to scream or cry, and perhaps days I question if I am in the right job, but mostly, I like working. It’s become part of who I am, and the thought of not working in a job where I can help people change their lives, makes me quite sad!
I returned to work on a full-time basis last September having had pretty much two years straight away, due to two maternity leaves almost back to back. I won’t lie and say I was devastated to return, because I wasn’t. I was ready and I know in my heart, as much as I adore my children; that being a full time stay at home Mummy isn’t for me. The full time hours weren’t ideal, Willow was only ten months old and I was still breastfeeding her, and having had two years away from work meant the law and a lot of procedures had obviously changed. But, at least being thrown in at the deep end made those issues quickly disappear! Dave was made redundant at that exact time, and so having him at home to be with the children really helped too. It meant I could work what hours suited, and there was no pressure with childcare or costs. It was a great opportunity for him to experience being a stay at home Daddy for nine months too, but because it wasn’t a long term plan, eventually things had to change.
I finished my studying in May and Dave returned to work. That’s when the stress began. Two children under three years old and two parents attempting to work full time, commute to different cities and also pay ridiculous nursery fees. (And may I take this opportunity to highlight my absolute disgust at the £1800 a month fees that we paid to the nursery!!!)
Anyway, we both became tired and stressed. Then with the continued pressured tight deadlines, rising workloads and difficult cases to deal with, things became too much. Finally, to top it all off, Willow had not settled at nursery, and this just added to the stress of everything! It broke out hearts to see her begging not to go to nursery, crying and telling us not to go to work.
I was being a crap Mum.
I was trying to do my best, but juggling everything became too much and I became ill. I began suffering with anxiety and feeling tearful constantly. Work pressures built up and so did my emotions.
I HAD to change my work hours.
So I applied for a reduction in hours. I spoke to my manager and hoped that my application would be accepted. Unfortunately I had to wait longer than usual because of organisational changes within the Probation Service but eventually, my new hours were agreed.
This week was the beginning of my new beginning. Twenty-nine hours to be worked over three days. Condensed hours they call it. (GENIUS I call it..)
It is going well. Really well! I feel for the first time in ages, less stressed! And it’s so brilliant that I get two days at home to catch up with chores, shopping, writing and also of course playing with the kids. I think come payday, I may be a little sad, but ultimately I think it’s worthwhile because nursery fees have reduced too. Bonus! Perhaps we could have done without week one involving chicken pox but you know, that’s life with toddlers isn’t it!
Would I recommend applying to work condensed hours? Yes, but prepare to be tired. In effect you’re squeezing in an extra days work and of course this is going to be tiring. I think this will take some getting used to, but I am aware of this now and attempting to rest where possible. (I even had a nap on Saturday afternoon!) No more burning the candle at both ends, this new regime means more fun with the kids, and a more relaxed me. It also means I get to keep my hand in at work, by not losing experience and skills too, which is really important to me. So, until Gabriel starts school next September, condensed hours it is.
Wish me luck!