Now, I know I’ve previously laid my cards out on the issue of motherhood as a job. I believe it’s far more than that. I think that to feel truly fulfilled in both arenas, we need to stop measuring our successes at home in the same way we measure those in the workplace.
But I’m not going to pretend that the comparisons and competition between paid employment and motherhood aren’t still there, plain as day. So this seems like a perfect time to have a stop and a think about what’s happened in the last 18 weeks. Are motherhood and I a good fit?
If the first 18 weeks of any job had gone like this, I would run for the hills, screaming. If I’d tried to get this job for two years, and my new employer said my work would start on a particular date, then showed up 10 days late, that would irk me.
If my first morning started with the need to overcome a life-threatening situation and was backed up in my second week by a hideous infection, it may seem this wasn’t my dream job.
If I had to guarantee my willing availability 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the foreseeable future, I may look at backing away.
And for on the job requirements to include multiple daily sessions of feeding, burping, changing soiled underwear; clothing, bathing and soothing; entertaining, shopping for, administering minor medical treatment and calmly, gently putting them down to sleep, despite my own desperate tiredness, that would seem to be somewhat taking advantage.
Alongside that, if the job made bits of my body sort of squelchy, bits of it bigger, and some bits smaller, I’d be pretty cross. As I would be if it ran my hormones ragged, turning me into a stranger, not only to those around me, but even to myself.
In my first 18 weeks, motherhood has done all of the above. But it has also helped me learn more than I would have thought possible about the world around me, and about myself.
Making it through the birth and complications relatively unscathed has given me huge gratitude for the capabilities of my body (as well as the medical profession). I’ve also realised I am capable of, and vastly enjoy, the parenting requirements listed above.
In only 18 short weeks, I’ve lost, and (almost) regained the body I had been familiar with all my adult life. I’ve made new friends, asked more of the old ones than ever before, and rarely been let down.
I’ve learned that nothing in life can improve your relationship with your parents quite like becoming a parent yourself. And for the first time I’ve been forced to acknowledge my limitations.
All of this, I’ve been lucky enough to do with the support and love of a husband who is funnier, more patient, and kinder than I ever knew. And an amazing, hilarious, beautiful daughter.
So it is with these lovely things in my head that I’m going to say something I may live to regret. Here and now, I feel physically and mentally prepared to head back into paid employment.
True, a large portion of my certainty comes from the fact that for me, going back to work involves doing something I love, and doing it from a home office.
I don’t have to get up at 5 am to take my daughter to childcare every day. I don’t have to face the commute on horrible winter mornings and traipse, tired through the rain on the way back.
But on the other hand, working from home has issues and limitations. It’s lonely, and requires constant, iron - clad self-discipline, which is sometimes pretty hard to come by. Particularly when you’re a little bit covered in sick and your dirty washing is less the size of a basket, more of a continent.
But writing my column for Motherpedia has given me an idea of what’s involved in working whilst looking after a baby. I’m not going to say it’s been easy. If you could see the state of our apartment as I write this, you would know what I mean. Imagine a small hurricane passing through, whipping up clothes and tossing them randomly asunder, depositing dirty dishes on unusual surfaces, coating things in a thin layer of dust. But I’ve done it. And I’ve enjoyed it, and am proud of it.
I don’t know if the powers that be view our entry into motherhood in the same way as the commencement of new paid employment. All I know is this. As I head back into the workforce I feel better prepared to take it on.
I know my abilities and my limitations, which means I’m stronger, smarter and more capable than I was before I became a mum. And I intend to bring that to bear in my writing. Look out world, here I come.
As well as being a mum, Jen is a freelance writer. Find her online at jendobbiecopy.com or email her at email@example.com