While it’s important for me to be there for my family, going out to work was one of the best things I could have done for them.
Since becoming a parent, I’ve always worked from home, which was the perfect family-friendly scenario, especially when my kids were very little. But now, a few years on, it’s become a little too family-friendly, with me always available to do drop-offs, pick-ups, run errands, pop out for milk and basically do jobs around the house.
I remember asking my five-year-old daughter to hurry up and get ready, as I had to start work soon. She quickened the pace for a moment, then stopped. “But Mum,” she said. “You don’t go out to work.” To which I firmly explained that while I didn’t work in an office like other parents, I still had to work. Not that it made much impact. Especially when she started kindy. We live very close to the school so I was always running back to get forgotten library books or ‘show and tell’ items. I should have put my foot down, but it was easier to simply fetch whatever was needed.
Now I go to a workplace three days a week and life has drastically changed. Apart from the fact I have to get dressed in proper clothes, I’m a lot less available for the family, which is not such a bad thing. The kids have had to step up, which they’ve done without so much as a grumble. I should have done it years ago.
1. Getting out the door
It was always hard to get out the door and drop kids to daycare or school. It didn’t seem to matter what time we got up in the morning, we were always running late, and it drove me crazy. Now three days a week, I don’t have to worry as my husband does the drop-offs, which he loves doing. Both kids need to be ready a little bit earlier and have to pack their bags carefully as there’s no running back (or mum running back) for forgotten things.
2. Doing chores
It’s important for kids to start doing chores, even from a very early age. But with my flexible work hours, I was always on-hand to do such jobs as unstacking the dishwasher, making beds, setting the table and putting away laundry. Not anymore. With so much less available time, the girls now have to unstack the dishwasher and help sort laundry. They also make their beds and tidy the floor of their bedroom. It was just easier to do things myself – just not nearly as beneficial.
3. Weeknight cooking
Now I’m out of the house for at least three days, we have to be organised for evening meals, lunches, even snacks. I do one big shop a week and that’s it. If we run out of something, everyone has to wait until the next shopping day. Instead of me quickly bolting up to the supermarket to get ‘a few things’, which is more time consuming and costly in the long run. While my husband always cooks on the weekend, now we share the mid-week cooking as well. He has always wanted to do more but as he works much longer hours, it was difficult. And I was always at home, so naturally, the one to get dinner on. Now we discuss the dinners for the week ahead, who’s going to do what dish, and what meals we’ll cook on the weekend that will cover a few nights during the week.
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4. A better balance
One of the reasons I chose to work freelance, was to be available for my family. But in my situation, it was almost doing them a disservice. By relinquishing a little control, we now have a better balance. Without me at-the-ready, our kids are taking on a little bit more responsibility and learning to do things for themselves.
And best of all, I get to walk out the door, sit calmly on the train, takeaway coffee in hand, and go to a workplace far from the domesticity of home. It doesn’t sound like much, but quite frankly, after years of juggling it all, it’s an absolute luxury.