The Part-Time Part-Timer

This is the name I have gotten for myself at work. At first, it was playful banter. Don’t get me wrong, I work with a brilliant bunch of people and am fortunate enough to have the most supportive boss in the world, but recently, it has niggled more and more.

My life has always been in many parts. I can’t explain why I prefer to compartmentalise my “beings”, but I just find life easier to handle this way. And of course, my most important “being” without question is as a mummy.

So when I went back to work part-time in 2017, I smiled when the nickname arose. “I get to spend 2 days at home with my awesome baby girl, don’t hate me cos you ain’t me!” was pretty much my uber mature response.

When I was allowed to start working from home to ease my physical demands, I was in the office less, the nickname used more. Never with malice, this I know. Many people in my team are fulfilling much more complex roles than I am and all power to them. I work to live and I am not a career girl. I did not dream of climbing a big corporate ladder – I wanted to be a mum. So I am more than happy to muddle through on a part time job. I am fortunate enough to do so because my lovely husband is willing to shoulder more of the financial burden.

But it occurred to me, outside of my boss, who allows me to be very frank when I say how physically and emotionally exhausted I can get, no-one has actually asked what this new chapter of my life is like for me.

Not Social Services when I pleaded for help with my newborn, not the health visitor (who, by the way, still hasn’t called on us in the 18 months we’ve lived in this house, not even after our dash to A&E when Squidge decided to lick a washing tablet, but hey ho, just as well she’s fine eh?) I haven’t been asked about how my disability impacts my life since my days working in classrooms, when 10 year olds would inquisitively question what it was that made me walk funny.

No-one has asked me about this life in 4 long years.

And I suddenly feel that I want to tell them all, because they need to know.

They need to know that no matter where I am, I work all my hours (which, actually is 4 days worth, not 3.) I’m the first in and the last out. I’m not spending my days off on jollies, as much as I’d like to. Lunch dates are few and far between, because what I’m actually doing more often than not is catching up on sleep. Because I don’t sleep. Probably because my back was hurting from sitting in my office chair for nearly 11 hours, or because my leg muscles seized again and walking is too hard today.

I don’t just get to fill my days with trips to the park and evenings in the pub because there’s no work tomorrow. More often than not, I’m slumped half-dead on the sofa by 7:30. I daren’t make evening plans with a friend because I’ll inevitably cancel through exhaustion. (I last went out 6 months ago when I went to see Ed Sheeran. I gave myself almost a year’s notice, made myself nap for an hour that afternoon and still was exhausted by 10pm and Ed was nowhere near done!) I have very little hope of a social ife because I need to take care of me first. It’s so damn sad and yet, it remains all I get.

Work less hours then maybe? Well yes, but then how does the mortgage get paid? Do I not have the right to work and provide for my daughter? God forbid, I just become one of those “scroungers” on benefits. I detest that term by the way… do not judge it til you’ve lived it. And ironically, we’ve looked into it – I’m entitled to nothing from the state, despite the fact that I’ve paid in, or that I struggle to get through every day. And that would be fine were it based on any insight into my capabilities. But it’s not. It’s based on my husband’s income. Not even just my own. But his. And we’re too “rich” to ask for help, even though me having no income at all would probably put us on the breadline. It’s ludicrous, so work I must.

Give up on my degree maybe? I’ve thought about it, but this one thing is just for me. Something I work hard at, something I treasure, something I’m determined to show both myself and my daughter I can see through, that I am capable of anything. I’m determined to give myself better options for when the life I’m living now is no longer sustainable.

I’m giving this life my all and if you knew me well enough to ask, you’d realise that far too often, I’m left with very little to give.

And even on those kind of days, you’ll still see me at my desk. I’ll already have been there for hours by the time you come in at 9am. I’m not judging you, am I? I sincerely believe in work-life balance and think everyone should work to rule and get the Hell out by 5pm to go and live life, to be with your family. If you don’t agree, fine. Go get that promotion by next year if that’s what will make you happy.

But please, don’t call me a Part-Time Part-Timer. Yes, I work part-time hours at this job, but, my God, I am full-time everything else.

The Curse of being a Part Time Working Mummy

Work have just approved my request to permanently work 3 days a week. Sounds like heaven right, all that spare time?

Except, it’s never spare. I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard in my life.

For starters, in my 3 days, I actually work 4 days worth of hours, because we need the money. So those three days are long and I am tired.

Usually, on a day off, I have a driving lesson scheduled while Kev’s parents pop round to mind the Squidgelet. (Yeah, I failed my second test, but argh, was so annoyingly close, so here’s hoping it’s third time lucky on May 10th) and as of right now, I’m sat in a coffee shop, on a day when I should be at home playing catch and watching endless Friends episodes with Squidge; (she loves the theme tune, she always dances to it, the beautiful little weirdo) writing notes for my uni essay. I’ll be here again tomorrow, taking annual leave from work to make sure I knuckle down.

I have so much to do to get me through to the end of the academic year that in fact, my usual two days a week at home with my girl will be reduced to just one for the next 3 months.

And that wrenches my gut, and makes me feel like the world’s worst person. I have a very hard time remembering that my beautiful daughter is part of a family unit and has grown up not needing to rely on me alone. That’s good for her but I make a little less sense whenever I’m not with her, like someone has ripped off my (good) arm.

Kev’s parents have her for us on a Sunday night so that we get some time to wind down together and they don’t have to be up at the crack of dawn to collect her before we leave for work on a Monday. All perfectly logical, but I absolutely detest leaving her each week. She’s fine, having a blast getting out all her toys, but I just feel so lost.

Last weekend, sore and tired, I declared that I was going to bed at about 4pm. That wasn’t my intention, it’s just the only thought I can formulate when I’m sick and tired of a day and it associated pains. It’s best just to go to sleep, waking up on a new day and hoping against hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

I climbed the stairs and took Freddie Fox out of Squidge’s empty cot. Curled up in the nursing chair and that’s where Kev found me sobbing about how I “shouldn’t give my baby away” & how “I want her back!”

Kev asked why I was talking as if she was lost and I responded “She is. She doesn’t want me anymore. She doen’t even notice when I leave her.”

“Becaue she’s happy, Jo.”

“Why can’t I be happy? Why do I have to feel so useless and sore? I don’t want this to be all I can be for her, it’s not fair!”

And I finally voiced my worst, unavoidable fear:

“Was it selfish of me to have her?”

And my darling husband’s response was the kindet thing I’ve think I’ve ever heard said about myself. It’s stuck in my head and is strengthening my resolve to carry on with everything I am committed to, to show Squidge what her mummy can do.

He said:

“When Squidge understands everything you have and do put yourself through to be everything to her… you will be her hero. A person who, despite what the world dealt you, looked round and said: “F**k you world, I’m going to have what everyone else has got’. And you did it, Jo.’

He also said to me recently that no-one in the world could be meaner to me than me, which is why he always treats me kindly. But the idea that I can show our baby girl that she can have anything she wants in this world, that she herself is my own undeniable proof that it is possible, makes me feel amazing.

However many days I have to send holed up in coffee shops writing essays for the degree I am determined to earn for myself, I am still the person with the ability to teach Squidge one of life’s most valuable lessons.

I might just be another part time working mummy, although I’d argue that the struggles are somewhat different. And I may not be Squidge’s hero when she grows up. That’s OK. Because she will always be mine.