I've been a working mum for over two years now, having gone back to work when Ethan was eight months old. A combination of needs and wants, I do not regret the decision but that doesn't mean I don't have days where I feel working mum guilt.
No matter your circumstances, I'm sure every mum has guilt over something; heck, the media make sure we do. Not being there every day with them, because you have to work. Not breastfeeding them from birth. Any number of ways that can make us feel like we have failed. And it's not just the media - a lot of the time, this sense of getting things wrong, fear of missing out or worry that we have failed our children in some way comes from within.
I personally know that we made the right decision for us, for Ethan and for me. If things had been different, who knows, but what I do know is that Ethan is a very sociable, happy boy who gains so much from his preschool days, and nursery previously, and I do not doubt that he has developed more with this as part of his daily routine than if he had just had me at home with him every day.
There's two stories in the news agenda right now that have made me put this post together. The first being an announcement from Save The Children about how years 0 to 3 are so crucial for the development of children and the need for teachers to be in place at nurseries to make sure the children have as much support and guidance during these crucial developmental years.
In theory, it sounds great. But really, do we need to put more pressure, more structure on our children when they are so young? And in practice, doing this would inevitably increase nursery costs at a time when they are sky high and already prohibitive for so many parents (although, as I've said before, you can't really put a price on the cost of childcare for your little one).
There's always arguments for and against different approaches, and really it's made me reflect on my own responsibility as a parent to provide and support and nurture my son. I don't have any formal qualifications, but I know Ethan and I also want to make sure that I know more about his developmental milestones and ways in which I can support him. I hold my hands up and admit that having Ethan in nursery does give some relief as I know that they know what he needs to learn and ways in which to encourage this. It's terrible, but it's true - they're the professionals and I know, and can see, how they are supporting him on every level, so in some part, it alleviates my working mum guilt.
But I should, and want, to do more for him.
I know they say that children don't come with a guide book, but really there's a lot of advice out there - various books and of course, blogs like this and all the ones I read for ideas, advice, support and escapism - and I don't want to fail Ethan by not making the time to do more.
Speaking of time, the second news story that caught my attention was new research from Hollywood Bowl about the average time families spend together. Again, not a new topic, but apparently families today spend just 38 minutes together on the average week day. A combination of work, school and a packed timetable of other activities means that we all have less time to catch up together - and then technology often gets in the way.
I'm holding my hands up again and saying that I am guilty of this - either being too busy rushing around or too lazy and spending too much time online or watching TV - and it's something else that's been on mind of late.
I think the main problem is getting into a routine that doesn't really work. I'm all about planning and keeping things on track, but not to the extent that bad habits become every day habits, as they have of late. Every day of the week is much the same for us, in how we get up and ready and out the door, to what we do when we come back in the evening. And whilst we're always in the same room for a couple of hours before Ethan's bedtime routine starts, it's not the best quality time.
So I'm making a few small changes, to make a big difference. What would be an occasional thing - eating dinner from trays in the lounge - has actually become the norm for us during the week, and at weekends, for longer than I can remember. Perhaps forever.
But not any more.
I love our dining room, which serves various functions but we call it the dining room so it should really be used for that purpose. I've bought some new tableware (I shared a couple of bits yesterday and have another post coming about a beautiful range I've started collecting) and we are going to sit down, at the table, and enjoy meals together each evening. During the week is particularly important to me, so we can focus on talking to each other and enjoying some time, not distracted, as us three. I used to have dinner with my parents every night at home, from a young age until I left for university, so I don't really know why we've fallen into this habit of using the lounge as the complete centre of where we spend our time.
It's a simple thing but I really do think it's a change that's needed and something we can all look forward to and enjoy.
How do you feel about this latest research? Do you agree with the findings? How do you make time for spending time together as a family?