Minimalist Monday: Not Doing it All
Almost eighteen years ago, on my last day of maternity leave, I remember memorising my eldest son's face looking up at me from his pushchair. I wanted to hold on to the moment and remember that I was the centre of his world and he of mine.
The early days of babyhood thrilled and fulfilled me but I was also keen to develop my career. Returning to full-time work I coped well on the surface. However, remarks such as, “I don't know how you do it all”, made me feel uncomfortable as secretly I felt that I was compromising in all areas of my life and I felt exhausted most of the time. As a teacher working long hours I had little time or energy left at the end of the day for my family. I relied heavily on the support of my husband and our parents and being able to play catch-up in the holidays. I dreamt of working part-time but our ever increasing outgoings and desire for material possessions meant we relied on two full-time incomes.
Then in 2011 I developed a stress-induced illness. After time off work, I realised I could rebalance my life, if I was brave enough. I was lucky to be able to go part-time, working three days a week. This wasn't an easy choice, as it meant cutting our expenditure and selling our family home.
Now I have time for my children and my job. Even though they are older I still feel they benefit from having me around more. I enjoy more relaxed evenings and weekends and I have more energy and enthusiasm for family life. I have happy memories of my children’s early years and know that they haven't been deprived of love or care. I always made time for them and would work late at night or early in the morning so that I could still enjoy evenings and weekend activities with them. However, looking back I regret not realising the value of time with my children earlier. Experience has taught me that time with my family is worth far more than career success, status and possessions.
I know I'm not alone in feeling regret for not spending enough time with my children – this is one of the top five regrets of parents according to a top psychologist. And I know that working full-time is not a choice but a necessity for many parents. I'm not judging working parents or stay at home parents. I'm just saying that maybe I should have listened to that little voice inside my head eighteen years ago and that maybe I had more choice than I thought.