So I’ve been back at work for a while now and I am slowly starting to realise that either the corporate rat race is not my scene anymore, or perhaps, maybe it never was.
Before I became a mother I remember the thoughts that would pop into my head whenever I saw a fatigued mother pushing a pram across the street or wreaking havoc in a city coffee shop. She’d be pointlessly trying to breastfed an unsettled newborn while chasing an unruly toddler between the tables, while the toddler ran from table to table throwing the salt and pepper grinders on the ground and knocking over the chairs as he rushed past. “Poor thing.” I thought to myself with a smile. “Looks beyond miserable. Probably missing her job so much. Probably regrets schlepping those little, screaming terrors out with her into this sophisticated setting. Probably frightened by how calm and serene the ‘real world’ is. Probably rethinking the whole ‘baby’ thing right about now”. Then off I would march with a flick of my cleanly washed and straightened hair in my freshly pressed suit and impossibly high matching high-heels, feeling happy to be returning to my spotless desk and the bliss of a screaming-free, civil, adults-only environment.
Fast-forward 18 months and I hardly even recognise myself. Quite frightening really. The other day at the traffic lights I had to physically restrain myself from lunging at a mom and grabbing her double pram containing a set of toddlers plus the cutest ever baby in her baby-pouch and shouting out “Let’s swap! Hand your pram and kiddies over to me and you put on my suit for the rest of the day – have fun!”
I’ve always seen myself as a corporate girl, with a feminine side of course. not one of those ball-breaking chicks who dresses in a man suit, hold client conferences in between contractions in the labour ward and return to work 7 days after giving birth. My mind was always on the corporate game although I did see my role in life as having kids eventually. But trust me, as soon as I entered my final trimester with my firstborn, I no longer felt such undying commitment to the office and all I wanted to was sleep, eat and nest. Then when I returned to work after 11 months and worked when I was pregnant with my second baby, my corporate commitment became even more watered down and the only thing that motivated me was that I was there for the short-term and that from time to time I actually did some interesting work.
Now, returning to work for the second time, I absolutely dread going into the office each Monday. When I clock off from work each day I skip out the office knowing that the faster I rush home, the sooner I get to see my babies. Every spare moment I get at work is spent looking at photos on my iPhone of my boys and wondering where they are up to on their individual daily routines. I think the starkest revelation I’ve had since returning to work is that I absolutely detest taking orders and being controlled by a greater system of the rules in the corporate world. Of course, I have come to terms with the fact that you can’t have no rules and that when you’re a mom there are some basic rules and principles that you need to follow each day. Like sticking to a basic routine of meal-times, nap-times, bath-times and bed-times. Other important rules include – don’t leave the house and drive to the shops when the kids are sleeping, don’t fall asleep on the couch when you’re supposed to be watching the kids play on the floor, don’t leave the room for a second, not even for a toilet break, if a 1.5-year-old and a 3-year-old are going to be alone together with Play Doh and baby pots and pans. Once you follow those basic rules, you are fairly autonomous. For the most part, no-one under 37 years old is going to tell me what to do or how to do it! I sure as hell am not going to let a baby be my boss (except one the rare occasion when I am utterly exhausted and have been known to let 1 nap-time pass without inmates in their cells after a 1 hour-long struggle with my 3-year-old!) So, there, that’s what I love about being a mom – I’m the boss. I run the show. I am in charge. I say when and what we eat. I say when we sleep. I say when we watch TV. I say when we go out and I say when we stay home. Yes, I know I sound like a bit of a dictator, but as a mom, believe me I am more of a soft, funny, joking-type mom with a firm, disciplinary side when the need arises. And it’s exactly this soft, humorous side of my personality that I think is going to be my downturn if I decide to stick it out in the corporate rat race. Basically, all I really enjoy about being back at work is getting a quiet takeaway coffee in the morning, spending time with the other funky corporate moms while we share anecdotes about our kids and the juggle of work-family life and occasionally, on the rare occasion, a tiny sense of achievement when I bash out a decent document or say something intelligent and corporate sounding to a client or a peer.
In my opinion, what I do in the office is not making nearly as much of an impact in the world as what I do when I am with my children. My contribution to this world is much greater as a mother than as an inhabitant of the concrete jungle.
However, I have to realise that I need to work to make a financial contribution to my family, as so many moms do. So, for the moment, it’s really a means to an end. For the long-term though, I hate to say it, but I am not going to be happy unless I make some serious changes. My past few months back at work has led me to realise that I’m probably a way better mother than I am a lawyer. Really a major confession for me. An admission which has required an enormous amount of courage and soul-searching. Something I am so scared of admitting. Especially given that I am really the most unmaternal mother you will ever meet. Since being back at work I have realised what a fantastic mother I am and what a great job I’ve done. Mothering, on the whole, has given me the hugest satisfaction and self-pride. To know that I have contributed to the world 2 truly unique, special, funny, gorgeous little boys that are a product of me (and my husband!) makes me so utterly proud and blessed.
I know it sounds clichéd but I have never, ever had that feeling of utter fulfilment from my work, ever.
Makes me think either I’m in the wrong industry.
Or maybe, just maybe, I’ve proved myself wrong and mothering really is the best job anyone can ever have.