Out of office

There is nothing like that moment you turn on those triple Os. Out. Of. Office.

20 days annual leave a year and little feels more precious when you’re in the hamster wheel of work. For that sweet day, week, fortnight ahead, with one click the daily grind is waved goodbye. “I’m out of the office and really don’t give a &#@% until I return.”

I’ve pondered greatly on the topic of motherhood as work as I enter the second half of maternity leave. As the ‘of course you’re off work’ bubble begins to burst and the ifs, buts and whens of returning to office life set in.

Without doubt, for now, motherhood is my occupation. My daughter is my best work and most stretching role. She’s my biggest achievement and greatest challenge. Nothing has been more rewarding and nothing has called on me to give more.

There are no days off, no sick days, no public holidays. No new offices or different teams. Few promotions and a different kind of pay. No out of office.

Last week my inbox filled with messages from Mummy friends “needing a day off Mummying” or “contemplating a Mummy strike” as nights of lost sleep clocked up and minutes of cranky babies merged into hours.

Each comment followed with a large helping of guilt, regret and the realisation that tomorrow they’d wish they’d never uttered the words.

But as mums it’s ok to feel like you can’t for that moment, hour, day or even week. It’s when we as a community of mothers must pull together more and our partners must lean in. It’s when we must push aside the feelings of FOMO and accept any help available. When time for us, as individuals, not mothers, becomes essential because everyone needs a day off sometimes.

 

 

 

Five letter words

There is one topic which, without doubt, seems to dominate motherhood.

It isn’t the love we feel for our babies, their latest development or favourite past time. It isn’t the skills we have taught them or food they prefer. It isn’t their future or our dreams.

It’s sleep.

One five letter word which undoubtedly brings along with it another. Tired.

I have lost count of the conversations which began with ‘how was your night?’ or ‘did you get any sleep?’. The mummy messages that discuss, debate and desperately seek sleep solutions.

Before motherhood, sure I knew there’d be night feeds, early mornings and lost Zs. But until you’re in it, and unless you’re blessed with an abnormally exceptional little sleeper, no one and nothing can prepare you for months of broken nights. Not even the pregnancy insomnia which pays a visit to an extra lucky few.

Sleep becomes a goal, a milestone, a dream. A benchmark for success and a measure of failure.

A new normal sets in. Ask me a year ago how I’d feel after four hours straight sleep? I’d wince in horror. Ask me today, I could take on the world.

As mothers, and often fathers, our relationship with sleep changes. Brutally at first. Then, slowly we have to let go of our eagerness to count hours and our readiness to feel tired. We have to reassess how lack of sleep makes us feel and behave. Tired becomes a given, a baseline, its meaning diminished with the same proportion that its scale grows.

We have to silently grin and bear others telling us how tired they are after a big night or a long week. Tired? Anyone except a mother on nightshift doesn’t know the meaning of the word, right? Wrong. They too can be tired, even if their definition fits into the best night’s sleep of our mummying lives.

Now eight months in with a baby who takes us on a nightly game of sleep roulette, I’ve decided I am over hearing those words coming out my mouth. I am past saying I’m tired, the weight of that word has lifted. I’m bored of talking about sleep or lack thereof.

Perhaps it’s time to ban those five letter words.