Turns out maybe I can’t have it all…

I’m crying. Again. There have been a lot of tears in the last week over one subject in particular & it basically boils down to the fact that I can’t have it all. I’ll be honest, but I’m struggling to find an #everycloudeveryday in this situation & I don’t think there is an easy solution.

Last week, I took a morning off work to go in to Little T’s pre-school to look at his learning journey & decorate scarecrows with him. As I was leaving, the teacher said that as I was ‘one of the mummies who went to work’ (I am in the minority here) she’d like to give me as much notice as possible that the children’s Christmas Concert would be on the morning of December 11th. Immediately, my heart sank – I knew I was away with work that day – & I struggled to hold back the tears. Thankfully, I didn’t burst into tears in front of her, I managed to keep it together until the carpark, where I became a sobbing, red-faced, snot-covered mess for about the next twenty minutes.

I then blew my nose & rang the lady at work who books all of our travel & asked what the chances of being late to the meeting were. The logistics are that the concert starts at approximately 10am, but I have to be in London for a meeting that starts at 11.30. I could go to the concert, drive as quickly as I legally can (yeah, right) to the local station for 12 & be in London by 1.30 – the hotel is just next to the station I get in to, so that was a definite plus. I thought this was a reasonable compromise, especially as the meeting is 3 days long, so missing the first 2 & a half hours wouldn’t be that much of a drama, surely?

The tickets had not yet been booked, which was a good thing, so she advised me to call my boss. Unfortunately, my boss is off sick, so I had to call her boss – admittedly, this was not ideal, as I feel it may somewhat limit my career further down the line. He didn’t say ‘no’ outright, which I took as a positive & says he’ll talk to a few people & get back to me. When he does, it’s a ‘no’. While they understand my predicament, the view is that if they let me turn up late for this, then they’d have to let everyone who asked similar to do the same thing. I understand this, but am bitterly disappointed.

Plan B was to ask the pre-school if I might be able to watch the children practising for the concert before the actual show. I emailed the head of the pre-school & asked. While she understands my predicament, if she lets me see the production before the show then she would have to do the same for any other parents that ask. I reasoned with her that – in a class of 20 – surely the vast majority of parents would actually want to see the show & that watching a rehearsal was my only way of making up for being an inadequate mother to Little T, so he didn’t think I’d missed it altogether. Surely any other mummy that was going to miss it would be equally as gutted as I am, so what harm would it do? (Plus, unless she actually told everyone, no one would have to know). Unfortunately, it’s still a ‘no’ from her.

I asked about Mr T being able to record it, but – as I suspected – that was not possible due to safeguarding issues.

So, I am stuck, angry, upset, frustrated, worried (& still crying).

I’m stuck in a land of democracy, where no allowances can be made or precedences be set for one person, in case – shock horror – someone else feels they’ve been treated badly. I don’t exactly see the flood gates opening with people wanting to turn up an hour or so late, or mummies who can’t make the concert/would rather go to a practice, if they just let me, but I do understand the reasons.

I’m angry because I’m a reasonable person & I don’t think I’m being unreasonable now – all I’m asking is to either turn up a little late to a meeting, or be able to sit at the back of a school hall & watch my son sing a few songs with his pre-school class a couple of days before the other parents see the actual, proper, Christmassy show that I’m going to miss.

I’m angry because for all the talk of ‘honesty being the best policy’ I feel that this isn’t the case – if I’d kept quiet about it, I could’ve turned up late & given a delayed train or a broken down car as an excuse & no one would have thought anything of it, but instead I decided to go down the ‘honest’ route & now if I am late, it will be bloody obvious what’s happened & I will be in big trouble. I wonder now if I’ll bother with honesty next time something like this happens?

I’m angry, because our company gives lip service to striking a work:life balance, but when it boils down to it, they turn down requests to try to find this elusive balance.

I’m angry, because I feel like a failure at having it all. I couldn’t be a stay at home mum – I absolutely take my hat off to those of you that are – but I fear I’d lose my marbles pretty quickly. I like my job & I like having adult interactions with people who don’t throw their lunch at me when they don’t get their own way & I’ve always been able to find a way to make it work & take time off for important things previously. This is the first ever Christmas Concert Little T will perform in & I’m missing it. It’s a milestone I won’t see. Of course there’ll be pictures on the nursery blog, but I won’t get to see the cheeky glint in my son’s eye as he sings ‘When Santa Got Stuck Up The Chimney’ (his favourite) or him dancing along to Jingle Bells with his new friends.

Mainly, I’m upset at the thought of him looking out into the audience for a mummy who isn’t there. What will he think – that I didn’t want to come, that work is more important, that he isn’t important? I don’t know – he’s only 2, so maybe he won’t even notice, but I worry about these things & just wish I could be in two places at once. I feel guilty that I haven’t been able to put the most important thing in my entire universe first & instead, I’ll be sitting – possibly crying, but most definitely not listening & wishing I was somewhere else – in a meeting in a characterless London hotel, while my best boy sings his little heart out to all the mummies who are there for their children.

I feel frustration that I can’t seem to articulate my point, without sounding like either a demanding mother or a work-shy employee. I also feel worried that this is just the beginning; now Little T is at school, there are going to be more & more concerts, sports days & the like that I potentially won’t be able to go to & I feel like for each one, there’ll be a bit of him that moves further away from being my baby boy.

There isn’t really a point to this blog, but I was so upset that I thought writing about it might be a little therapeutic. It hasn’t helped yet, but maybe it will. I’m still crying.

6 thoughts on “Turns out maybe I can’t have it all…

  1. I think the problem with ‘having it all’ is to do with trying to have it all in this very moment. I always try to look at my life as a whole and think that over time it will balance itself out and I will end up having it all.

    Another point I have been putting to practise is to start designing my life the way I want it be, rather than just accept the options offered by my surroundings. When I left my big career and stayed home with twin babies 4,5 years ago I decided that I was going to shape my working life the way that would suit me, rather than return back to the big career (which I had loved) with heavy international travel schedule. I was convinced I could be fully ‘driven’ and very productive, just in a different kind of setting and with less impressive tittle in my business card. I’m Chief Excitement Officer now 😉 at the company I created with Jennifer, DrivenWoman.

    It is hard, but I hope more women would put their mind into creating the life they want and starting to shape their ‘destiny’ over time. It definitely takes time and is often very difficult due to financial commitments etc. , but I’m convinced everyone can do it. And that there is another way. It’s not wither career or no-career, there is an opportunity in the middle, but it is more difficult to define it.

    I hope you will find a solution, I know exactly how it feels if I’d have to miss my twin boys’ important days at school. I wish you luck and determination to change your reality to match the way you’d like to live.

    All the best,

    • Hi Miisa,
      Thanks for the comment – I’ve just had a look at your website & it’s brilliant! I have joined the mailing list & will go back for a more in depth view soon. The video on there totally describes how I am feeling – a frustration about being stuck & all of the things listed that could hold me back have crossed my mind at some point or another – the site could have been written by me & so many other women I know.
      It will be a leap to shape my destiny & shape my life, but when I’m feeling stronger, I will be back on the site for inspiration. Thank you for signposting me there.

  2. Oh I really feel for you reading this. I work too although *only* 3 days. I constantly find the balance hard, if not impossible. I have a very reasonable boss but probably because I work part-time I desperately try to avoid asking for any more time off. This often means I feel as though the girls are at the bottom of the pecking order. I agree you can’t have it all. And honesty isn’t always the best foot forward. When it comes to something as infrequent as a Christmas nativity, both work and the nursery should make allowances. I think at 2 Little T won’t overly make any assumptions about why you’re not there so don’t worry too much about that. Is there someone you can send in your place, a friendly face he can see? Failing that a picture of you on a stick that one of the other mums can hold up ;0). Just another day of guilt in the life of a working mum eh…?

    • Thanks Amy, it’s so nice to realise that other people understand – I wish my employer/nursery would be more understanding at times, but I suppose these are the choices we make. As it turned out, Little T was actually at home with a sickness bug, so didn’t even make it to the nativity, which softened the blow a bit (although I still had to leave my poorly boy, which wasn’t nice). I imagine your work get more out of you doing 3 days a week than most – I know other people who feel like they have to prove they can do it & – like you – are reluctant to ask for time off because they’re already part time.
      It’s a bloody hard balancing act!!
      It’s nice to find a kindred spirit though (& I loved the idea of my picture on a stick – I’m keeping that in reserve!!).

  3. Aw I really feel for you. I went back to work when my baby was 9mo and got a voicemail on my lunch break that he’d walked from the sofa to the table (less than 2 baby steps to me honest). It destroyed me that I’d missed it. Luckily I was there for the day (several months later- the tease!) that he finally toddled off across a whole room by himself, but I could’ve easily missed that too. I don’t have any magic answers I’m afraid… My solution was to have another baby quick sharp so I’d have an extra year at home with him… But I honestly don’t know what I’ll do when “have another baby” stops being a viable option. 🙁 It sucks. I’m so sorry.

    • Oh Amy, I’d have been heartbroken too! So glad you were there for the main event. I am currently in the ‘let’s have another baby’ thinking – at least I’d be available for the things Little T will be doing at school as a happy addition to the new baby bit!

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