You are not the first person who has made comments about how easy I have it, being a working mum with three little kids. I dare say you won’t be the last. I’m not sure what led to your bitterness and jealousy towards “my situation”. I sincerely hope that it was not due to your own personal heartbreak, I hope that not having children was a choice for you, not an unwelcome situation forced upon you. Since you were so concerned with my life, however, I’m going to take the time to clear a few things up about life with a crazy job, and a bunch of crazier kids.
I don’t receive a whole bunch of financial “benefits”. I get the impression they were the kind of benefits you were referring to. There are plenty of parents who might do. Parents who need financial assistance, because supporting a family is financially draining. For the record, the only benefit I get is the child care rebate, which is not means tested. I appreciate it greatly, as without it working would not be as beneficial to my family.
I get that maternity leave might seem like a holiday for you. It did for me too, until I actually took ten months off work to be the primary carer for my first screaming small person. She suffered from silent reflux, like many little babies do, so she screamed from sunup to sundown. She also screamed periodically from sundown to sunup, and that kid was loud. If your ideal extended holiday is one where you don’t sleep, don’t shower, and rarely eat properly, well then yes, maternity leave was a brilliant holiday. Personally, I count a holiday as a period of time where I don’t spend the first six weeks bleeding from my vagina, the next six months lathering my nipples in Nilstat (ductal thrush is fucking painful), and the first year in a complete state of anxious panic about everything. Give me poolside cocktails, any day.
Yes, I can understand why the ‘family friendly’ shifts I work may irk you. Unfortunately, it is close to impossible to find adequate child care for three children to cover a 24/7 rotating roster. The only way I could facilitate it at this time would be to put all three of my children into extended care for five days a week, which would cost me a minimum of $42000 a year. After the rebate. I am sure you can understand why I don’t want to do this. Not only would the cost be ridiculous, given that I only work three days a week, it would feel pretty pointless. I actually like my kids, so I want to spend time with them. I don’t want them to go to childcare all the time, if they don’t have to.
I don’t think you would want my shifts, anyway. Who would actually want to work every single Friday night, in the history of Friday nights? While they might be reasonably ‘family friendly’, they are hardly social life friendly. What little social life I had is long gone. I’ve turned into one of those people who is overly friendly to supermarket staff, such is my desire for social connection. Believe me, it might seem cruisy from where you are standing, but it’s downright depressing from my perspective.
I’m not going to lie, I feel a little jealous when I see people like you, in clothes that are clean, from a boutique store, fashionably relevant. I can’t shop in fashionable stores anymore, because everything is high-waisted pants and crop tops, which do nothing for my squishy belly and saggy bosom. Women with manicured fingers, salon perfect hair, a full face of makeup. People who had longer than 12.5 seconds to spend on their own appearance in the last 24 hours. I bet you had two showers today! I bet you didn’t eat cold toast and a brown banana for breakfast! I don’t even like bananas, for crying out loud.
I remember what it was like to go to work before kids. I would carefully prepare my food for the shift, take a shower, sift through my wardrobe for the most appealing outfit. I would catch up on a little TV, watch a movie, go for a run. When the time came, I would just……. leave. It was so simple.
This afternoon, after taking my kids to their swimming lessons, I came home, and threw an assortment of random leftovers together to take to eat. I threatened three kids with a month long electronic devices ban, if they didn’t tidy up the toy room. I signed a couple of notes, and chucked a long overdue load of washing in the washing machine. I scraped cornflakes off the floor under the dining table. I stacked the dishwasher. I sniffed the armpits of a cardigan, and deemed it appropriate for wearing, despite the fact I found it at the bottom of my clothes hamper. I ate a tin of salmon and some rice crackers while standing in the kitchen, foods chosen as they required minimum prep and utensils.
Fifteen minutes before I really had to leave, I started to leave. I calmed my seven year old, who was beside herself, because she is suddenly terrified of people she loves dying. I settled my five year old, who like clockwork decided that this very moment was the time to throw a tantrum about nothing in particular. And then I dealt with my two year old, who watched me put my work bag on my back, and threw himself at my legs, sobbing, screaming “No go to work, mummy! No go!” They all then followed me out and watched me leave, my seven year old riding her bike down the footpath, tears streaming down her face, following me until I left the street. Leaving for work is emotional. I feel guilty every time I do it, and I am anxious for hours in the lead up.
I don’t want you to think that I hate it, I really don’t. I don’t want you to think I regret it, my quirky little family is amazing, I couldn’t imagine my life without them. And, while I am sometimes jealous of your life, your child-free, go drinking on a Tuesday because why the hell not, life, mine is OK too. Sometimes the grass seems greener on your side of the fence, sure. I get the feeling that you feel like that about my life on occasion, too.
I understand why it might feel unfair at times, when you see people like me getting treated differently because they have kids. I get why you might feel bitter that “your taxes are paying for my children”. So I would like to remind you of a couple of things:
My taxes are paying for my children, too.
When you are old, and grey, and senile, and your poo smells like dead animals, one of my kids might be the the person who has to wipe your arse.
Have a nice day!
Person who you apparently resent, because she happens to have children.