Monday, 15 February 2010

Juggling Baby, Money, Time and Happiness

photo credit: The Kit and the Cub
I've just worked out that my total maternity leave 'income' after I have my baby in June will be around £600/month! Hmm, that'll just about cover our Tescos trips and running my car then ;-)

Of course, hubby will be contributing on top of the government's handouts (my £600 of self-employed person's statutory maternity pay, child tax credit and child benefit) but we only just seem to manage on our joint finances as it is. Aargh!

Someone I know is taking a whole year off for maternity leave and has the first 6 months on full pay and the remaining 6 months on half pay...

Jealous? Moi?!

I'm fretting a little as I really want to spend some quality time with my new baby, but I'm aware as an equal breadwinner I will need to contribute to the family finances much, much sooner than a year after giving birth.

And that first year with Ella was one of the most special, blissful times of my life. I don't want to muddy my last ever experience of My Baby's First Year with stress about money, childcare, deadlines etc

I hope it all works out for us, I know these things usually do. I'm considering working two hours a day while the baby has her afternoon nap when she's somewhere between three to six months old (depending on my bank balance, her sleeping through the night and my sanity levels at the time). Then, putting her in daycare or at a childminder's for 1.5-2.5 days a week when she's one year old and I'm more emotionally equipped to 'give her away'. See, I've sorted it out already but I'm still not sure if that's the right plan to achieve maximum happiness and fulfilment. Which is the only goal worth having in my book.

Sometimes I fantasise about being a 1950s housewife and being able to 'just' be a mum. I tried that with my first baby though, and ended up going back to work after 18 months (instead of the four or five years I originally intended!) as I realised I need more of a balance (and more stimulation) in my life.

Having to juggle conflicting priorities is what we mums do best, whether we stay at home, go to work or do a bit of both. No path is entirely without its stresses, strains and missed opportunities. Oh and guilt, of course.

I just wish I could chill out about this whole work/baby/money/time balance thing and trust in my future. I mean, she isn't even here yet and I'm getting my knickers in a twist about it all.

J reminded me recently that not so many years ago I was a single mum with a toddler, working four days a week, paying for half of Ella's childcare and all of my rent and household expenses, with no maintenance payments.

I managed fine all by myself then and, although I was more stressed and tired than I am nowadays and almost constantly pining for more time with Els, I was pretty content with my lot.

Overall, things are bound to be easier this time around. And I am infinitely resourceful. And all the best things in life are free. Apart from organic food and chiropractors and Eve Lom cleanser and visiting friends when they don't live on your doorstep and broadband and pretty clothes and family-friendly festivals and miracle vitamin supplements and random purchases from Amazon and...