New baby is coming
Before Liz became a mother she had a very organised and busy life. The prospect of losing that lifestyle was very worrying for Liz and she did her best to avoid thinking about it.
But as Liz found out, being busy and organised are two traits very well suited to motherhood. Over time Liz found a way to balance her desire to spend time with her daughter with the passion she has for her career.
“My normal routine of a long hectic work day followed by going to the gym and catching up with friends and family was familiar and comfortable to me and I enjoyed it,” said Liz.
“I was enormously pregnant and just going about my normal life as if nothing was about to change.
“The thought of just being at home all day was really daunting, so much so, that I kept putting off my end of work date until I ended up just having the baby after working all day.
“As a result my husband and I were almost shocked when our baby arrived – how did this happen so fast? We were completely mentally unprepared.
“That was really stupid and I regret those decisions. I was borderline postnatal anxiety and a complete teary mess for the first couple of weeks of baby’s life, although I did my best never to let baby see that.”
Liz managed to shake of any anxiety and regain a level head by replacing the full-on, meticulous way she worked with how she cared for her baby.
“My daughter responded enormously to this attention and I loved my new life as a mother and was determined to keep it up.”
Liz spent the first six months of motherhood as a full-time stay at home mum.
“Before having a baby, I always used to look at stay at home mums and question, what do they do all day?” said Liz.
“After becoming one myself, I know that it is more than a full-time job, because you don’t just clock off at the end of the day and go back to worrying about only yourself, you are on call 24 hours a day and often work through the night!
“The love and giggles you get in return from your child are definitely more rewarding than the pay-cheque and job satisfaction.”
Getting back to work with a new baby
Liz was lucky that the type of work she does lends itself to being done from home but even the small amount of work she was doing was becoming increasingly difficult to complete. After 6 months at home full-time Liz started to entertain the idea of heading back to work.
“I kept in touch with the office answering queries online and on the phone every so often in those first 6 months and I enjoyed that interaction but it was too hard doing it with a baby next to me,” she said.
“We couldn’t pay the bills in baby laughter so I knew we needed to consider work again when the maternity leave money ran out.”
So Liz took a look at the family budget to see where they could cut back and decided to try and work out a way she could go back to the office one day a week.
“I knew from pretty early on that I didn’t want to use full-time child care,” she said.
“I was in full time childcare, from 5 weeks old, starting very early in the morning until late at night and as a child I was always jealous of kids that had time with their parents.
“I always felt like I was an imposition and I was being dumped somewhere. I didn’t want that for my child.
“I realise some people are in financial situations where they have no other choice, but I knew that if we were careful, we would be able to manage without me working fulltime.
“My child wouldn’t have brand new shiny toys or clothes all the time, and neither would we, but they would have lots of bonding time and attention from us and we would work out other ways for baby to access games, toys, activities and books that don’t break the budget.”
Liz said the expenses of her going back to full-time probably wouldn’t make it worthwhile plus she wanted to be able spend as much time as possible with her daughter.
“Going back full-time also brings its own hidden expenses like additional transport costs, childcare, work clothes, less time to cook things from scratch can mean more expensive convenience foods are used.
“I also knew that no childcare facility would be able to give my baby the same individual love, attention and learning experiences that I was giving her each day – plus I was still breastfeeding and didn’t want to give that up.
Dad stays home
“At salary review time my husband negotiated with his boss to work a four and a half day week by working an extra hour each day and taking Fridays off,” said Liz.
“He was really nervous this would make him look uncommitted in the eyes of his boss.
“Luckily his boss had 4 children under 6 years old himself and understood why emotionally and financially he wanted to make the change.
“It was also better for his boss’s pocket as it meant he didn’t need to fork out a higher salary to retain my husband which he deserved due to his high performance.
“In terms of tax it also works out more cost effective for my husband to keep his salary in that bracket and me to earn a bit of money.
“So on Fridays he looks after baby and I can have a day at work.”
Going back to work one day a week was something Liz really looked forward to. Having the whole day to concentrate on work projects, interacting with adults and staying clean from baby food were just a few of the perks but making sure her daughter had enough to eat took some extra planning.
“I would express milk before leaving for work and then borrow an office at lunch time to express again,” said Liz.
“During the week I would also express a bit and freeze it so there would be enough milk to get my husband through the day with baby.”
With a system now in place that suited their needs financially Liz and her husband were discovering some far more valuable benefits.
“My husband has found this time to be really important as it has given him the opportunity to bond with his daughter and have that special one on one time that he otherwise wouldn’t have,” said Liz.
“I know he found it really hard at the beginning, he wasn’t really attuned to her cues and didn’t know how to fill the hours. But practise makes perfect and gradually as the weeks passed, he got into a routine.
“Plus I would feel really guilty being away that day so as soon as I got home I would scoop up baby and try to make up for the hours we missed and he would have time to be alone and do what he liked.
“It has also allowed our daughter to have a more rounded and fuller parenting experience.”
When baby was 14 months old, to free up some more time for work without having to resort to conventional day care Liz struck up a deal with a friend and fellow mother.
“Each week my friend and I do a baby swap. We take turns looking after the other’s baby for the day,” said Liz.
“We each organise heaps of different great activities for the kids each week so it works out to be more of a play date which is good for their development.
“So far, we’ve gone to free music and story book activities held at the library or community hall, we’ve done drawing and craft work at home and even made our own musical instruments.
“We dance and sing to music in different languages and work on our veggie patch in the garden. The children have a ball playing with their little watering cans.
“As our babies are only 3 weeks apart they have the same sleep/food needs so it’s much easier than looking after two kids with a bigger age gap. As my baby is an only child, she is used to my full attention all the time and can be very demanding and a bit bossy, so it is great for her to learn to share my attention and her belongings.
“With such an intimate little group I find both kids learn a lot more from these days than attending playgroup, mother’s group or day care.
“I am teaching my baby to be bilingual and my friend’s baby is already understanding and learning another language from just the one day each fortnight they spend with us.
“In addition to the benefits for our children, with this baby swap system, my friend and I are both able to free up some time for work without having to pay any money for child care or compromise on the activities and attention we give our children.”
Having that extra free day is not only great for parents who want to work but for anyone that needs more time to keep on top of house-work and errands which can be painfully difficult to accomplish when you have a baby around.
You just need to be careful that you do your baby swap with somebody you trust and have a similar parenting philosophy with.
“My friend and I both have similar parenting values so we both know that our babies are not being exposed to anything we don’t want them to be, such as the types of food they are fed, the level of stimulation and learning they are getting and the type of language your baby hears,” said Liz.
“Before we started we spent a couple of weeks thinking about possible issues and nutted them out together.
“From my side, I wanted to continue speaking in a language other than English with the babies and some parents wouldn’t be happy with that, but my friend was glad of the educational experience.
“I also don’t believe in smacking or shouting at children, so we discussed what strategies and consequences we would use when the child misbehaved.
“From my friend’s side, her child has some problems with her sight so she must wear eye patches and her glasses and so I stick to her guidelines there.”
As well as working out her baby swap, being vigilant with her daughter’s nap times means Liz is able to maximise her free time while she is at home.
“I make sure that she goes down for a nap at the same time every day including weekends and that way I know I’ll have set times during the day when I can do the things I need to do.” she said.
“As long as I keep her in this routine, she is happy and ready to go down for her nap. But on times when I have changed this do to social commitments it can take a couple of days and a lot of effort to get her back into her routine.
“Because of that, I am only very rarely out of the house at nap time. If I really can’t manage any other time I take a porta-cot, her blanket and some familiar things so I can still try to get her to nap at the same time wherever I am.”
If it’s not broken…
Liz has been able to set up a nice balance that is suited to her family perfectly and she says she’s not about to change it anytime soon.
“My daughter is 18 months old now and I am happy with the work and family balance we have created,” said Liz.
“My daughter is getting more time with her dad and other kids and parents than she otherwise would with just me and I’m getting to have that brain time out of the house and contribute financially.
“I don’t plan on changing my work hours until she is in pre-school, and then I might look to increase it slightly.
“But what we have now is working so there is no need to change. Our babies grow up so quickly that I want to be able spend as much time as possible with my daughter – the hugs and moments we have together are so precious to me and so good for her development too.”