Yes it’s 2016, and yes feminism “has come a long way” but woman are STILL on the frontline of parenthood. And that is so wrong.
The other day, I met with a social worker to talk about my sons separation anxiety and something overly predictable happened. Whilst insisting that it wasn’t my fault, I was simultaneously told that it was my fault for going back to work when he was a whooping 18months old.
But it wasn’t my fault, and it wasn’t my absence. If it was anyones it was my husbands who is a serving member of the Royal Australian Navy… and here’s why:
Oliver has always been busy, and somewhat of a handful. When he turned one I tossed up having a second child. But I knew it would be hard for Oliver, and I knew it wasn’t the right time for us. We’d just posted to Canberra after a really tough stint in Sydney and I needed some time to catch my breath. So I decided to focus on my career and when Oliver was 18months old I got a job and he started full time daycare.
And he loved it. I seriously think the following six months were the best of his life. I’d drop him off every morning, and his Dad would pick him up every night. After work we’d all play for hours, and on weekends we played… they really played. Oliver’s social skills blossomed, my career blossomed, and our marriage blossomed.
They were really some of the best days of our lives, and James and I were truly equals.
And then one phone call changed it all. James had to move to Melbourne for six months for a promotion course.
Just like that, Oliver became the first kid at daycare and the last to leave. I worked unusual hours so he spent a lot of time with our au pair. And his Dad would just come in and out of his two year old life with no warning.
I saw my son go from flourishing to floundering. I remember the first time my au pair came to me and asked if she did something wrong with him because he was so angry at her. But he wasn’t just angry at her, he was angry at me and at his teachers. He saw us as the reason his Dad wasn’t there.
And my husband didn’t get it, because the second he came back through our door there would be my happy little boy again. And my parents didn’t get it because they lived 600km away. And even though my au pair got it, she had to leave too which was really tough for Ollie and made it clear that getting another was not an option.
So I made a huge decision. I decided to move myself and my son home to Melbourne and have some stability in his life. I knew that as long as his Dad was in the Navy, he would be in and out but back in Melbourne he would have his extended family.
Thats when things got really bad. Oliver spiralled out of control and we sought intervention. Private intervention that cost us an arm and a leg, but I’d give away all of my limbs to get my little boy back.
And then James moved home. Twelve months after it all began it was over. Almost.
Being in the Navy means that James will always be expected to spend time away from his family. I can go away for a week at a time and Oliver won’t bat an eye. But James spends one night away and without.a.doubt some of those old behaviours rear their ugly heads.
And that’s why we decided to call the social worker…
So there we were with all this knowledge between us. Yet still, the fact that I waltzed my vagina back into work and left my 18month old son in a safe and fun environment was discussed as the primary reason for my sons separation anxiety…
Being a parent is a lot of pressure. Being a mother, is a whole other ball game.
If I had a tenner for every time I was asked if my husband was baby sitting, I wouldn’t have to go back to work. If I had a dollar for every time I was asked where my child is when I worked before I was asked what I did for work, I would have enough to cover parking at work for a year. And if I had a cent for every time I was told by a boss that I should expect a lower wage because I have kids, I would have 2 cents, which is 2cents too many!
And now I can add being told that a woman going back to work is harder on a child than his father being in and out of his life for 12 months to my above idiom.
So, fellow Mums, how do you do it? How do you keep from exploding every time your value as a person is questioned because you are also a mother?