Six simple words changed my life forever.
“Mum, why aren’t you watching me?”
My youngest daughter’s head popped up from the side of the pool. I looked up from my phone, my fingers furiously typing out an email as I worked towards a solution to the latest ‘crisis’ at work.
My youngest daughter’s green eyes pleaded with me to watch her swimming lesson, her blonde hair dripping down her beautiful face.
I dropped my phone into my handbag and it was at that moment I made a decision to change my life for the better.
What was I doing? What was I working for? It certainly wasn’t happiness because that was far from what I had been feeling the last six months. Sure the money was great, but I have quickly learned that money doesn’t buy you love, happiness or health – all of which had been slowly deteriorating over the past 12 months.
Increasing levels of anxiety from my eldest daughter to the point of panic attacks and vomiting before school could not have been a bigger warning signal. Nor could her withdrawal and loss of confidence in the activities she loved, particularly her dancing which she practically lived and breathed. My youngest was consistently tired and moody – hey, so was I – but beyond just the normal behaviour of a four-year-old.
I have always been a proud working mum, returning to part-time work 11 months after the birth of my first daughter, who is now nine years of age, and just six months following the arrival of my second.
I never felt the ‘mummy guilt’ other mother describe about leaving their children at childcare. I found a great centre with awesome staff and always knew they were being well looked after. I felt that anyone could change their nappy, feed them nutritious food and get them to nap until I picked them up again.
At the time, I enjoyed the mental stimulation and the adult conversation at work, but as the years passed I felt the expectation that I should grow my career. So I took up the offer of a full time role, stepping up to the role of 2IC in the public relations and communications department I worked for. It was high pressure and very demanding, and while I enjoyed the role I never felt like I could give it the 100% attention it deserved.
When I wasn’t at work I was constantly checking my phone and stressing when the next media crisis would hit. When I was at work I was constantly thinking about my daughter and how she was coping as I waited for the next phone call from the school to tell me my daughter was having another anxiety attack about attending after-school care.
As my daughters grow older I am finding that they need me to be there for them now more than ever before – no one else can fill that true emotional gap. My children need me to be there for the daily download at the end of the day, they need to be able to just plop themselves down on the couch and relax for awhile in their own home. While working, there was not one night my eldest daughter got to head straight home from school, she either went to after school care, an after school activity or to my parent’s place – and while her grandparent’s house is like her home away from home, it’s still not her home. It just wasn’t fair on her.
So I made a decision. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the clearest decision I have made in a long time.
I resigned from my job to focus on being the best mother I can be for my children. And I’m loving it!
In some ways, I feel like I have gone about all this a little backwards. Most women I know start to focus on their careers when their children are all at school (and my youngest starts school next year!), but as my children grow older and reach those all important teenage years I know just having the opportunity to be there for them is the right decision at this point in time.
Sure, many challenges lay ahead as we make the shift to one income and I try to pick up some freelance writing and editing work along the way, but I consider myself to be extremely lucky to be in a position to be able to leave my full time role and focus on my family, which in my mind always needs to come first.
I hope you can join me on my journey.