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Working mum's guilt 'overwhelms'

ANNE BOSWELL
Last updated 05:00 02/03/2014

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In August 2012, I left my job to go on maternity leave.

I was 35 weeks pregnant and had planned to work until 38 weeks, but found the pressure of my high-stress job had not slowed down and I was exhausted.

I spent five blissful weeks nesting, visiting friends, and counting down the days until my baby arrived.

He was two weeks late in the end but after a long wait and a drawn out, scary labour and birth, my little guy was finally here.

While I was on maternity leave, I found the amount of my paid parental leave sufficed, although it was offered for far too short a period in my opinion. It paid for essentials and we coped financially.

My husband had two weeks off to enjoy our new baby before he returned to work. He took annual leave so it didn't cut into my paid parental leave.

There were some trying times while I was on maternity leave, learning to be a mother, but the only thing missing from my life, happily, was stress. It simply did not exist while I stayed home and enjoyed every minute with my son.

I had planned to return to work part-time when he was four months old, but as the time drew closer I found I just wasn't ready. We managed to extend that time to six months, and on my return to work my son went into in-home care for three days a week.

I found adjusting back to work easier than I expected. Working 8.30am-3.30pm, three days a week, was wonderful, and I had enough time with my boy outside of work hours that I didn't pine for him while I was working. I missed him, but I loved my job and I loved the social interaction.

I returned to work 11 months ago and I now find myself working 32 hours a week - four full days. The money comes in handy, and it means we can complete some renovations on our house this year, but I am required to be beyond organised in order for the balance to work.

While I love my job, I don't love the stress that comes with it. I am aware of the pressure from my employer to return to my job full-time, but it is something I just cannot agree to.

I am trying to do the best I can with what I have, but at times the 'mummy guilt' I feel is overwhelming. There are times (often) that I feel like a half-arsed mother and a half-arsed employee.

I am tired and irritable when I get home from work and have to force myself to be chirpy for my little guy.

I sit at work and look at a photo of my son and coo at him inside my head where no one else can hear.

I am confused about what I really want on a daily basis. I doubt I would be a satisfied full-time, stay-at-home mum, but I yearn to spend more time with a little boy who is growing up too fast.

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The truth of the matter is if I don't work, we can't afford groceries or petrol. We earn above the threshold for both a childcare subsidy and now Working for Families.

I fully support a move to longer paid parental leave. I would be over the moon to be able to spend a whole year at home with my two children when the next one comes along.


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