Having put out a little shout out in a previous blog post, you lovely lot gave me some brilliant suggestions for topics you would like me to write about. So thank you! And please keep them coming. Fellow blogger Chloe asked me to write about how I balance a demanding job with young children. It’s a good question and sometimes I do wonder how my husband and I make it all work.
Firstly a little background about us as a family of 4. My husband and I both met in our early twenties, young, care free but we were both very passionate about our impending careers. I was a newly qualified midwife and he was launching into the world of management consultancy. We were both fresh out of uni and had big ideas for our lives but an unplanned pregnancy changed everything. Before I knew it we left our tiny rented flat in Bristol and moved to South London with a 6 week old baby.
Skip forward 7 years, we’re married have added another curly haired one to our family and bought our first home in Crystal Palace, I have continued to work throughout these 7 years (apart from maternity leave) and my love and passion for midwifery has driven this. I adore my children but being a stay at home mother was never for me. I am so privileged be able to go to work and love what I do. Sometimes I can’t believe I get paid to work in the way we do as our case loading team, I have amazing colleagues who inspired me daily. We are like a bunch of sisters who laugh and share all the time.
But it’s all or nothing working in this way and that’s when family life can be a struggle to manage.
Like any couples both working full time there has to be a mutual respect and understanding of each other roles. My husband is more flexible with his working hours ie he can work from home at fairly short notice as he manages his own diary. I however have to be available over night 3 times a week when I’m on call. Our daily routine consists of me dropping the girls off at school and nursery and then my first visit is usually at 9:15. I rely heavily on my car which is my office too. My boot if full of various types of equipment such as delivery packs, waterproof sheets, baby scales and lots of cannisters of gas and air! (I have learnt to go slowly over speed bumps).
If I’m on the ‘on day’ I work until 5pm. So if there is someone in labour either myself or colleague will provide care then there is another 2 midwives available from 5pm to do the night cover. We aim to have at least 1 midwife on call every night of the week to allow ourselves to care for all our women in labour. My youngest daughter is at nursery and can be collected up until 6pm and my elder daughter goes to after school club. This allows to me leave a labour/birth at 5pm and collect them in good time.
If I’m on the ‘on call day’ I have to be available from 5pm until 9am the next morning. These days (usually 3 days a week including weekends) require a little more planning. My rota is done a month in advance so my husband knows when these occur. It does limit our evenings so he usually can’t go for a pint after work or play squash. Occasionally he might go locally for a drink with friends but with his phone tucked into his pocket knowing I could call him at any time to say I need to leave the house. If as a team we get early signs from our women in the day that things are happening (waters breaking, contractions starting) we try and plan as much as possible who will take the pagers for the first half of the evening. Personally I prefer to take them from 10pm until morning as from 5pm onwards I like to call this the ‘fish finger hour’. Cooking the kids tea, helping with home work, bath time, stories is demanding and very time consuming. Throw the pager going off and taking phone calls from a woman in labour into the mix makes it a little fraught . However a woman might need me at any time so having pre arranged my husband to get home from 5pm on these ‘on call’ days it’s often a case of handing over the oven gloves to my husband as I grab my bag and run out of the door (not forgetting giving the girls a quick kiss and explaining that Mummy needs to go and catch a baby!)
If I’m out all night (my husband gets use to his wife not being in bed next to him) then he will take the children to school in the morning. I’m often home by 8am as my brilliant colleagues on the next day shift will come and take over and I can’t tell you how WONDERFUL it is seeing them arrive when you’ve been up all night. I get home elated if I’ve been privileged to see the birth through but always exhausted. The girls are up and having their breakfast asking me all about the birth “Mummy was it a boy or girl? Mummy what did they call the baby?” are commonly asked questions by my 3 year old. I kiss their sweet cheeks good bye, grab a cup of tea and piece of toast and crawl into bed. I’ve got pretty good over the years of sleeping in the day. The key is an eye patch and always ALWAYS remember to turn your pager and phone off!
With my job often feeling like a 24 hour roller coaster, our weekends together as a family are so precious. I work 2 out of 4 weekends per calendar month so our free weekends are well not ever usually that free at all. We’ve often got social events, children’s birthday parties, DIY (read trips to B&Q my husband’s FAVOURITE shop), swimming lessons, a supermarket shop; really things that feel like normal family life. Because let’s face it my day to day job is anything but normal. I treasure these times, watching my girls play their weird imaginary Frozen games, my husband always finding any opportunity to clean his beloved bike and me just being a normal Mum doing normal things.
It’s hard not to check my work emails on my days off, especially when you know one of your women is due and could be in labour at any time. Being a case loading midwife isn’t just a job, it’s a total way of life. The women and your colleagues consume your mind day and night but if it wasn’t for the passion I have for my job, then I wouldn’t be able to drag my sleepy head out of bed at 3am to go and catch a baby.
P.S….. Making time for my husband and I is often the bottom of the list in our busy lives. Whether is watching our favourite box set, planning our next DIY project or cooking up new recipes we always try and make time for each other what ever the week has been like. As I said earlier, you have to both have a mutual understanding and respect for each other. We may go about things differently and tackle challenges with the trickier side of parenting in our own way but we make it work. Somehow.
Photo credit: Philippa James Photography