Family life is so different and it’s all my fault!
After the first few months of having our youngest it became clear that things would have to change. My husband and I had always worked full time doing long and unsocial hours; we always felt this is what we needed to do to support our family. Our children were incredible and understood that this was our way of life to ensure that we could do fun things that they would enjoy. They went from one person to another, some days going straight from bed to car seat!
My incredible step daughter was very independent and self sufficient, working hard herself. I hasten to add she is not a child; she is nearly 20 now and has grown up with us, knowing we have to work these hours in order to pay our bills and live. Our family set up is a bit different, I have three step children and when my daughter was born, my youngest step daughter was 16 and living with us. I was incredibly lucky to have their support and when we arrived home from hospital they taught me what to do with the baby! The bond my step daughter has with the little ones is precious and the same goes for the other older ones too.
So, I went back to working full time when my daughter was 3 months old. We all chipped in looking after the baby and got on with life, the teen helped around the house whilst studying and working herself and was amazing help with my daughter. I focused on so many things… work, trying out fitness classes, trying to loose weight and trying to be my best at home being a wife, mum and step mum. It was stressful, overwhelming and exhausting but we felt that was what we needed to do and at the time, it right for us.
The usual arguments had been over who came home first and didn’t wash up, why was the house a mess and how we all had to pitch in. The eldest in the house had to grow up quick and the youngest got shipped to different people for childcare. When I had my son my own health was affected and it was like I had had a personality transplant, I felt like I was going against everything I had ever believed in.
I feel lucky I have had this chance to change; I could no longer do heavy lifting or be on my feet all day everyday. I had to reduce my hours and also change what I did for work, putting financial pressure on the family. I felt under time pressure to quickly find a new job to make sure I did not put any more stress on the family. I was very fortunate to find something and I now work 22.5 hours a week, in a great job and I get to put my children to bed every night.
I feel blessed to have this opportunity but also guilty. Working part time was never in the plan, the plan was to work hard, buy a house and save so that we could continue to provide for and support our children. I wanted to be able to give money to the older ones to help with things like cars and holidays as I was fortunate to have this support from my parents who had also worked so hard. I was brought up with my dad working days and my mum working nights, so they needed less childcare. They worked hard and still do and I look up to how they have supported and provided for me over the years.
Since the birth of my son and my change of job I have come to appreciate life more. A takeaway isn’t just an option after a long day, it’s a treat, a holiday is a luxury not a necessity each year, time off can be enjoyed at home. Being at my daughter’s sports day wasn’t a battle to get the time off, I was able to just go and really enjoy and join in with her, not just see pictures. We enjoy going out for walks, feeding squirrels and collecting pine cones. We enjoy playing in the garden when it’s sunny or dancing around the sitting room when the weather is miserable.
I have felt guilty that my husband still works long unsocial hours and I get the quality time with the children. I have felt guilty that I have changed family life; not only have I changed things financially but day to day life has changed too. I find it difficult to lift my daughter, having her sit on my lap can hurt, silly things like the hoovering hurt and my poor husband does most of the lifting at home now . My family . . . well they have been amazing, they have supported me, encouraged me and never said a word about losing any of the things we have. My husband has only ever cared about my health and what is right for the children, all the guilt comes from me.
I still feel guilty; we won’t go abroad, we won’t be buying a house anytime soon, we can’t go out for nice meals. I can’t help towards a holiday or car for the older ones and when the car brakes down I panic. I feel guilty that the younger ones may miss out as we haven’t been able to do ‘this’ or ‘that’. It feels worse with the older ones as we can’t afford to do certain activities now and we never used to have the time, I worry that they have missed out too.
So how do we clear this guilt? We feel guilty if we work, guilty if we don’t . . . I don want to waste another moment feeling this way, although it is much easier said than done. Enjoy every moment, move on to new horizons and think about what you can give. I have time, I have seen my son try to walk, my daughter becoming independent. I have seen my step daughter move out and grow in to an incredible young woman and I have been able to be there to emotionally support her.
In the space of 8 months I have changed jobs, work less, have less money, my step daughter has moved out, we have more washing and and an extra mouth to feed. However we are happy, money really doesn’t buy you happiness, but forgiveness does. I am learning to forgive myself for changing family life and putting more pressure financially on us.
I am looking forward to the future, where I get to be involved in my children’s school days and I realise how lucky I am. Not many mums get this opportunity and I certainly didn’t think I would. Change is hard, but it can be for the best, new outlooks change families; we are stronger than ever and I feel so lucky.
Somehow, I now seem to have less time on my hands but it is filled with wonderful things; dropping my daughter to playgroup and helping out there, activities with my son, supporting a local charity campaign, cooking, cleaning, lovely everyday things. I am happy, we are happy and slowly the guilt is subsiding and I am forgiving.
A Guest Blog from Bethan Allen
Bethan is a part time working mummy who lives in Gloucester with her two little ones; three year old Isobelle and 8 month old Ethan. She also has three older step children 16, 19 & 23 and 2 giant cats! Life is hectic but enjoyable. She enjoys walks with the family to the park and movie evenings with hubby on the sofa. She is also on the playgroup committee and supporting local awareness campaign #beattheblues. You can follow Bethan on Instagram.