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20 Hours and a Baby

The great experiment of finding my new work/life balance has actually gone well. Despite the job not being for me, the hours are working.

Why four shorter days works for me:

*I adore my midweek mama/baba day.
*Having a midweek break from work lets my body reset a little, I feel more refreshed on a Thursday morning.
*Doing school hours means I can be there for my baby in the morning and afternoon without rushing him off and adding stress to our lives. I don’t miss as much of his life.
*School hour days are more manageable for my pain and fatigue levels. Unfortunately the baby doesn’t tend to nap in the afternoon any longer so I can’t rest, but it was awesome when I could!
*We don’t spend as long in traffic.
*I’m actually really efficient so I manage to cram a lot into my workday, I’d posit that I achieve more than a person there two hours longer (full time).

I feel really strongly about part time work and fulfilling careers for part time workers. Not just to retain the talent of mothers, the talent of those not physically suited to full time work (particularly computer work, who is?!), but also to allow for greater productivity, greater health and greater passion.

Success!

I’d suggest that I was about right with my guess for balance: working half time hours over four days. I appreciate that I am super lucky to be able to do that in terms of affordability (though this is not without sacrifice, half of my net income goes to childcare) but also in my health. I’ve done some hard yards to build up to this point, but I also think I’ve been blessed with better health this year. And, as always, a big reason I manage, is my husband. He sometimes struggles with being the main breadwinner, but he supports me in this decision, which I appreciate to no end.

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First Month

My first month in the new job is complete.

I’m exhausted.

Happy Mother’s Day to me, I’m alone with the baby/toddler in the lounge while husband sleeps after nightshift.

His nightshift is every second week at the moment. So every second week I am woken by my husband when he comes home (somewhere between 4-6am) and after finally getting my boy to sleep 7ish to 6ish, he has reverted to waking between 4-530 for a top up, then sleeping til 650.

On the weeks my husband does nightshift I have to keep our very active little guy quiet before we rush off to work/care. And he works Friday and Saturday nights so there is no respite on the weekend. On the days that I don’t work, my boy and I have to go and do something out of the house to keep us busy, which can be hard when I’m so exhausted that I can’t even talk coherently.

The weekend is a continuum of the weekdays. Even when I worked 3/4 time with no baby I had to completely rest on the weekend and sleep a whole heap more!

I wouldn’t say I’ve coped so much as survived for a lot of the days.

On a positive note, I’ve adored my Wednesdays with my little guy. 

Work has been mostly OK. I like using my brain in that way.

But I want to refuse the notion that I must now live with the physical symptoms that have been exacerbated or ones that have resurged. My neck, while mostly tolerable and hovering around 4-6/10 most days, has begun to keep me awake in the night when I get woken. It’s stiffer more than sore, making lying in bed uncomfortable. My shoulders are so tight I can’t lie on my side. My upper legs and glutes have become super tight again and ache, due to sitting for so long at the computer.

So long = 4.5 hours a day.

So I ought to be grateful I can work these hours. That it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

I have begun to cling to my magic number of eight hours sleep. Treating myself gently on the days I have less (far too often) as I am usually miserable. Being really grateful on the days I get it.

Before the three month trial is up I have to decide if we can make this work long term.

Meanwhile, my husband will have another shift change – to one with no discernable pattern, so he won’t be able to help with our little guy’s care at all. Once we put him in with his carer for every hour I work (plus travel and lunch break) the cost:benefit ratio plummets. My energy for the money I get (after taxes and childcare), it’s a heavy balance.

I am still trying to keep myself on the journey to wellness. We are purchasing a smoothie maker soon so that I can supercharge my afternoon tea and increase my fruit and vegetable intake. I have managed a 20 minute walk most days. I’m trying super hard to get as much sleep as I can.

It’s just slower at the moment.

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Panicker

I lost sight of the mission.

I do that. Often. I get buried by fatigue and pain and then spiral into a steadily descending panicky chaos.

Hi, I’m Melissa and I am a panicker. Before I even realise I’ve gone into survival mode, before I’ve realised the pain and/or fatigue have ramped up so much. I panic.

After two weeks of barely surviving – new job, bad cold, baby’s first birthday party, baby spurting more teeth (and still not on daylight saving time) and husband on night shift, I was feeling more than a little sorry for myself. The negativity spiralled with the fatigue.

I ended up crying on the shower floor. And then analysing things relentlessly.

Now I’m back.

I’ve remembered why I’m doing this. Why I’m trying to make this job work. What my goals are. What my mission is (to live, love and be well despite the fibromyalgia – this prong is to have a meaningful part-time career).

Some things you could do, once you realise you’re in the spiral:
-Ask for help
-Meditate
-Go to bed
-Keep track of what you’re mission is and a list of what makes you happy.
-Keep putting one step in front of the other.

I’m not sure this situation is going to work for me and my family, but I’m able to think more clearly now that I’ve identified my spiral.

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First Week

I have written about my fears of starting work and how that will impact my energy levels, pain levels and my job as a mama. After one week, I can’t say much.

I worked four hours on three days. The desk isn’t ergonomically set up, there’s not even a proper chair yet. So that didn’t help anything. I also caught a bad cold.

On day two I was fighting steel blinds that were my eyelids, they wanted to come down!

Luckily, on day three the fatigue had reduced from 8/10 to 6-7/10.

It’s been hard doing three shifts (baby 530/6am-9, work 930-130, baby 2-630/7).

So I was in bed at 830 most nights, the tradeoff of not staying up for a dream feed is that baby’s been waking between 530/6am and not going back to sleep. It’s been awful. Too many hours before work even starts!

I have managed to get him to sleep til 6am, but he gets disrupted when his father gets up for early shift at 540 (so do I and it’s super hard to get back to sleep at that time) or we get woken when his father comes home about the same time when he’s on nightshift. So we can’t win on that one!

The job itself seems like it will be good. I think it’s a good move, strategically, to set me up for school hours office management work. I feel like the take home pay, once I’ve given the childcare payment away isn’t a fair exchange of my precious energy. At least it is for a job that will feed a better next one and fits with baby’s childcare hours. I don’t want him with someone who’s not his mama for too much of the time.

So the outcome of week one is that I don’t know how it will work out in the long run due to the cold. But it wasn’t too bad! I just hope I don’t let myself get dragged too far down before I realise (if) it’s not going to work. Because I am very good at just getting on with it!