Of baby groups and social bravery

Eli thrilled to have more egg shakers than he could ever hold at our favourite baby group.

I used to be really worried about attending new baby/toddler groups. It seemed too intimidating to walk into a room of people I didn’t know and try to join in (why yes I do have a little social anxiety, how could you tell?). Subsequently, when Lex was a baby we didn’t go to any baby groups. I eventually started taking him to swimming lessons when he was about 5 months old but as I returned to work (3 days a week) when he was 6 months old that was about all I managed to do with him. I feel sad now for not going to groups where I would have met some lovely people – my local LLL group for example – but I was just too worried about not knowing anyone. Of course it’s really hard to meet new friends if you don’t go anywhere to meet them!

When I was pregnant with Tilly I started looking for things that we would be able to do once I was on maternity leave. My lovely SIL took her son to a group that she thought was great, run by (my now friend) L. and so we started doing that – it was fantastic and we still go. I took Eli to L’s baby group today (and the photo of Eli with the treasure basket, that I use everywhere, was taken there when he was about 4/5 months old). In the first year of Tilly’s life we went to a lot of groups – library, toddler group, LLL, swimming and L’s groups. Almost everyday had an activity and it was great fun. When I returned to work I couldn’t attend many but it was fun whilst it lasted.

I know not everybody enjoys baby or toddler groups but I knew that I wanted to find things for Eli and I to do together – I never went to baby groups with the big kids and I really wanted to this time. Toddler groups weren’t really appropriate this time anyway, Tilly didn’t enjoy them anymore – she’s an October baby so, at 4, found most groups too babyish with not many kids her own age. Thankfully my Mum was able to look after her at times – taking her to the zoo or having her to play at her house – to allow Eli and I to find our own groups.

Baby massage at the children’s centre, which I managed to gather up the courage to book by phoning (yup, phone anxiety too dammit) lead to what was a lovely baby group. That group ended today – we were chucked out over a month ago because Eli was crawling (didn’t stop other crawling babies from being allowed…) but due to staffing blah blah they have stopped the group for now. I thought it would be nice to go to the last one (we were there for the first!) and asked yesterday at the Tuesday not-quite-a-group-but-a-chance-to-meet-up (though we have started calling it the see you next Tuesday group…). You’d think it was the most unreasonable request in the world – I received a reply, which I pretty much tuned out as the tone was horrible, about keeping the group rules intact and what if there are new little babies? Firstly, this is the last group do we really need to stick to the rules (especially when you’re breaking them for others)? Secondly, my friends still attended the group (Eli is the eldest) and over the last month there have been no new people at all. I’m rapidly going off my children’s centre (or at least the manager) the atmosphere, once lovely and welcoming, is now more annoyed and bored of us (the clients!) sadly.

To end this long! saga of baby groups, I went to a new group instead, for one year olds at another local children’s centre. I was brave and it paid off. This looks like it will be a lovely group for the next year and whilst I’m looking forward to our friends reaching their first birthdays and joining us I think we’ll also have fun on our own before they get there.

I thought I’d have more time…

When I became a SAHM I thought I would be freeing up some time, especially as the change coincided nicely with Tilly starting school. I mean, when Tilly was at pre-school and I was on maternity leave I never seemed to have any time to do much cooking, cleaning etc. but surely that was because I was up and down all day with the school and nursery runs.

Tomorrow is my first week where both big kids will be in school full-time – only one drop-off and one pick-up, bliss! I would like to say that I will be ensuring that my house is sparkling (and not just because someone has tipped glitter all over the floor) and that the piles of clean clothes (I got that far last week!) will actually be put away but I can’t really. So far the week is shaping up to be a social whirr of lunch, groups, more lunch and then on Friday, a day off (which I’ll probably spend slumped in a heap)… Work would be a break at this point (although lunch there wasn’t half as good as the Turkish place I’m going tomorrow).

I enjoyed my job, it’s a pity it cost me more than I earned

I had my desk all personalised and everything (picking the stickers off the monitor took ages)…

When I left university I worked for a temp agency doing a bit of data entry and then, in the November (about a month after I had been offered the job) I started work full-time as a web developer within local government. I worked there, within the web team (eventually as the senior developer), for almost 11 years. On the last day of August, my last day of maternity leave, my notice period ended and my resignation was complete. I’m now a stay-at-home-parent for the forseeable future.

Choosing to resign was a difficult decision, on the plus side I:

  • liked my colleagues (except for the evil cow who tried to have me disciplined for doing my job because she was unhappy at her incompetence being highlighted in any way – yes I’m still a bit bitter, does it show?), Eli’s middle name is in remembrance of a fellow team member who passed away far too young;
  • loved the work.

However, when it came to the negatives:

  • I had to travel, by car, for at least 2 hours each day (a journey of 50 miles each way) – on a bad day, the journey could take 3 hours one way;
  • the above evil cow colleague – picking up her slack was quite irritating (I did try to support her for years but she had no intention of gaining skills and preferred getting others to do her work for her) and the grievance procedure she brought against me whilst I was very pregnant was particularly unpleasant (yes really, still a bit bitter I bet you didn’t notice);
  • local government is bureaucratic and slow – old servers, old software, no investment…
  • I didn’t actually earn anything by going to work – I effectively had to pay to go to work.

It’s the last point that swung the decision – before I had children I was in a decently paid job, after children it started costing me to go to work. I was not entitled to any help towards childcare costs and by the time I had two children my childcare costs were equivalent to my salary – and I still had to pay for petrol and car parking whilst at work!

For a while it seemed important that I maintain my career – after all when the kids were all at school childcare costs would reduce and I could start to earn again. After Eli though it just didn’t seem worth it any more, especially with the government freezing my pay for years… I really enjoyed my maternity leave and not having the stress of travel and working was lovely. So I quit. We may now be entitled to some tax credits – I may actually have more disposable income by not working!

The current situation is silly – why should it make more sense for me to stay home than to go to work? Why should I have to give up a good position with generally good pay and conditions just because childcare in the UK is so expensive?

Going to be unemployed (by people who pay me) soon

Tomorrow I go into the office I’ve worked in for the past decade (my 11 year anniversary would have been in November) and hand my manager a letter of resignation. I am both happy – I really didn’t want to have to leave my kids to go to work any more especially since that workplace is more than 50 miles and over an hour away – and quite sad – I will miss my colleagues (well most of them – one I definitely won’t miss) and the work.

It’s a new chapter for me, I went back to work when Lex was 6 months and then again when Tilly was almost 11 months but this time it just doesn’t feel right. Of course after childcare and travelling costs I wasn’t earning much money (if any) but I was still getting a pay check each month. Maybe I’ll be able to pick up some freelance work doing web design – blogs and Facebook pages are always needed after all and aren’t too time intensive to set up and administer.

So now I just sign my name to letters I never really thought I’d write and look forward to getting to spend lots of time with my kids as they grow up – I can’t wait.