I so often hear children in the background when I speak to yoga teachers and customers on the phone. So, hopefully, a few of you can relate to this!
In the first year following Tom's birth, I would watch other new Mums on their maternity leave, able to spend the entire day focused on their baby, with the odd trip to the swimming pool or the gym once their partner arrived home. Many had a weekly schedule of activities: baby massage, baby sensory, messy play, sing and sign, baby EVERYTHING, baby kung fu probably.
But Tom and I skipped all of that. Two weeks postpartum, I started taking Tom and the buggy on a walk through Leith, on the daily 90-minute round trip to the warehouse and back (quite often through snow and ice.)
I would speak to these other Mums (usually neater and cleaner than I), and I began to doubt myself. I was essentially split into two roles, unable to dedicate myself fully to either my baby or business. I was failing twice.
Was I depriving both of us in some way? For my part, I clearly remember a moment three months following my birth in which I realised that I 'felt different' and concluded that the 'different' was an absence of pain. Hormones had obviously normalised the postpartum discomfort for me, and warehouse workouts were possibly not the best route to recovery. On Tom's part, was I stunting his development in some way? Was he getting enough interaction?
My day was spent juggling; answering the phone with one foot on the bouncer*, quickly replying to emails while he napped, and doing as much as I could on my mobile phone while he fed. I would then stay up late, ordering stock or designing materials. The early days of a new business are so crucial, and I remember being so tired by it all.
*He is now 20 months old, an aspiring athlete and rock climber. I miss the bouncer.
After a week of real work, the self-doubt peaked. And thankfully, I had someone to put me right. To quote, in perfect half-asleep, 2 am Geordie, James said - "Abbie, for millennia women have worked alongside their children. They didn't go to f***ing playgroup." He then fell back to sleep instantly (always SO annoying) and had no recollection of the conversation in the morning.
He was so RIGHT! Whether they were crofters, farmers, cottagers, or just "wives", women have always worked alongside their children. Life is so convenient now - washing machines, dishwashers, fridges, clothing made in distant lands, supermarkets, cars etc. Day to day chores are not classed as 'work.' But in the past, children would have watched their Mother work, sat with Granny, and as soon as they were old enough - worked too! I remember being so BORED as a child sometimes, and it was great! I learnt to think a headache away with my mind, and I would talk to trees. I would sit and watch birds in the sky. Or spend an hour digging a patch of earth with a stick. The world was my entertainment.
I could now answer my own question - "Why am I doing this?" I enjoy it anyway, but I do it so I can be with Tom while he is this little; teach him the important things in his early years.
I want him to see his Mum and Dad enjoying work together and filling every day.
I want him to understand that "work is worship". That if we put good energy out, we get good energy back.
And best of all, in the past year, I have realised that there are SO many women doing the same. Compared to the rest of Europe, we have such a raw deal when it comes to maternity pay and childcare. Six weeks full pay followed by £140 a week - is that all raising a child is worth? With that deal on the table, we're being forced to choose between time with our baby or financial security. And this is what has driven us to look for an alternative. We're starting small businesses with heart, that are socially sustainable and NOT just about money. Because money is not our driver, the quality of our family life is. Success is not something to be counted and banked, but something we can feel in everything we do.
To anyone at the beginning of the Mum vs Work Juggle (a.k.a breastfeeding, crying and answering the phone simultaneously) - stick to your guns. The first year is hard for all new Mums, whether they're working or not.
And finally, Tom and I are both very privileged to work alongside one another -thank you for empowering us to do so.