He was 5 months old. I was lucky, they said, lots of women have to go back to work after 3 months. I got 5 months maternity courtesy of working for a multinational that used their country’s labour laws to set the standard for us where our own laws were lacking. It wasn’t without some drama. Hubs was very opposed to it thinking M was too young to be exposed to all those germs. He wanted a nanny with a nannycam but I had to reason him out of that idea. I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate at work if I had to keep watching a monitor. And I worked in customer service. I would’ve been crappy at my work and you know women get enough heat in the workplace as it is. Also, I didnt want the nanny doing chores while my baby cried or using the baby as the reason why the chores didn’t get done. The creche gave me some measure of security, also it was easy to get to and exit from (for a while) and they opened really early and stayed late so I could beat the traffic and get to my baby in time. It also helped that the proprietress was a medical doctor and one of the caregivers used to be an auxilliary nurse so the creche met all my basic requirements and then some. I’ll share all my learning points in my next post, Top Tips for Working Mums.
Now I promise you, if you work a 9-5 which for me was really a 7:30-4:00pm creche runs are tough! I had to get up really early (4:30am), bathe the baby, (pack his bag with spare clothes and formula the night before), put in the meal and extra bottles for the day in the morning then join the early morning traffic with my baby strapped in his carseat at the back and I would pray that he wouldn’t wake up screaming for food or that he wouldn’t need my attention before we got to his creche. The creche was a 10minute drive but thanks to Lagos traffic it took anywhere from 40 to 60 minutes and one time over 2 hours to get there. Now you don’t have to do this, I’m just telling you what I chose based on the options I had available to me and how I approached this motherhood thing. I wanted to be a hands-on mummy, I wanted to be there when he woke up in the morning and I wanted to put him down at night. I maintained a somewhat strict schedule initially so that I could still function as a mentally stable human in society. I had no social life, I cut off social media and all my dreams and ambitions went to die. Just wait till he’s 1 and doesn’t need you so much, this first year is so crucial, I said to myself. I ended up staying in the same job for 4 years just so nothing would interrupt my daily schedule or distract me from my young family. I really poured myself out in those years. Eventually the traffic and road construction got so bad that I had to stop the morning drop offs. So Hubs would take him to creche in the morning while I picked him up on my way back. By the time the constructions disrupted my pick-up route this became impossible to manage and we had to find another solution. All this amidst the change of househelps of course until we decided to stop hiring altogether..
And then there were 2
By the time I was expecting J, a colleague had moved into the estate where we lived so I could carpool with him. It meant I left home 30 minutes earlier but it was worth it since I wasn’t driving. Hubs would pick me up after work or I would hitch a ride with other colleagues going my way. By that time, M was big enough for his dad to handle so I didn’t have to worry about bathing and brushing and all those intimate things I didn’t want a househelp to have with him. It was just us 3 😊.
J was kind of a surprise because I had wanted his birthday to be around June/July Becuse the start of the school year so he wouldn’t be awkwardly aged for his class (if you know, you know 😉). Anyway, so it went and because of the timing, I was able to calculate a 6-month maternity leave wrapped around the Christmas holiday. But before then, I had the slight trauma of having to find a proper school for M because he would be turning 3. A proper school meant he couldn’t be there before 8 and past a certain time of the day which meant we would need to put him on the school bus to come home to someone we didn’t have. Then how was I going to handle separate creche runs for the new baby because the creche facilities at a fully functional school was no suitable for a 6 month old. Also, there was the fact that I would never have been able to make it back to him before they had to close and I didn’t want to be that mother that came to pick her baby last. In all this, quitting was not an option because we needed 2 incomes for our household.
I’ll tell you the truth, Jesus stepped in and rescued the situation. The owner of the creche was selling the creche and relocating, there were a couple of changes going on especially among the caregivers. I didn’t mind because M was in the toddler class and his caregiver had remained consistent for over 2 years. Ms P had taken care of him from when he was 6months old and so she was in charge of all the 1s and 2s in the toddler class. Ms. P was always smiling, always courteous and on occasion when we needed a night out we would invite her to babysit for a little token. And so it was (as we say in Christianese), the Lord laid it upon my heart 😄 and I asked Ms. P if she would come work for us. She agreed. After much negotiation of course. Turned out she wasn’t happy with her pay package and work conditions (long hours and more kids) and the new owner wasn’t paying her any mind. And just like that, my problem was eliminated. You may call it luck but I truly believe God came through for me in many ways.
Ms. P was competent. She was married by the time we employed her so she visited daily. Which was fine because I didn’t want a live-in (my thoughts on that later). We could still have her overnight if we needed so it was almost perfect. Almost. Because she had sick days and family emergencies, and Christmas/Easter breaks and we had to adjust our schedules accordingly. But everything soon settled right back when she returned. Suddenly I was able to do more knowing that my home was in capable hands. I took a professional course at the university, I moved on to another role within my organisation with more pay and more responsibilities and I started living again… Well, somewhat. But with the kids needing less hands on care and Hubs and Ms. P, my home ran like a well-oiled machine while I travelled for work or just worked. Until she left in December 2017.
We are still trying to find our rhythm. Even though she had her moments, Ms P is not easily replaced. But we’re gradually getting there. I say “we” because I do not delude myself that I do it all alone. There are many factors that help me
survive thrive as a Working mum and it starts with the support system I’ve built. It wasn’t easy getting Hubs on-board with my design for motherhood but when he eventually got it, he was all in. Then, it helps a lot that my organisation has been very mummy friendly. I still miss a good number of school days but for the most part I don’t miss the important stuff like pre-school graduation and doctor’s appointments. I’ll share my lessons learned along the way in another post but I’d like to hear your own working mum story too or whenever you had to decide on childcare for some reason. Let me know in the comments.