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January 12, 2018

Casey McPike swaps Marmite sandwiches for meetings and heads back to the workforce, where she finds a new and surprising work/life balance

This year I decided it was time to don high heels and un-stained clothes to sashay back into the workforce. Since having the girls I've been in part-time work, but it has all been from the comfort of my kitchen table, involving limited contact with other actual adults other than on the phone or via email. I should clarify: part-time paid work - because the full-time mum gig is obviously a major job in itself.

With interviews done and an offer made, I got to revel in the giggy excitement that comes with realising someone wants to pay for the stuff your brain does. This was followed swiftly by panic that my brain might not remember how to do the stuff it used to. I gave myself a quick pep talk about how I'd grown actual humans, dammit, and have been juggling things like some kind of mashup between a circus ninja and a UN Hostage Negotiator ever since, so I'd be just fine. 

Last time I'd been in an office environment I was gigantically pregnant, so obviously none of those clothes would do. In the years leading up to having babies I hadn't accumulated a lot of 'keeper' clothes as I'd been busily spending all our money on folic acid supplements and acupuncture in a bid to get pregnant. So there was nothing else for it: I had to go shopping. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman really, but what I'm trying to say is I went shopping for something other than jeans and it was fun. 

My girls were excited for me about going to work, mainly because I'd get to catch a bus every day, which seems to be akin to a trip to Disneyland for small children. One of them even pluckily shouted, "Go earn that money, Mummy!" as they waved me off, which I suspect may have been my husband's coaching. They've been really, ah, helpful with crafting accessories for my office outfits, because "that's a lot of black", is a common critique. "Wear this Mummy, and if you get invited to a party after work you can wear it there too!" #WorkToParty #SoFashion

Handing over the primary-caregiver reins has been  an experience. We've done a role swap and my husband was super excited about the idea of being the one to drop off and pick up our big girl, hang with our little girl, and keep the home fires burning. I was super excited to spend my morning and evening commute catching up on our current affairs and stalking celebrities on Instagram. I'd gently suggested life-hacks to my husband like getting up half an hour before the kids to shower in peace and generally steel the nerves for a day of being at the mercy of two little dictators. That fell on deaf ears, until midway through the first week when I asked how his day had been and he mumbled, "I haven't showered in three days and apparently I cut sandwiches wrong".

I came a bit unstuck after a week or so, suddenly missing everything about front-line parenting, even the morning hustle and the rages over wanting to wear fairy dresses to the park on cold days. I'm really lucky that I work with exceptionally awesome people who have made it possible for me to structure my days so that I'm home in time for the nightly bath and stories routine, and I still have the weekends to enjoy rages over wearing fairy dresses on cold days, so really I'm getting the best of both worlds. I never doubted my husband's ability to cope on the daddy daycare front...but now he's not just coping, he's slaying it. The kids are happy, none of us have scurvy, and he's even done things like organise the pantry and the drawer that was overflowing with plastic containers. 

Being back in an office environment definitely has its perks. I love the work I'm doing. I love the people I'm working with, and I think they like me too - especially that I've stopped saying things out of habit like "Are you sure you don't want to go to the toilet before we head into that meeting?" and "Oooh! Do you hear the fire engine?"

Sure, it's lonely going to the loo all by myself without anyone busting in to sit on my lap and ask for snacks, but I've managed to drink actual hot cups of tea and no-one has wiped their grubby hands on my trouser legs. Not. Even. Once.


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