The loving links in my support chain
I'll apologise in advance for the loooong post, but there's a lot to say today.
About a week ago, as she returned to work after 18 months maternity leave, MulitpleMum wrote a fantastic post about being a working mother. It inspired to me think through what helps me manage the business of combining children and career.
Aside from being the reigning Mrs Organised Universe (read my previous post on getting three young children out of the house if you dare!) there is an even more important thing that relieves the strain of being a working mum. It's a mantra that working mums need to hear and believe at all times.
It takes a village, people.
If you're going to do the mum and career thing, you need a strong support chain either paid or friended. In a way, you need a support chain that can pick up the 'mumming' bit for you when you're at work or the 'worky' thing for you when you're being a mum. It's no good not asking for or finding the help you need. It's the support chain that gets you through thinking 'I'm lucky, grateful and managing' rather than 'I'm exhausted, worried and stressed'.
Our paid support chain is linked by nanny Annabelle, preschool, daycare, school and after school care (ASC). It's backed up with the loving 'friended' help from the children's paternal grandparents and uncle and our neighbours.
Annabelle does Monday and Tuesday pick ups from after school care and preschool / daycare. She works from about 4.15pm until 6.45pm and she's the reason I'm not tearing my hair out trying to collect children from three different places before 6pm. She brings them home and heats up the dinner I've left in the fridge. After dinner she starts baths which is generally about the time either myself or LOML gets home. So easy and worth every penny for the amount of stress she relieves on these two days. She's been with us for over a year and has seen The Badoo grow from a babe in arms to the cheeky little monkey she is today.
Preschool and daycare are obviously two other links in the support chain. I am fortunate that they are in the same lovely complex about 10 minutes drive from home. Cappers goes on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays to the preschool area and The Badoo is in the daycare on Mondays and Tuesdays only. It is such a nuturing, peaceful place (yes, it's actually peaceful at a daycare!) and they both absolutely love it.
Maxi-Taxi goes to ASC in a dedicated classroom and area at his school on Mondays and Tuesdays until 4.30pm as Annabelle isn't available to collect him at 3pm. He goes with his neighbour and friend, Sasha, and Annabelle picks up both of them and drops Sasha home on her way. Maxi-Taxi loves having an extra place at school to call his own and I enjoy knowing that the fantastic girls who run the centre are always there for him, anytime. They run a school holiday programme which Maxi-Taxi attends once a week in the holidays.
Most mornings before school, Maxi-Taxi goes to Sasha's place and Andrea, Sasha's mum, drops him at school for me. In exchange, I take Sasha to school and soccer training on Wednesdays, my home day. You can proably guess by now that Andrea and her family are like an extension of our own family. We're so lucky we live in the same street (there's a sweet story about how we met which I'll post one day soon).
Another very important link in my support chain is LOML's family. My beautiful, family-is-everything Italian in-laws look after the children on Thursdays and Fridays. They've done this since the children were babies. Nonno collects Maxi-Taxi and Cappers from school and daycare on Thursdays and Maxi-Taxi from school on Fridays. On Friday Cappers and The Badoo are with Nonna and Nonno all day. On Thursdays when Nonna is at work (she's the much loved cook in a daycare centre four days a week) it's just Nonno and The Badoo, gardening and cleaning together like two little peas. LOML's much younger brother, Guis, is Nonno's back up and he often steps in to do the pick ups.
The final link in my support chain is my work. I treat 'em mean, but I'm always grateful for the flexibility they offer me. Family really does come first. I don't work on Wednesdays and I work from home every other Friday (when I try to stack in all my conference call meetings so I can clean my house while I'm on mute!) I generally leave the office at a reasonable time and keep up from my Blackberry, which is a godsend. Plus I have two adorable "work husbands" (well, my gay work husband calls himself the mistress) who will step in occasionally to keep the work ship floating when the captain is offshore.
There you have it. Another complicated arrangement, I know, but it works for us as the beat of our week. And it's a rhythm that we are all happy to dance to.
Do you rely on a support chain? Have you ever found yourself with broken links that make your stress levels rise? What else do you do to manage?
[Sweet heart chain by Little Jane Street]