After three and a half years of far-from-blissful domestic duties, I have re-entered the workforce this week.
It's just a two-day-a-week job, just enough to keep my hand in. It's enough to make me realise how much a juggle being a working mother is, however, without being able to forget how relentless full-time homemaking can be.
Sunday night, before my big day back, I was wracked with indecision about returning to the office. Would it be fulfilling, and make me appreciate my children more, as many fellow working mothers have said, or would I simply feel guilty? Could I handle having to finish tasks, without the constant interruption of a toddler climbing on my knee or a 3 year old asking me to find his bouncy ball?
Then there's the cost of going back to work - the literal cost. Having investigated various daycares etc I have concluded that whole area is just too stressful for me, and so we've got our trusty, and excellent, babysitter at the moment. But after her pay, lunches, money for trips to zoos and museums or the swimming pool etc, the wage I bring in to the family home is substantially reduced, to the point of almost not being worth the effort!
But of course it is, because there's no price to be put on sanity. Engaging my mind fully on the task at hand; reasonably intelligent adult conversation; proper decisions to be made. Not asking myself whether my son should go to the toilet now to avoid certain disaster on the way to kindy - that's a (constant) question for the other five days. At work, I can ask: how did this company maximise its marketing spend this year? What are some interesting facts about text messaging? And, most importantly, where can I go for lunch today?
I can report that not everything was rapturous back at the office. There were the usual politics to contend with and technology that fails at crucial moments. And then there was the sheer misery of adjusting to sitting in front of a computer screen for eight hours.
At four o'clock my neck ached, my eyes were dry and my backside was numb. Driving home I hit peak hour traffic and wondered whether I would be able to get back on time to have any quality time with the kids. Would they miss me? Would they be wondering where I was?
Well, babysitter plus daddy plus children had missed me, but not for the reasons I would have preferred.
One couldn't work out how to use the convection oven. Another - Daddy - had an emergency evacuation of the night-time bath when my daughter fouled the water suddenly, and then later her nappy had leaked all over his good trousers. He was not happy. Both children had runny noses.
They started like automatons at the TV when I raced in, high heels clicking.
Smiling and hugging me, they were straining over my shoulder to continue watching "Special Agent Oso".
Daddy looked like he needed a stiff gin. The house, which the babysitter had helped tidy, was already a bombsite from post-dinner activities.
Ah, nothing new there then.
Perhaps this working lark, then, is only a momentous moment for me. Just as well, I guess!
- Dita De Boni
* Dita is now on Twitter, follow her Keeping Mum feed here.
Pictured above: Wellington's central business district. Photo / Mark Mitchell