parent opinion

'That one extra task just broke me.' The reality of being a part-time working mum.

As any parent knows, the delicate balance of working and parenting while maintaining basic standards of health and welfare is a finely tuned beast.

In my house, when the wheels are turning smoothly and everyone is fed and delivered to where they are meant to be, I feel exalted. A wonder woman; achieving all the things and still feeling fresh enough to read a bedtime story or listen to a school speech at the end of a long day.

I'm not blowing my own trumpet here, but sometimes the things us parents can squeeze into our days is quite impressive. 

Watch: Laura Byrne talks about the pressure to be a 'good mum'. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

There's the work of getting our kids up and out the door, dressed and with full tummies of something vaguely nutritional. There is the carrying out of our paid employment (if we have it) and the general management of the household, which includes all the washing, the folding, the shopping, and the cooking. There are also bills to pay and relationships to maintain and don't forget the prolonged agony of the nightly bath time/bedtime charade.

Some weeks we have to add in what I consider the 'normal' extras; kids' birthdays to buy for, sheets to wash, school admin to complete. 

Then let's just chuck in the uncertainty of pandemic life on top and honestly, even the good days as a busy parent in 2021 can feel like A LOT.

But on top of all the usual things, the 'normal' extra things and the pandemic things, there are those weeks when an additional random task falls in your lap and you realise just how delicate the thread is that holds your whole life together.

Laura and family. Image: Michael Gorton Photos.

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It happened to me this week when a minor additional task - our car breaking down outside a coffee shop on a wet Monday morning - broke me. 

I should preface that my overwhelm started a week ago when my eldest son’s school had to close because of a COVID case.

The stress of waiting 24 hours to see whether my son was a close contact (he wasn’t), followed a few days later by both kids getting mild colds and needing COVID tests, was a swift reminder of the uncertainty of our lives in 2021. Both kids were COVID negative, but the management of their testing, isolation and the disruption to the day fell to me as the part-time, non-essential worker in our household. 

This on top of a normal working week would have been quite enough thanks, but add in the dreaded annual tax return, a cancelled bank card thanks to some fraudulent transactions, and finally the broken-down car on a rainy day, and I was well and truly over it. 

Listen: Holly and Andrew discuss their golden rules of parenting on This Glorious Mess, Big Kids. Post continues below.

This chain of events and my subsequent overwhelm is probably boringly familiar as it gets to anyone with kids and busy lives, but I realised I had planned my 'day off' with such precision that the car breaking down as a late 'extra' was the final straw.

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I stood and waited for the mechanic to arrive and once the battery was replaced and the car was running, I grabbed some basic groceries and went home for a cry. 

Then I ran myself a bath and just left the washing in the machine.

I felt like I had to claw back some minutes for myself and if the washing had to go around again tomorrow, then so be it.

On a usual week, my 'day off' is the bonus day I get as the household part-time worker to get stuff done - I do not spend it at the day spa or in bed. It usually includes a grocery shop and some washing. It might be the only time I catch up on some admin with invoices or emails, so that when I get to work on Wednesday I don’t feel too behind. I also aim to fit in some exercise and occasionally an overdue coffee with a friend, all before school finishes at 3pm.

Image: Supplied.

The painful yet minor additional task of a broken-down car was hardly life altering, but in the context of an already busy week during a stressful time in world history, it felt overwhelming. Hence the tears.

I know I am privileged to have healthy kids and a part-time job that I love, yet sometimes in the toughest of weeks I wonder if wearing all the hats, all the time, is worth it.

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In fact, I hazard a guess that in a few years when pandemic life becomes ancient history and my kids get a little older and more independent, I will wonder how I didn't spend two years lying on my sofa under a blanket. 

The mental load is one thing that we often talk about crushing us, but sometimes it is the physical load that not only exists in our minds but on our over-scheduled schedule, that can crush us.

To anyone currently dealing with a broken car or tax return time and the overwhelm that comes from it on top of your normal day - I see you. 

Deal with what you have to in the moment then order in pizza for dinner or leave the washing in the machine for tomorrow. 

We can't always smash through our never ending list of tasks - normal, pandemic and extra - but we can be kind to ourselves on the days we feel broken.

Feature Image: Getty.

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