Feeling guilty like a mother


Spider Boy and I in the days of having time to hold in our hands.

Life is different now. I’ve been working full-time since we moved to Canberra in January, something I haven’t done since before Spider Boy was born 8 years ago.

Since becoming a mum, when I did do some work, it was “freelancing”: a bit of proofreading and editing for a couple of clients, and lots of blog reading “research” into business ideas at home, that I could do between 10am and 3pm. I wrote my little blog, attended writing and blogging courses and webinars.

I did a lot of volunteer work at Spider Boy’s primary school, which I loved. I was always available for school assemblies, reading groups, classroom assisting, open days, P&C fundraisers, carnivals and excursions. Señorita Margarita told me “you’re one of those nerd mothers.”

I felt sorry for the kids that had to go to after-care everyday, especially after a tiring excursion. Other mums used to call me to pass messages to their kids in the playground, like “Don’t forget you’re going to after-care today” or they’d text “is today the swimming carnival and what do they need to bring?”

I was at soccer in the park, after-school playdates, ji do kwan and swimming lessons.I babysat toddlers, picked up other people’s kids and dropped them to school. I was regularly found chatting at the school gate at 9.30am, helping family with errands,  spying on the neighbours, grocery shopping, and baking.

I was doing lots of boring and challenging paperwork and emails while going through my divorce proceedings, half-heartedly attending appointments at Max Employment, and doing very important plotting and planning for business and blog ideas in coffee shops around the Eastern suburbs of Sydney.

I attempted Michelle Bridges 12WBT four times, which took up a lot of time. All those video lectures haranguings, all that calorie counting. I also attempted the 5:2 diet twice, and because I felt dizzy 2 out of 7 days a week, my productivity was down by 2/7 per cent (or whatever, maths is not my thing)

I did Instagram challenges (#hashtag).

I am so, so grateful for those three years of time I could hold in my hand while Spider Boy was in Infants’ school. I am so grateful to my mum for having us to stay all those years, and the gift of time it gave me.

And now, I do none of it, as time slips through my fingers faster than I can catch it.  I work full-time and my son goes to after-school care every day, and I don’t know anyone in the playground because I’m never in the playground.

I’m like that Sheena Easton song, My baby takes the morning train… except I’m nobody’s baby and there’s no train in Canberra. I am grateful to my ex that he’s been letting me borrow his car during the week. For a variety of reasons, he is not able to pick up Spider Boy early.

But at least I’m actually earning good money know. I can pay my bills. I can buy things we need. Save a bit.

Spider Boy knows in theory he has to go to after-care because I have to go to work, but I don’t think he really understands. Or at least, he doesn’t understand why it has to be everyday. He puts up with it, but doesn’t really like it. He gets tired.

“I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be picked up straight after school” he pleads with me, can’t you just pick me up – once?”(I did pick him up at 3pm on the first day of school, his birthday, and also my dad has picked him up early a couple of times – bless him – when he’s visited)

My heart sinks.

“I’m happy to go to after-care two days a week” he tries to bargain. He tells me his new best school friend (thank goodness he has one) and he are the only ones who “…have to come to after-care every day!”

I can only imagine how it must feel. My mum was always there to pick me up when I was at school. She would be waiting outside the school gates in the car with treats. She would wait with a thermos of hot chocolate while I was at choir practice on winter afternoons. my mum organised her work around school hours. She chose jobs not because she loved them, but because they fitted the school hours. But then, I’m living in a single-income household.

I need to make up for lost time as far as earning money goes. I need to be earning. But right now I’m wondering if there’s a way I can work a little less, even 4 hours less per week.

There are interesting well-paid jobs out there, but you’re expected to work full-time hours in those jobs. There must be something out there I can do where I can earn enough to pay my living expenses, but still do school pickup at 3pm, a couple of days?

I could always go back to “freelance”, but am terrified my income will dip too low and the electricity will be cut off.

It seems really unfair that Spider Boy has to be there every day, especially now that it’s so dark and cold when I pick him up.

“It’s night time when you pick me up!” he reminds me.

My work life has really gone from one extreme to another.

If I could make a decent regular income from it right now, I’d be a self-employed interior designer/house-flipper/prop-hirer/home-stager/events-stylist. But I have no interior-design qualifications. Sadly, watching the Life channel is not going to turn me into Joanna Gaines (from the US Renovation show Fixer Upper – I highly recommend it).

I’d also love to be a blogger/novelist/part-time language teacher/greeting-card maker/online shop owner.

Sigh…If only I could get paid for watching the Life channel and plotting and planning.

I took a day off work during the school holidays – yay! We went ice-skating, to the library, Spider Boy-clothes shopping and had the best day ever!


  1. I loved reading this post, Alex. My mother was another one who was always there after school and usually had made something for the biscuit barrel. You are doing a great job with spider boy and with work, and you’re doing it with patience and grace.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s