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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

On Retiring & Life as a Working Mother: Judy's Story

My Mum is my hero. She is an amazing, strong woman who I still look up to and appreciate (even more now that I have kids!). And even though my brother and I are all grown up, that in a way her job is done, she still does whatever she can for us, including helping me with the kids a few times a week so I can work. She loves us and supports us, and for those that know her, you know that Judy is one tough cookie. She has come through so much and continues to be a source of strength and inspiration for myself and others who know her. We've always had a good relationship, and of course there were bumps and times when things were tense or challenging, but our relationship has remained a close one overall. My Mum was (and is) always there for me, no matter how challenging I might have been, or how tough the situation, she always made sure I knew I could go to her. For anything. And I did. And I still do.

This past Summer my Mum retired at the age of 65. She had worked full time most of her life, including during the years she raised Steven and I. She's the lady who made sure I made it to swim practice 6 times a week and that my brother got to lacrosse; that we got to school on time, sat down for meals, and had our sh*t together as we got older. I'm just going to say it: my Mum is pretty much just downright amazing. And like so many others like her, she did what she did for her family, even when that meant sacrifices and juggling work/ kids/ a house/ a husband and everything else. Even though I've always loved and appreciated her, becoming a parent myself has given me a whole new respect for her and everything she has done over the years.  
I have come to appreciate her in new ways as I've grown up and started my own family, and as much as I think I understand all that she's done for us, I never feel like I express my love or gratitude enough. Motherhood is full of so many things and I was curious about her journey from her perspective, to know what challenges she faced and how she overcame them, how she juggled everything. To my Mum, thank you for everything. For all that you have done and continue to do. I am blessed.

Now let me introduce to you to my Mum, Judy, and her story: 

My daughter asked me some time ago if I would write about my life for the last twenty eight and a half years as a working mother. Looking back to when I became a mother, and how much my life changed overnight, I cannot believe that I have not only survived those years, but have somehow managed to retain my health and sanity!
After working full time since the age of eighteen, for forty seven years, I have just celebrated my 65th birthday and finally packed it in! I am worn out and tired, and am looking forward to a long and healthy retirement.   God willing, I plan to be around to celebrate my 100th birthday!
I returned to the workforce when my daughter was four month's old. I can still remember it to this day, as it was the worst day I have ever lived through in my life.   I cried and cried for many weeks, as back in 1987 working women were only allowed to take seventeen week's maternity leave.   A year and a half after returning to work, I took a six month leave-of-absence, as the stress of what I was going through along with feelings of guilt, anxiety, depression, etc., had taken it's tole on me.   When I was able to return to work, I gave two week's notice and quit.
Unless you have actually experienced leaving your child in daycare all day, combined with the multitude of emotions a mother experiences, it is impossible for anyone to even begin to imagine what you're going through. There are no words to describe the overwhelming emotional pain a mother can experience when leaving her child with a complete stranger and then having to go to work for the day.   Some mother's are okay with it, they eventually adjust, but many like myself, are not, which is why I eventually found a way to earn an income working from home.
I was fortunate to have a husband, who was not only a tremendous support, but also did everything possible to help with everyday life and make sure that we shared the responsibility of parenting equally during those early years of motherhood.  It would be three years of sleepless nights before we were finally able to start getting a good night's sleep.   How we survived those three years, I do not know, as we both had to get up and work everyday with little or no sleep!
At the age of forty, my husband found himself unemployed with very little income, and I found myself financially supporting my family for a short period of time.   It was during this time that I got my license to operate a family daycare from my home to help us through this tough financial time.
The year I turned 45, I gave birth to my son, and within six weeks had resumed operating my daycare business, since paid maternity leave for self-employed women at that time was not  an option.   Life then became even more hectic, with a six week old baby, an eight and a half year year old daughter, and five daycare children to take care of.                
There were many years of juggling work with family life,  such as school drop-off and pick-up, sports activities both during the week and at weekends, daycare children coming and going, running a house, etc.   I eventually found myself doing the majority of the work myself due to my husband's work schedule, however, he did what he could to help me.   As for any time to myself, that was a joke; by the  time I had worked a twelve hour day, run here, there and everywhere, cooked, cleaned, done laundry, cut the grass, worked in the garden, and did maintenance around the house, and so on, I would crawl into bed at night, if I was lucky, by 11 p.m., only to get up at 6 a.m. the next morning and do it all again!   Holidays  were few, as by the time all the bills were paid, there was very little money left.   It's alright saying that you need to save every month, but as I'm sure many of you can relate, that's not always possible.
Surviving these years have not been without challenges, however, when my 65th birthday was approaching earlier this year, I decided that I'd had enough with this hectic routine and was going to retire.   Having spent the last twenty eight and a half years navigating through life with two children and coping with the many challenges of a working mother, I've finally arrived at a time in my life to do what ever I want and start having time for me!
Thank you to my amazing Mum for sharing this here. I love you Mum, so, SO much more than words. xx KP