“I’m not crafty, I’m not very patient, I have a dreadful concentration span”

A brilliantly honest account of what it’s like going from part-time with your kids to very full-time from Sarah Birchall, founder of kidswear brand Cub & Pudding. She’s finding it tough, but it’s also given her a chance to re-think a few things…

It comes as no grand surprise to many of us that we’ll be spending a lot of time with our children over the next who-knows-how-many months. For stay-at-home parents it may be a more Prisoner Cell Block H version of their daily routine and for parents usually out at work, scenes of trying to take a Zoom call in the bathroom whilst CBBC plays on loop downstairs may soon become the norm.

It dawned on me personally, as a mum who chose to go back to work five days a week when both my two kids were 11 months old, that this is a huge first for me a parent. Note the word ‘chose’ lurking in that sentence.

I say ‘chose’ but in reality I felt I had no choice but to return to my old job – we needed my salary, part-time wasn’t an option in my role and it just seemed the only option.

There were tears on my first day back as I walked across London Bridge in the depths of miserable January. It felt like the end of the most freeing year of my entire working life had been pulled from under me and I was being thrown headfirst into the deepend before I could swim.

But. I grew to like it. An hour of silence on the train to read. A lunch hour to wander, finish my sandwich without half of it away to greedy paws.

The flipside was only seeing my kids in the week between the hours of 6pm until bedtime – which any parent will know is pretty much when their personality goes rapidly downhill to that of overtired, small rabid animal.

When I quit my job in December to work full-time on my kidswear business, Cub & Pudding, my eldest was already in school and we decided to leave our youngest in nursery five days a week, because she loves it and we have generous financial help from our parents, as neither set live closer than a 200-mile radius.

So now, for the first time since my kids had even taken their first steps, I’m in their clutches 24/7.

I’m questioning my parenting abilities more than ever, being in the minority of mums who are better with babies than older kids who talk back and ask me questions I never know how to answer. I’m not crafty, I’m not very patient, I have a dreadful concentration span.

But some wondrous things have happened…

My daughter, who screamed for ‘Daddy’ at bedtime for the last six months, and knows how to push all my buttons (because she’s a mini version of me) has now become my best little buddy. I’m gifted cuddles, kisses and I love you’s at random points in the day and my most favourite thing of all – she curls up with me, rests her head and goes to sleep when she fancies a nap. I genuinely feel she’s seeing a better version of me despite all the craziness.

Meanwhile my eldest, the sensitive one, is revelling in the simple enjoyment of us all eating together every day – something he’s always loved but is usually only confined to the weekends. He’s happier. I’m happier.

Today I made the decision to give notice on our youngest’s nursery. She goes to school in September and we can’t afford to keep paying fees whilst it remains closed, sadly.

There’s a chance we may sniff normality again in the next couple of months and nurseries may see their doors opening again. That would leave me without a plan until she starts reception.

Part of this feels me with unease as to how I’ll run a business full-time with a four-year-old but the other part is thrilled. Would I rather look back on precious solo time with my youngest before she’s swallowed into the school holiday cycle or choose my old normality, riddled with guilt, which I always thought was the simplest choice for all?