Why can’t we just all play nicely together?

I was out for a walk with my toddler daughter in her pushchair. It was a fairly warm and sunny day. We checked the roads were clear of cars to cross when we spotted a play park. I was so amazed I hadn’t realised it was there before, having lived in the area for almost a year, we wandered down the road adjacent to ours, drawn in by its bright colours. When we reached the park it had a low fence and hedges surrounding it. It was so much more accessible than the other park in the area, (which is in the middle of a very big and uneven field), not very easy terrain for a pushchair or a small toddler to walk. This was also far closer, only being round the corner from our house. I found the gate… It was locked. I checked I wasn’t going crazy and yes, locked, by a big black contraption. I was puzzled. Maybe it was the time of year, maybe it hadn’t been opened again for Spring? It seemed odd to me, why would they need to lock it with this fancy locking system? I wandered around to the next gate and it too was locked. Then I noticed the sign… ‘This park is privately funded by ‘whatever the name was’ estate.’ This was the middle of the day, during the half term and there was not one single child in sight. I had to turn around and walk away with my toddler, who was wondering why she had just been teased with the prospect of playing in the park. I felt like an awful mum.

These are my problems with these types of parks.

Play parks are to encourage children to go outside and play with other children, to socialise.

There were no children in this particular park. The sole purpose of a park is for it to be played in, for there to be laughter  resonating from it’s vicinity and instead, there we were looking over the fence at this empty park which looked more like an art installation.

One day I will have to explain to my daughter why she can’t play in the park that is just round the corner. “It’s because only the children who live in the bigger houses on that road are allowed to play in there.” “Why?”

This causes an ‘us and them’ effect and it took me back to my childhood, to an experience that really shook my confidence and self-esteem.

My friend stayed with relatives on a council estate close to where I grew up. I used to go down the alleyway to see her after school, to play and we would often go to the local park. I was aged 8 I think. One day, as usual, we were playing when other children started telling me I wasn’t welcome in the park or the area and I had to leave. When I told them I wouldn’t, because I was with my friend, they began throwing quite big rocks at me, (which bruised my legs), pushing me and one of the children put her hands round my throat and squeezed very hard. We didn’t understand why. Confused and very upset, I managed to get away and ran back up the alley home. My Mum was very angry and had a word with some adults from the estate and then told me I couldn’t play there anymore. The children on the estate had decided that because I was not local enough, I was different, to the point where they were attacking me. It made me notice a difference that I never before would have seen between us at such a young age. That they were from a council estate and I wasn’t. This is not what I feel should be encouraged. I don’t want my daughter to think that she is not good enough, or not an equal. This is what I feel these private parks do.

I can understand that the houses have put funding towards the park, and that they want it to be looked after. The lock could be put on after 5pm to make sure louts don’t go in there and vandalise it. The children in the area have access to a park opposite their homes which is amazing! They can play in there anytime they like and it’s all thanks to the generosity of those who funded it. I just can’t get behind the idea that it’s only there for those particular children and not the ones who live around the corner who would be as equally delighted to pay that park visits.

I don’t want my daughter to experience going out to play with friends in that road, only to be shunned when they go to the park. In this day and age we should be encouraging children to get outside to play, rather than staying in. Supporting them to socialise with children no matter where they live or what their background is. Teaching them to be kind and supportive of one another.

Becoming a self-employed mum.

I was quite excited about returning to work after 9 months on maternity leave. At the time I felt a bit guilty to feel that way. I’d really enjoyed the time I’d spent with my daughter, adjusting to parenthood, but I also felt I needed some ‘me’ time. Time to do something that wasn’t baby related and a chance to talk to people about things that weren’t parent related!
My daughter had been on the waiting list for nursery and we were looking forward to her getting the experience of developing new skills with new friends.
Our first hiccup was that the nursery didn’t have any spaces available by the time I was due to go back to work, and changing nursery wasn’t really an option, for other reasons. We made some plans and our daughter was going to stay with friends and family on the days I was working. Getting our little one to places and making it to work on time, for my 10 hour shifts, however, was proving a bit of a mission but my partner and I managed it. We were so grateful for the support we got at that time.
My daughter eventually started nursery and we felt that things would get a bit easier but of course, as everyone warned us, she started picking up all the bugs. My work didn’t offer carer’s leave, so it proved to be a bit challenging to sort out child care. Nevertheless we dealt with it, like every other parent does I’m sure!
Like many other parents, we don’t have the option of our daughter staying with family on a regular basis for months on end, so we relied on her being able to attend nursery so we could go to work.
By the time my first days off work arrived in the week, I felt exhausted. I’d been looking forward to the time with my daughter and when it arrived I felt completely incapable of doing anything, especially the house work! I kept thinking thank goodness she’s occupied at nursery because I didn’t have the energy to be much of a ‘fun’ mum.
Of course every job has its challenges but I felt that my job was quite mentally draining, due to the nature of the work I was doing. The workload as well meant that I didn’t have that ‘me’ time at all that I’d been looking forward to having after my maternity leave. I thought I’d wanted conversations about non-baby related things, but that is my life now! My colleagues didn’t have babies and I realised that actually, I quite like talking about toddlers and parenthood and that it’s not such a bad thing at all!

I began thinking about my situation. I’d always thought, before I’d had a baby, that I wanted a family but also a career. Having a baby changed all that. I no longer felt the same way towards my job and what I felt I needed from it. My focus had changed. Putting my daughter in nursery full time as well was also not something we could afford, and not something I really wanted to do. I know for a lot of parents there might not be the option either way and I totally respect parents for the choices they make, which are best for them. My partner’s work hours altered as well, which meant child care was a problem again, so after lots of chatting and deliberating, we decided that I’d leave my job. Yes we’d be financially worse off but we would make it work.
So now I’ve been doing some online business studies courses and I’ve put a lot of thought into work I can do from home. My daughter is still attending nursery, but for less time each week, which gives me some time to treat this as my new part-time job.
I think the important thing is finding a balance that works for you and your family. It’s ok if you don’t want to focus on a career at this moment in time, to spend time being a full-time mum or if you have had a change of heart on what you want to do after having children. If you’re a career focused mum and you get that much needed ‘you’ time from your job then that’s fantastic! Everybody’s situation is different and I am in awe of all parents, you do an amazing job!
When people have asked me why I left my job, I’ve told them that there were a number of reasons because there are! I do still want to work though and I can understand better now why other mums become entrepreneurs and start their own businesses from home or do other work from home, because it allows more flexibility. I realise now how difficult it is for parents to juggle their time, I really don’t think there is enough help to support working parents.I have this renewed sense of confidence and feeling of self-worth with it too, which is a bonus. I’m excited to do something that I enjoy for that ‘me’ time I was looking for, but also something that fits around my family and gives us flexibility around my partner’s work shifts.

Do whatever works for you. You are the parent of your child, not those other people, who may or may not have an opinion. For me I’m seeing this as an opportunity to try something I wouldn’t have even thought to do before. I feel a little apprehensive to make it work but we’ll see what happens. It’s a new year, so what better time to try something new?!
If you left your job to be self-employed, how has it worked for you? I’d love to hear your stories.