Mother of one Camilla Fiorini was in for a rude shock when she swapped her career for motherhood - her new boss was as tough as they get.

Ten years ago an older work colleague told me that life becomes clearer and easier when you hit your 40s.

By then, so the theory goes, you don't care what anyone thinks of you, nor their reaction to what you say. I was rather excited by this piece of news because I had just emerged battered and bruised from the tortuous twenties. I had always thought that adolescence was meant to be the toughest period of your life – identity crises, difficult parents and unreasonable teachers. But I emerged from my teens unscathed.

No matter how hard doubt and confusion tried, they could not penetrate my shield of self-righteousness. But they were waiting for me along with anxiety and disappointment a few years later.

Well, for ten years I have eagerly awaited the pay-off that comes with hitting middle age. But, what my wise colleague neglected to tell me was that you have it all stitched up at 40 in the know-it-all department if you had your children 20 years earlier.

Since the arrival of my first child last October, I have stumbled around like a blind person not able to find the doors or walls. After 15 years of marketing and business experience, I find myself looking up from the bottom rung of the food chain because I have no clue about this child-rearing caper. And what's more. My new boss has even less, is considerably younger, and a good deal shorter than me.

My cv illustrates most grandly all my considerable accomplishments. Like a game of chess, there was thought and planning put into each new career move. As far as I was concerned I was going one way and that was up. Check that move mate!

But motherhood is like starting a whole new career. It's like going from being a lawyer to an architect or a bouncer to a priest only far more difficult. There is no place to go and study, or an employer willing to train you. And the terrifying thing is that you now have a life totally dependent on your ability to wing it.

All your skills in project management and conflict resolution mean diddlysquat.

The only person prepared to stick to a schedule is you. Your boss has her own and tends to throw up on yours. And solving problems is near impossible when your boss won't tell you what her expectations are. Years of honing skills in planning, setting objectives and achieving them have as much value as the Aussie dollar.


Yes, there is considerable support for first time mothers - your hospital, local health centre, mothers' groups, friends and a billion books. But when you have your hands full with a boss who won't negotiate, who has the time? And besides, other people’s bosses and experiences are different to yours.

Regardless of how unreasonable this new dictator is, I am desperate for approval. Each smile momentarily erases all concerns of causing long-term damage because of my inexperience. Quivering bottom lips and tears cause a lump as big as a planet to lodge itself in my throat. And if it is caused by someone else, I regress into a primitive being, expert in resolving grievances by death. Hey, my boss may be a bitch but she is my bitch.

But the worst thing is, the very worst thing, is going back to what you know and handing a fat chunk of your new responsibilities to someone else. How can anyone put as much commitment or love into the job as you. You are convinced your boss can't do with out you and that your actions will have an irretrievable impact on her life.

I am about to go back to work full-time. My new employer has kindly agreed to me working one day a week at home to assuage some of the guilt consuming me. I have spent the last month organising for someone to take over my position at home, and two agonising months prior deciding whether I want to 'resign'.

Not one to cry easily, other than when watching sad movies, I have shed bucket-loads of tears over 'deserting' my pint-sized boss. What's worse, I am not doing it for financial reasons. I am doing it for me! I need to work. This is no surprise. I already knew this. I knew it before my daughter was born. Both my husband and I agreed that I would go back to work and that we would engage the services of a carer. I just did not expect to feel as though my heart is being ripped out. I did not expect to fall so completely in love with my child.

Everything I had read and heard suggested this would be the case. But, until you are looking into the eyes of trust and innocence, you just don’t get it.

So, now I am into succession planning. But, what option do you choose - day care, family care or a nanny? Each has its negatives and positives, and in the context of extreme paranoia, it is impossible to evaluate objectively.

In the case of day care, where there are two carers per ten children, what if she is left sobbing uncontrollably on her own for more than ten minutes, or left at the mercy of a psychotic two year old? The upside is she will learn good socialisation skills, and be in a regulated environment. In the case of family care, she will get more attention, but will it be exclusively from the carer, or from ‘Uncle Harry’ when he comes to visit? A nanny will provide one-on-one care and attention, and finding the right one is a blessing. But who knows what is going on in the home unless you install a surveillance system.

And then...there is...Wwhat if my child likes the nanny more than me? What if she (there is no way it would be a he, and how unfair is that?) steals her and sells her to some rich American family? What if, and this is the worst thing of all, it harms her psychologically. What if leaving devastates her? I swear I nearly killed the doctor at her first immunisation when her face crumpled with shock at the pain. I don't fancy killing myself.

Selecting my replacement has set off all sorts of neuroses. Paranoia and guilt have come to visit for a long time.

Now, most Mums who have gone through this have firmly reassured me that the minute I am out the door, all thoughts of me will vanish. “She will be OK, but you won’t be,” they say. God I hope so. So while I think that self-flagellation, guilt, fear and separation anxiety are the price I must pay for pursuing my own dreams, I hope that the satisfaction, experience, joy and love that comes from doing what is right for me sets my daughter free.

And to that so-called wise work colleague. Rather than feeding me a line about turning 40, the name of a good priest to confess to would have been far more useful.

motherInc. welcomes contributions from mums or dads about the funny side (or not!) of life as a parent. Email editor@motherinc.com.au
 
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