“There have been times I’ve struggled, constantly battling with the pressures of life as a stay at home mum of three”

BY KATY ROBSON-MALONE

So that’s me back at work after 10 months off with my family. I can’t help but be all reflective when I come to the end of something or am about to start something new. The last 10 months have been a rollercoaster. There have been times when I’ve felt really low and struggled, constantly battling with the pressures of life as a stay at home mum of three. Equally, there have been plenty of spectacular highs with lots of good times and wonderful memories made. I feel a bit like I’ve just got into the swing of things and it’s time for it all to end. I didn’t feel ready.

The night before work I was emotional (code for sobbing) about leaving my babies. In fact I pretty much cried every day for the last week of my mat leave, although some of that emotion might be attributed to the horrendous sickness bug which took all the kids and L by storm. For four days, every day there was a new casualty. The washing machine didn’t stop spinning with bedding, blankets and other sick-contaminated items. Not the ideal way to spend the last week, but what it did force me to do was to STOP. Stop and just enjoy giving cuddles to these needy little humans and it was lovely (even in the night).

So off I went back to work armed with an average of no more than four hours of broken sleep, a slobbered on uniform from one of the kids and a very strong coffee. Getting on the train again to commute to London and being able to just sit there and relax for 41 minutes (alone) was like taking a mini holiday. I could get used to this. There was a little wobble before I got to work, bearing in mind I’m not only returning to work after 10 months off but I’m also starting a whole new job, in a whole new location, with all new people too. Jeepers, it was daunting. And then I got there. And it was fine. Silly really that I was dreading it so much. I actually enjoyed myself. I enjoyed new conversations with new people, I enjoyed learning about my new role and what it involves and getting excited about how I can contribute.

The only extrication I’ve carried out was for Skye from Paw Patrol, who was “trapped” in the arm of mid-kid’s coat. And the only person I’ve rescued is the escapee tiny human as she made her break for the “exciting stairs” and the stair gate was open, which certainly got my heart pumping.

Although I’m no longer getting the adrenalin from responding to 999 calls, I’m still buzzing. Right now the adrenalin I’m getting is from inspiring and educating adults, and young people, about the firefighter role. This is something I’m so passionate about.

This is the work of the outreach team I’m seconded to and it was the work of outreach, encouraging people from underrepresented groups, that inspired me, 11 years ago, to become a firefighter. Once I had come along to an open day, met real life firefighters and tried on the fire gear, I was won over. I knew then it was the job for me and from that moment I was determined, and motivated, to join the fire service. So YES this is something very close to my heart and I believe I will make a difference.

Caffeine is helping significantly as I’m currently adjusting to my new normal, which is juggling my career with my family, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard. When I’ve spent the night on the nursery floor trying to pacify a teething baby, doing all I can to keep her quiet to not wake the rest of the house, managing on four hours (at best) of broken sleep which always happens before a work day, then I do find it tough. But here I am. I put my uniform on and I show up because I love what I do and it gives me the energy to get through the day. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to return to work to a job you don’t want to do and with people you don’t want to be with.

Plus the adjustment is for the whole family. It’s hard for all of us and L is getting used to having to deal with three under fives for the witching hours on three consecutive days. By the time Thursday comes, she is well and truly ready to hand over the baton and tap out (or sell the babies on eBay) and I don’t blame her. It’s not easy, but together we make it work (so far) and with lots of forward planning, lists, an ironing person and home grocery delivery, we are just about getting there. One week at a time, but if I’ve made it to the end of my working week without anything dramatic happening with the kids, and L and I are still speaking to each other, then we are definitely WINNING!

It does help immensely knowing your children are being well looked after at nursery and school. You need that reassurance so you can park your parent worries to one side while you submerge yourself in your work otherwise you’d never get anything productive done. Then after a long day, I’m ready for home. I’m ready to see L and tell her she was right (as always), that work is good, that it was okay and I was worrying about nothing. I’m excited to see my babies asleep with G snoring and the mid-kid all sweaty in bed and the tiny human… well, I’m looking forward to seeing her in the night when she wants her milk and I can sniff her candy floss hair and hold her tiny hand. I’m so hoping this euphoric feeling of achievement juggling a young family, a wife and a career continues, as right now I’m on cloud nine and it’s not just caffeine induced.

To find out more about becoming a firefighter, email outreach@london-fire.gov.uk.

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