In December last year I moved to a new job. I liked my old job well enough but it was poorly paid and there was no upward possibilities for progression despite a boss who appreciated me and acknowledged my work ethic and leadership. So I tried something else.
Sometimes you have to make decisions without knowing if it is the right decision. We always want more and often that drives us to leave something acceptable without the surety that the other option will be better. It turns out for me that the other option was very much worse. I think I realised it the day I properly started and faced a girl who was in the same role of me who had not progressed in terms of status or pay in two years, yet was taking influence in all manner of issues outside her responsibility, including the budget, for nothing. It went downhill from there.
It is easy to be in denial when you so badly want something to be a success, especially if you have something riding on it. Yet if I’d been honest I’d have known the environment was poor from the get go. There were few decent people there, and even those who I knew were alright had issues which made everyone else’s life harder. There was only one person there who ever actually was nice to me. Some people were nasty and others dour, some were incompetent yet in positions of authority. Others just tried to get on with things. I spent four months there and by the end of it I just couldn’t go in. I got scolded for where I stood, no guidance on performance and even berated for daring to take my lunch outwith the building. When I didn’t go in I job hunted.
I applied for the first things I saw and overlooked issues that I would normally have taken as a red flag; salary, commute, hours. In the end I interviewed for and got a position and I was so deliriously happy that I didn’t care that it was full time; I’d been doing four days a week in hell generally so five days in heaven was so obviously better. I finished my time in my old job not working. It makes you feel bad, like a layabout and a coward, but I’ve been in situations before where I push myself too far so no-one thinks I’m weak or incompetent and end up making everything worse. And it’s not just me now. Any time things impact on my home life I draw a line: nothing touches my children. No job is worth that. So the end came and went and I moved on, taking with me only one person, the rose among the shit so to speak (who has also now escaped I am glad to report).
I started my new job and found the fact that the problems I’d had previously were gone relieving. I had my own desk and people who I wasn’t scared to be near and an hours lunch break with no interference. The only problem was the hours. I knew when I signed up it was a full time job, but in my delirium I didn’t care. We filled the extra days of childcare needed with another day at Gran’s (yay) and a day with a childminder. The childminder situation didn’t last. Not because of the childminder but because of Roslyn who has always been a clingy little limpet and who wouldn’t settle. It’s hard when it is only one day a week but by the point where she was refusing to eat OR EVEN DRINK I had to find an alternative.
Luckily my new job allowed me a degree of flexitime and I was able to negotiate earlier starts and an afternoon off and my dear mother stepped up much like Gran did and took an extra morning. If there is one thing I am going to do based on my experience raising children it is make myself available to care for my grandchildren. That will be my gift to Sandy and Roslyn. Because having a children and a career is virtually impossible, despite the modern world we live in. Which brings me to my current conundrum…
My job is alright. I mean, I have no major gripes. But it’s a temporary contract and recently that has been emphasised; not only in terms of when I’m out the door but also in a condescending way. I’m a high maintenance employee in some ways, as Stuart noted yesterday I “don’t get on well with work” or something similar. It’s sad but true. I guess the education system failed to mould me into a committed and unquestioning worker, and my self broke through, because to enjoy a job I need to feel at LEAST one of three things: challenged, creative, appreciated. And at the moment I’m feeling little of either.
The start of a job is fine because there is challenge in a simple learning curve, but as I get good at things I need to be able to use my own brain otherwise it’s all robotic. I dreamed of data entry last night; I knew it was a turning point. Don’t get me wrong, I can do robot work to an extent. I can try and be quick or try and think of how to make it more efficient, but if someone doesn’t notice that I’ve worked hard there is very little motivation to come in the next day and do the same thing, or the day after that.
So I’ve been feeling these things and feeling the loss of my time with the kids and I know this isn’t for me. Even if anyone had shown any interest in keeping me on, or a similar role was advertised, I’d be reluctant. It’s too much fight. You fight to be helpful and fight not to upset anyone, you hide your opinions and work so damned hard and no-one bats an eye and so often I’ve found thanks are given like gold yet lessons as common as muck. I’m so fed up of only my flaws being noticed. I’m so fed up of being judged on the trivial. I’m relentlessly tired of trying to prove myself to people who are intellectually inferior yet have let the power go to their heads.
But don’t worry, I have a plan. I thought of what my aims in life are and they’ve changed a lot in the last few years. I used to want the career and took success as for granted. It would be mine, I was ruthless then. But I birthed my son and my brain changed (some good, some bad) and it was a like a wound that will never heal, and all these little things that you can usually brush off or ignore now worry the wound and so often little hurts are so raw and real that it feels the whole world is out to get you. I feel so unprotected since I had my children because any threat to me is a threat to them. Don’t get me wrong, I’d kill for them in an instant, but most often this manifests itself as passivity and hidden tears. Being a parent changes you. Being a mother alters your brain. I am sure of it. I know me, and it has happened.
What I want is my kids. And my home. And my creativity. I want to make things and do things and visit places. I want experiences and fun and development. And becoming a childminder will allow me that. I won’t have a career, or a fabulous pension. There will be no bonuses or titles or accolades to collect. But I think I will be happy, and my children will be happy. And if I can succeed and bring comfort and care to other children, and maybe even expose them to some new skills and experiences then at least I will have contributed. I won’t have much money but I’ve come to realise enough to pay the bills and a little to put away is PLENTY, and if I love it and I’m good at it, perhaps when Sandy and Roslyn are going through the trials and tribulations of having children and working I will be on hand to help, to accept my grandchildren with open arms, to allow them to know their babes are being loved whatever they decide to do. That would make me fulfilled.
And what does this have to do with a trip to the beach? Everything it turns out.
The last two years we’ve waited for the weather to come good and spontaneously packed up the car and headed to Troon. The pictures of my children in the sand grace my walls and my memories. I’ve come to love summer, and rituals and tradition. I line up pictures of the same event year on year and get misty eyed. I think of Sandy letting the sand drain between his fingers, blowing in wisps. And of Roslyn rolling and rolling until she is more sand than skin. I think of their shrieks of joy to see a crab, a plane, a tractor. And of the warm smell of sea and hot skin as we drive home, them asleep in the back, worn out and content, with me at the wheel conveying my precious cargo back to our safe place. They place they come from, the place one was born. These are the things I will cry over as a little old woman.
I realised this year going to the beach was a long shot. Scottish weather as it is generally you can count on one hand the number of days a year where the beach will be good. It has to be hot, and not wet, with no wind. We get these days but they are rare and I knew that the chances of these days falling on a weekend were minuscule. I accepted my fate but it did not sit easily with me. No more spontaneity for the full time working mother. No more going to anything we wanted irrespective of day or time, that joy comes only to that year’s maternity leave where you are too housebound by necessity or mental strain to enjoy it. My kids are now 2 and almost 4. We have a year left before School puts an end to our carefree fun, and here I’ve given up the days I had to do it.
I’d decided to register to become a childminder before our beach day. I was already working on the forms and gathering materials. But as the weekend came and I got that TGIF feeling the weather was nice for the first time all year. And it lasted. It was Sunday evening and the forecast and the sky told it and tomorrow was Monday and it was a bank holiday and everything aligned.
I don’t like to say I believe in karma because I don’t, not really. It’s very woo and unconvincing and would turn me to a hypocrite if I did. But I do believe that you reap what you sow. It would be ridiculous to suggest that our beach day was deserved for some reason; it wasn’t. But it gave me hope. Hope that I can coincide happiness and work. God knows if it’s possible, but I’m going to give it my best shot.