Work or Beach

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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And what does this have to do with a trip to the beach? Everything it turns out.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hospitalization (Round Two) and the Future

Apologies for the radio silence, but as you may have gathered from the title we’ve been in the wars again. A week and a half ago Roslyn got a minor cold. Sandy got it too and it was literally just a runny nose for him, but it went straight to Roslyn’s chest, as I later learned is common following a rough bout of bronchiolitis (which she had at the end of November). The other reason I could tell she wasn’t right was that she slept all night with only one wake up. Stuart was delighted and remarked that she was probably coming down with something. Too right.

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So this happened. Again.

We got her up in the morning and as soon as I picked her out her cot I could feel the effort she was exerting to breathe. I took her downstairs and went to feed her and she refused, another warning sign, though not as scary as last time as she had fed well all day and the night prior. Then I undressed her and saw a chest recession the size of a golf ball and it was on the phone to 111 who sent an ambulance. Sandy was pretty jealous of mummy going in the neenaw. Roslyn got some oxygen in the ambulance and was coping okay until we got to a&e and a million nurses descended in an unfamiliar room and tried to put IVs and tubes all over her and (quite rightly) she freaked out. You could see the abject terror in her eyes and her breathing worsened. The pediatric doctor arrived just as she was starting to turn a tinge blue and ordered space and quiet for her immediately. We moved her to the recus room and she got a nebuliser mask with the kind of drugs you get in inhalers. It wasn’t long until she was breathing a lot easier thankfully. Apparently it was a scary time but I don’t feel that scared looking back. Perhaps it was the calmness of the pediatric doctor or maybe it was the same mode I went into when Sandy went missing briefly in the park that time, where you know getting scared isn’t going to benefit anyone and just focus on the task in hand. Either way, I’m glad it wasn’t too traumatic. Luckily I was prepared for the inevitable hospital stay that followed, but glad she bounced back much quicker (largely due to it being post viral induced wheeze and not the horrible RSV bug) and we were only in two nights this time.

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Sandy coped far better this time too, mostly because he was well this time and also because we maintained his routine, consistency and I was at home more, letting family and Stuart watch Roslyn while I spent time with Sandy (and, realistically, the housework). We went to macdonalds for a treat on the afternoon I was with him and then to the hospital where I fed Roslyn while he played with the toy spaceship on the ward. I marveled at just how easy looking after only one child is!

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I was able to put Sandy to bed then Stuart came home and I went back to hospital. Roslyn was largely unsettled at night waking due to the noise and the disruption of the oxygen prongs up her nose. She wasn’t able to sleep on her front which didn’t help any either. I gave up trying to sleep between the 30 minutes where she did and ended up just reading for my PhD.

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After her first night she was much more herself and as she woke after the second night she ate her breakfast and played and generally proved she was ready to go home.

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So we got sent off with an inhaler and the happy feeling of a sleep in my own bed that was impending. That said there was still that familiar safety of the ward at night, the feeling of other people all going through the same and never being the only one up. It was coupled with the few nurses who remembered us and I felt quite surprised and warmed by it, that they cared to know us even though we were but a passing group of many surrounding sick babies in winter.

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So that accounts for some missed blogging. The rest of it comes under either job hunting or PhD completing, as well of course as being with these beauties.

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I’m in the home stretch now. As January comes to a close I’ve had the sudden realisation that not only do I need to finish a 100,000 thesis now, but that my funding runs out at the end of march, meaning I have two short months to find employment. I have applied for one job and I am applying for several more this afternoon. I am trying so hard to find something where I can afford to work part-time, so I can still be with Sandy and specifically Roslyn (who is very much a mummy’s girl and facing my working far younger than Sandy) on at least one day of the working week. I have the problem of not knowing how much of a salary to be shooting for, what is a PhD worth in this job market? It’s hard to tell.

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As for the PhD itself I have one chapter left to finish before only my introductory chapter and conclusion remain. This week will see the completion of that remaining chapter come hell or high water and then it’s some reading and onto the intro. I hope to have a full draft submitted by the end of February with then a month to review and format the final thing. I highly doubt it will be that seamless (though I hasten to add not through my own lack of timekeeping) but having the work done for when I hope to be starting a new job would be ideal. And thus closes my essay of why I’ve not been blogging.

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In other news little miss Rozzie has cut her first tooth, it poking through rather anti-climatically amid the hospital stay. She’s not been too bothered by it and a little ibuprofen here and there has helped. I’m surprised because Sandy’s first tooth didn’t come until he was 11 months old, and it was a top one, but Roslyn’s bottom left (her left) is there at the end of her eighth month. Speaking of months, she is almost nine months, which means she will soon have been out longer than she was in, which is quite a milestone, one I can’t believe has happened so fast. *Insert other growing up cliches here*

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On the 2nd of February our little man will be 2.5 years old. We celebrated 18 months yet it seems a bit weird to celebrate 30 months, but we will nonetheless. He’s such a boy now it’s untrue. I look at our canvas on the wall of him when Roslyn was brand new and his arms are still chubby and his face is still baby. Then I look at him now and he is lean and wise and grown. I can’t quite understand what happened but I love it. He makes me ridiculously happy each day with his love, humour and excitement.

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Apart from that we are enjoying once again settling back into normality with play…

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…routines…

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…fun…

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…and cuddles.

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I’m trying so hard to soak up every moment with them now, knowing the clock is ticking on my stay at home mum status. I wish so hard that I could just stay with them forever. It’s two and a half years since I became a mum and part of me doesn’t want to go back to being just me. But on the other hand I know nothing lasts forever and even if I feel it is a tad premature for Roslyn, there is independence there and I need to find some myself. I’m grateful to have made it this far with my study but so relieved that once I have completed the PhD it will be done and I can put a lid on this era of my life. A PhD and two kids is anything but easy, but I never expected it to be. I’m glad to be leaving research behind me and moving onto something new, and challenging, though I will undoubtedly mourn the loss of being with my babies every single day.

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I’m so grateful for the summer we had, our trips, the fun, the three of us. And for the winter with its snow, cosy times at home and a wonderful christmas.

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And as this weekend past proved it’s not the end of everything. There is still the weekend and much fun to be had. The prospect of holidays and days away.

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I can’t wait.