paid work


Three years out of the paid workforce and I started to want back in. Is it a mistake?

Everyday, I am so busy as it is. I am exhausted. My head is spinning with all the things I’m trying to get done, trying to think through. I have a long list, my finger in many pies. It is difficult to explain to people what it is I do, but please believe me when I say: I do a lot.

And if I get a paid job, even a very small teeny-tiny part time job, what will change? What can I stop doing? Yes, someone will else will have the pleasure of minding Wren while I am at work. But I will still have to make his lunch, get him dressed, get him there. Will Turtledad do more cleaning? more laundry? more anything?  Nobody but me will put the time and mental energy in to do all the research in to Wren’s health care needs. And I just don’t trust the professionals.

My volunteer and activist work will probably suffer. My social life will suffer. The dog will get even less attention, no doubt – poor old thing. And this already very-intermittent blog will suffer.

I do hope that my garden won’t suffer. I hope that my mental health won’t suffer. I hope that Wren won’t suffer.

I think there’s little doubt that life will be even more busy. I can only hope I’ll learn to cope.

So why do it?

To develop another side of myself, to help me feel like a more-rounded multi-dimensional person, because somehow the many, many things I do now are not enough.

So that I can say ‘I have a job’. I don’t believe anyone should need to say that, because there are so many other things of value in the world – but right now, I do.

To keep myself employable, with the possibility of financial independence, because who knows what will happen in the future.

Because it’s been three years out of paid work, and each day I feel my confidence is dwindling and that world is becoming scarier. If I don’t do it now, it will just get harder.

Because full-time parenting is too much for me now. I need time away from Wren. Oh yes, there’s the mama guilt as I write that, but that’s how it is. And I feel like I need a paid job to justify having someone else care for him for more than one morning a week – even though I could easily fill that time in other ways.

Because I live in a town where it is surprisingly easy to get work right now, even possibly interesting and meaningful work.  That may not always be the case, so I feel I should take advantage of the situation while it is here.

And I have a beautiful wonderful friend who will care for Wren for at least some of the time while I work, so I feel like I should take advantage of her while she is her. Um, no, I didn’t mean it like that. I just know that Wren will be happy with her. Ah, easing mama guilt.

So there you go. Are you convinced?

I have applied for a job. I had to do it, but I am terrified of what will happen next.

Oh my, where to start? This has possibly been the worst week so far.

I have finally reached the end of my patience.  I don’t know how you get it back…?

Wren is being an average, energetic, authority-testing toddler – what else can he be?  At my best, I can laugh with him and eventually we get somewhere.  But this week, I am not being the mother I want to be.

I am afraid that in this previous post, I oversimplified my choice to delay returning to work. The truth is – and I am surely not the only mother to feel this way – that I am continually being pulled in two (or more) directions. But why is it me who has to be so torn? Why is it so much more straightforward for his father?

We have had a wonderful two years, but I think I may have reached a point where spending 24/7 with Wren is doing more harm than good. I want to enjoy his gorgeous company, not feel resentful. As much as I don’t want to put him in childcare before he is ready, what we have now is no longer working.  Oh, for some other option! Where is the village?

But don’t hold me to anything yet.  Next week I will no doubt change my mind again… about a million times.

p.s. I have just realised that Arwyn at Raising My Boychick has linked to here. I am so grateful for that, but somewhat embarrassed that it has come at such a low point. Apologies to any readers who may have come from there.

So I was thinking, maybe after 2 years it was time for me to go back to work.  Turtledad used to talk (before children) about how he wanted to be a stay-at-home-dad, and has recently made the odd passing comment about when was it time to swap?  Add to that, he has recently started encouraging weaning (grr, more on that later).  So I thought I’d see where he really stood, and open it up for discussion.

Me: So honey, I’ve been thinking about going back to work. How would you feel about quitting work or getting a job with less hours?

Him: Oh, well, I couldn’t do it for another year and a half, because I’m on a 3 year contract, remember?

Me: A 3 year contract!? Oh, no, no, honey, you’ve been duped. It’s not a 3 year contract which means you are bonded to them for 3 years; it’s what used to be a permanent job, but is now a ‘contract’ because they don’twant to guarantee employment for more than 3 years, to save them paying redundancy costs, but we all know they’ll probably just keep renewing the contract.  You can leave anytime – it’s just a matter of whether you want to?

Him: Well, I’m not sure. Why do you want to get a job anyway?

Me: Oh, I just think it’s time I focused on something other than Wren for a while, I think I have a bit more to offer the world, and I think it would be good for you two to spend more time together.

Him:  Do you want to work full time? What job do you want to get?

Me:  Oh, god no! Not full time!  Three days a week, max. I’m not sure what, I’d have to see what’s aroundIt would have to be something interesting and meaningful, I’m not doing any old job. [I have no ‘career’ or ‘profession’ as such, having faffed around at university for too long, doing odd jobs, but I’m very capable and motivated and … oh, this isn’t the interview…]

As the conversation went on, I became less sure about paid work and the possibility of finding something within my desired hours, which would also be fulfilling, enjoyable and not at all stressful.  Was it worth giving up my mornings at playgroup, drinking tea and chatting with other mums, my afternoons walking the dog and playing the park?  And isn’t my volunteer and activist work fulfilling enough?  Atleast I can set my own (very limited) hours and choose exactly what I want to do.  I began to think that all I really want is for Turtledad to work a little less, so that I can have more time for my personal pursuits. Paid work was only looking good because I’ve been out of it for so long. I think the main benefit would simply be to make me appreciate my time with Wren more.

And then Turtledad started talking about investigating more childcare options (our previous attempts at childcare ended badly).

Hold on a minute!  Didn’t he realise how generous I was being, offering to go to work so that he could enjoy his son more?  I think I must have pitched this all wrong. He seemed to think the aim was to offload Wren. No, no, no! I’m not going to work so that I can worry about how my baby’s going at childcare.  The point is for dad and son to have more bonding time!

A couple of days after this conversation, this post by bluemilk directed me to this great article by Sandra Tsing Loh. It made me feel like less of a bad feminist for staying out of paid work. Paid work is rarely as rewarding as it’s made out to be. And I sure as hell don’t need money for more appliances. Stayin’ right away from that capitalist consumerist cycle for now.

Conclusion:  Paid work can wait. But I’m still disappointed Turtledad didn’t say YES. More negotiations to come…

Wren is now 2 years old. And thoughts have been creeping in about what this means, as far as where he should be now, where I should be, where society thinks we should be, where I wish we were.  I have been a full time parent for 2 years now.  It has been the obvious ‘choice’; not all that much thought has gone into it.  Wren’s needs and wishes have come first and I have been happy to oblige; Turtledad has been happy to work full time.  A certain level of ‘inequality’ has been accepted, as a temporary necessity.  But for how long?

I think I may have to make a series of posts into a few things this 2 year milestone is bringing up.  This includes:

– breastfeeding:  I have been breastfeeding on demand (that means a lot) until now.  Two years seems to be a popular weaning time for people in my social group (people generally supportive of breastfeeding).  I do not want to wean, Wren definitely doesn’t want to wean, but am starting to feel the odd one out.  Do I want to cut down breastfeeding?  Do I want to stop breastfeeding at night? I would like to examine this.

– paid work: Do I really want to get a paid job?  If so, why? Or is it social pressure?  Would it be good for Wren to have more time with his Dad or another carer, or should I listen to him and let him have me all the time? He has already proven himself against childcare. Can I ask Turtledad to quit his job entirely or switch to a part time job?  How do I negotiate more equality?

– sleep: There are a lot myths and different ideas about sleep, and I don’t want to sound like I’m buying into unrealistic  expectiations about babies sleeping through the night, but now that Wren is 2, I do feel like it might perhaps be about time to start encouraging him to sleep a bit better.  He has wakes 6 or more times a night to feed – not so bad given that we’re co-sleeping – but how long can it go on?

If you are interested in these issues or would like to share your thoughts and experiences, let me know now, or drop back in again soon for longer posts.