Getting back into the work force was not an easy task, no it was more like an Everest believe me. I stopped working a month before my first born, and hadn’t gone to a place of work for about 7 years. I say that of course because I have been working for all that time, I was just never paid to do it. I should have charged rent for my uterus, three X nine months could have earned me a bit. But as the kid’s shoes get bigger along with the price tag it was only a matter of time before I took the plunge and contributed financially. I applied for so many jobs over the years, probably over a hundred, and was only ever contacted a couple of times for an interview. I guess stay-at home mums aren’t the most desirable candidates, but I did eventually get the call and the kind of interview that finished with a “can you start next week?” Finally.
Once the excitement wore off I realised that I had a lot of planning to do in arranging care for the kids, all three in different locations was causing me mild panic and a constant feeling in my gut full with dread of failure to launch. I didn’t sleep well until the next week after my first day, just so nervous about how the morning drop-off would go. After finding a needle in a haystack gaining a place on a Wednesday for my toddler (at least for the interim, it isn’t over yet) I arranged pick-ups for my school and preschooler, worked out in what order to drop them off and of course where to leave the car. It was such a mission to complete that once I had worked out the plan (draft one) as I was telling my family and friends about my new job and how thrilled I was, I found that I was talking more about the childcare arrangements than the job itself and how I felt.
I was worried that I would feel like I was abandoning my babies, after all I am a strong advocate for putting family first and being there for my kids whenever they need me. I don’t think I had room to feel it though in amidst the panic of the logistics I was battling. I didn’t feel guilty on my first day, dropped them all off in perfect synchronisation with draft two (a highly contagious illness the downfall of draft one) and marched off to work looking forward to sitting down for a lengthy period. Now three weeks in and I am loving my job, loving the adult interaction, and also happy that when some asks me to do something there aren’t 27 other requests, needs, fights or screams in between beginning and finishing a task. In fact no one at my workplace yells at all and I get to drink tea while it’s still hot. I can close the bathroom door behind me (probably recommended actually) and, I get a lunch break. A LUNCH BREAK! Where I sit down uninterrupted and eat in peace and quiet.
I’m old enough now to know how to enjoy a change of pace and I realise that time to myself and away from my kids can actually benefit our relationships. And it has. The two nights a week I come home from work at kiddy dinner time, they couldn’t be more pleased to see me and I them. It would appear that the three biggest fears I had were all dispelled in a very short amount of time. It seemed all too hard, and it wasn’t. I thought I would feel guilty, and I didn’t. I worried that it meant I was being a bad mum, and it doesn’t. In fact I think it has made me a better mum because being away from home makes me remember how much I love it instead of sometimes feeling like I’m chained to it. In no way at all am I passing judgement (I don’t do that) because different people have different needs and everyone has their own arrangement with work/career sacrifice based on individual family requirements. But as someone coming from the ‘no job can come before the family’ side of the fence I can very clearly see how some mums might get a bit addicted to going to work, getting away from the chaos and being a respected member of a team instead of a punching bag dressed as a taxi driver with a spatula in one hand and broom in the other. Personally I don’t think I can manage picking up another day of paid work, the logistics alone would drive me over the edge, but I know I’m not ready either.
I wonder what my new boss thinks of me, I guess as an undesirable candidate (with three dependants) she took a chance on me, but it’s no surprise that she is a mum herself as are many other female staff members. I know she loves it when I burst in with a story of what it was that nearly made me late, the missing shoe, the poo on the floor, the call from school, it probably reminds her of when her kids were little and makes her grateful that she hasn’t changed a nappy in years. I know that she is happy that I LOVE working there and call it “my quiet time”, and when she emailed me my first pay check I opened it up and tears welled in my eyes. I replied thanking her… I imagine not many bosses out there have had the same experience.
My husband now has a little more on his plate than before, but he seems to be coping without too much pain. And I just asked my daughter what she thought about me going back to work and she said to me: “it gets you more money” so good on her for understanding what is going on around her. As for me I feel more important, loved and needed as ever before and I feel confident that I will be able to pay the bills with less trepidation on two incomes than with one. And having some time-out for myself, wearing nice clothes and having adult conversations all day is doing me the world of good. It was a tricky transition, and let’s not forget the years of trying to find this miraculous job, but I have settled into it much faster and more easily that I thought possible. Now for the school holidays and draft three. Yikes.
Emma Eastman 2013