Today I can finally, proudly, joyously exclaim – I’M FREE!!!!
By ‘free’, I mean ‘tethered to a teething baby and a grumpy toddler’… Not the best week to become a bonafide ‘Stay at home Mum’ perhaps, or maybe this is my girls’ way of saying “Don’t worry Mummy, look how happy you are even when we are really testing you!”
I’ve had a job since I was 11 years old. I started off with a paper round and by the time I went to secondary school I had also worked in a shop and a cafe. I’ve been a pharmacy assistant, a prison officer, a recruitment consultant; I’ve sold bathrooms, kitchens, shoes and sex toys (which I was surprisingly good at *oh the shame*). Jack of all trades, me. When I was about 24 I was lucky enough to merge the best parts of my previous two roles and started my first job in Welfare to Work.
As a prison officer I had loved being able to help people (I worked in Resettlement, aiming to reduce reoffending) but found some situations frankly terrifying, and when in recruitment I adored finding people their dream job, but despised the ‘bums on seats’ temp side of things. The Welfare to Work (W2W) industry involves helping people to move away from claiming benefits and into paid employment. I got such a kick out of supporting people in their leap towards a better future, and the thought of how many people we helped to improve their lives was so rewarding.
Being an ambitious, hard-working (and slightly bossy…) little so and so, over the last 8 years I have worked my way up from Caseworker to Business Manager and then on to Deputy Operations Manager and finally to Performance & Delivery Manager. With great power came great responsibility, great stress, but great perks. Thanks to my generous salary, I was able to afford to return part time after having my first daughter in 2013. It broke my heart to be leaving her three days each week, but we found a superb childminder (to whom I will be eternally grateful) and I knew the time apart would help her independence, her social skills and also do me the world of good.
The problem was, the role had changed and so had I. I’ve never been one to suffer fools, but my threshold for negativity and general ‘woe is me’ attitudes had reduced to ZERO. Managing people no longer inspired me – it drained me, and I often felt like I was wiping bums at home AND at work. I plodded on, hoping for change and trying my hardest to stay motivated, but I struggled. My workload had increased and my hours had decreased so there was no time for creativity, no time to be innovative, and I found that really disheartening.
I stuck with it as I honestly didn’t know what else I would have wanted to do. When I was 36 weeks pregnant with our second daughter, I had to go through a rigorous selection process to save my job – exactly the same process I’d been through four years earlier. I’m not sure if being pregnant made it harder, or the fact I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I used to made me feel like I was fighting to keep something I wasn’t even sure I wanted. Anyway, I managed it by the skin of my teeth and then started my maternity leave a couple of weeks later.
With less than six months to go until my maternity leave ends I had recently started to wonder what it would be like to go back. Ever the optimist, I hoped that things would be better as W2W contracts are constantly on the move, so it might feel like a completely different role by the time I got back. And then, my phone rang my boss informed me that Fate had stepped in… They were making redundancies again. I had promised myself that when this situation next arose I would be waving my white flag and saying goodbye to W2W, especially considering I had no clue what the current state of affairs was and my previous six months had been dedicated to cuddles, milk, nappies and play time. I didn’t feel equipped to attend an interview to save myself once again, nor did I want to. Thankfully, I have a wonderfully supportive other half who is happy for me to accept the blessing I have been presented with – Time with my babies while they are little.
‘Stay at home’ Motherhood is a challenge I really wasn’t prepared for. I’ve worked pretty much my whole life and had every intention of carrying on. I’m nervous. Nervous to be giving my youngest daughter a different start in life to her big sister. Our big girl is so clever, so bright and so inquisitive. I can only hope I find ways to give my littlest lady the social skills and independence that her big sister fine-tuned while I was out at work.
I’m also nervous that by the time I delve back into work I won’t know how to turn a computer on, let alone how to walk in heels. But I’m excited by the prospect of a new beginning in the future too. When the girls are busy with school, I will endeavour to find something which suits the new me. Something which inspires me and something which speaks to the more creative, more relaxed, more colourful me that I’ve become.
In the meantime, the thought of spending the next few years exploring, crafting, dressing up, reading, playing and discovering new things with my gorgeous girls fills my heart with a happiness so great I have to pinch myself just to believe it’s true. I just hope I am enough for them. Enough to inspire them, teach them and encourage them. I hope I am enough to give them a memorable and happy start in life.
So, there you have it. I have a new job. A wonderful job. The best promotion I’ve ever achieved. The hours are antisocial, the pay is abysmal and my coworkers can be borderline-abusive, but the perks are unrelenting and irreplaceable. It’s the best job in the world, and I vow to never take for granted how blessed I am to be doing it.