Monday 14 April 2014

From career woman to washer woman: finding work life balance

It's all about balance isn't it ?
I've mentioned before how I had a well paid job and now I don't have any job. How I went from being a manager with responsibilities to being a mother with different responsibilities.

I meet so many women who are entrepreneurs having set up a business when they had children. They have a great idea and want to work family friendly hours so they either bake stuff or make stuff or sell stuff or teach stuff. I admire all of these women and wish I had a 'thing' that I was good at doing so that I could 'live my dream' and make antimacassars from recycled ribbons or something equally magical. Instead I collect random things, think about what I could be good at and keep on keeping on. Wondering what I am good enough at to do it for a living. I often wonder what I should do now as we prepare for the boy to start school in September.

I have realised that the world of work is very different from how it was and I am different now too. I first started working when I was 16 and had a part time job and I worked while at university and during the holidays too. I found working in the library interesting and made friends and learned a lot about things from colleagues like Sandra. We shared a love of movies and used to go to the cinema every week together. It was Sandra who introduced me to Bill Bryson and who was writing a romance novel.

When I worked at VSO in my first fundraising job Karen was the best manager I ever had. She was fair minded, clear in her leadership and great fun. She was also very kind to me when my marriage ended and took me to one side to say that it was only work and if I needed to be alone or to talk she was there for me. I loved her so much and told her what a great manager she'd been years later when we'd both moved on and I had the hindsight to appreciate her. 

Tea for the workers
I've often worked in offices so I have perfected the tea run and Friday cakes. I worked in a housing association once where the politics of tea making made Drop the Dead Donkey look tame. I also learned here that washing my hands and applying hand lotion before making the tea was making it taste floral funny. 

I have been lucky enough to work in jobs where there were staff lunches and after work drinks. Not just for networking or to keep in with the boss, but for fun. It would often go a bit too far on Friday nights, but I rarely stayed late as I always had an early yoga class or stand up lesson on Saturday morning anyway. 

When I was doing my public speaking job I was travelling around the country and I didn't see anyone from my office, but I was supported by amazing colleagues who kept me informed of all the gossip. The fabulous Jan rang and told me that as I'd been in Devon where they had an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, when I got back to work I'd have to wait outside the farm buildings where we were based so that I and my car tyres could be decontaminated. It was more the Archers than Silkwood thankfully. 

This all changed when I joined the Civil Service. It was ok at first and my colleagues were friendly and chatty. When I hosted a meeting I would bring in cakes and make the tea and I had a great relationship with people I worked with. I worked with these people for years and they witnessed our first attempt to adopt and eventual successful pregnancy. I wrote and hosted the Christmas staff quiz and we all went out for party nights and occasional drinking sessions. Returning to work after a year off on maternity leave this had all changed. The office had relocated and with it the tone had become very unfriendly and sadly the cliche of being bureaucratic and unfriendly was a reality.

My boss said he hadn't expected me back and he didn't have any work for me. During team meetings colleagues would look at me strangely when I mentioned what I was doing and I felt judged and shamed for not being in on whatever the massive issue was. When the option of voluntary redundancy came along I discussed it with Hubbie. It took a few months of trying to make it work out, but paying someone to care for my son while I went into work just wasn't worth the hassle any more. I took the redundancy payment and dedicated myself to being a stay at home parent.

In the time since I left I have questioned that decision so many times. To go from being well paid to not paid. To go from having a job title and being a manager to being a Mum and not much else - not that that isn't a big job, but it is very different. The redundancy money enabled us to hire professional movers when we moved into this house which was far less stressful than trying to do it ourselves with a one year old. It meant I was there to be with my boy when he first walked and when he learned to speak and I have been his primary carer which has been immense and tiring and rewarding and frustrating all at once.
My 'workplace'
Being at home I have had the time to write this blog. It also gave me the opportunity to go back into radio and I have been delighted to be able to produce not one, but two regular radio shows on Croydon Radio. It also means I am the one who does the household chores. I've gone from career woman to washer woman. My house is clean and I plan our meals and even go swimming most days. It isn't such a bad life really.

The only thing is I have no idea what I am for any more. I also don't know what I'm supposed to do.

Any ideas ?  


  1. Hi, I'm dropping in from Britmums "my best post of the week". I was really interested to read your story, I know how you feel, it's a really difficult position to be in. Best of luck with whatever you decide to do.


    1. Thank you so much for popping by Natalie. It's not much fun is it ? Hopefully the future will be better.

      Thanks x

  2. So many of us feel like this! You finish education and it's all about working and climbing and suddenly you have kids and your old career doesn't fit your life and you don't know what to do! But it sounds like you're being a brilliant mum AND a producer/presenter and at some point will find something long term - it's early days. Anyway, I know what you mean - and I hadn't even thought about this until I had my first. My older (and wiser) sister pointed out to me that we potentially have decades more of work, so we'll find what it is we're supposed to do, it might just take a while? Thanks for posting x

    1. Thanks Steph,

      you know how you get those dark days when it just feels so hopeless and like you're never going to be of any use again ? That's how it's been feeling for a while. Just wanted to get it out there and am relieved I'm not seen as whinging. A shame that so many of us feel this way though.

      Your sister is a wise woman. xx

  3. This is a touchy subject for me. One one hand I am happy that I am with my kid. On the other .. I am craving to work as this is what i am use to doing. Earning for my family. But is it also not that easy with finding a job. In here my college diploma is of BTEC Value and my work experiences doesnt even count. All in all, I just want to go back to my country and be the best of both worlds but husband wont like to be far from me and my son. Not an easy subject see. YOur post made me think of this again and thank you for being ever so honest =) #mbpw

    1. Thank you so much for your comments Pixiedusk. It's a shame that your skills and qualifications aren't recognised here. I hope you find a way that works for your family xx