Friday, January 30, 2009
Returning to work, or working two jobs
Four weeks ago, when asked how I felt about my imminent return to work, I replied that I was actually looking forward to it. Two of the major reasons I quoted were that "I would get to enjoy a good cup of tea in relative peace" and "the hour-long commute each way would give me time to myself to think, close my eyes, and just be." Now, nearing the end of the first month of 2009, things feel so different to the way they were just 4 weeks ago: Blake goes to sleep easily and generally doesn't stir until morning, which gives me a full night's sleep. He's also just that much older so that he can play more easily without Mom's assistance, making trips to the kitchen for my cup of tea or coffee much less of an issue. I actually have time during the day that is my own, although generally I spend too much of that time on the computer, and not enough on housework or tackling the long list of things on the scrap piece of paper that serves as my "To Do" list. And so, today, on the last day of my year-long maternity leave, I can say that although I am looking forward to going back to work, I am not exactly looking forward to going into the office on Monday. Does that sound contradictory? Let me explain. For at least 16 years of my life, I've had a job (if you count babysitting - which I do! - my number of years in employment is much higher). I like the idea of being part of a team, contributing positively to a common goal, at least occasionally feeling proud of an accomplishment, success, or output. Practically speaking, I like getting paid. I think of myself as a "Do'er." For many months of Blake's first year, I would muddle through the day in a fog, shuttling us from one cafe to the next, meeting new friends and swapping tales of feeding struggles, poo consistency, and when to start worrying about the next milestone that was on its way. I generally stayed on top of our laundry (with which I have held a lifelong battle), but that's about it in the housework department. At the end of most days, I would look back on the previous 18 hours and wonder in exhaustion and befuddled amazement how I could have spent the whole day without a tangible accomplishment. Now, as I am about to return to a job that most of my family and friends, if asked, probably wouldn't be able to describe very well (likewise, I couldn't probably tell you what about 75% of my friends do - "something in Government", "something in consulting"...ah, the 21st century!), I realize that my accomplishments of the past year are in fact, though not that numerous, still the most important of my life: I fed, clothed, and bathed my son; I kept him healthy and generally out of harm's way; I tried to do everything I could to give him a foundation on which to grow, develop, and learn; I laughed, sang and played with him, and loved him with every extra ounce of energy I had remaining from these activities. I envy my friends who are not returning to an office, to the corporate world of wishy-washy jargon and political correctness - they'll get to continue focusing on the full-time, all-important task of raising a child, they won't have to worry about getting up early enough to get 3 people to 3 different destinations by 9:00 am at the latest (relying solely on London's public transportation system), and they'll get to continue to doing the "fun" things that have made up my weekly schedule for the past 11 months. I'm nervous about finding something to wear into the office, looking and acting presentable, and doing my 2 jobs equally well. Despite all my nerves and fears, although I'm sure I'll miss Blake, I know I've been extremely lucky to have been given this much time off from work (I imagine that some of my friends in the US reading this will consider this a huge understatement) and I hope I can enjoy re-discovering the me that existed before he arrived. I hope that I'll return to my job with a new perspective on the things that are important in life and in work. This route is the one we've chosen for the moment, and I just have to cross my fingers and wish for the best. If it doesn't work out, there's always babysitting...
Here's a pic from my first day in my new job in 2008. I think surely I'll manage to look a little better on Monday!!