I suppose there might be some people out there waiting for an update and wondering where I've been and what I've been doing. Now you're going to find out. But it's a long post. Settle down. Get a cuppa.
To recap, we just about got by financially while I was a stay-at-home mum for seven years, but as you know last year various things started coming together and every month, no matter how much we slimmed down, the amount going out was a bit more than the amount going in. I was sewing curtains part-time, but that doesn't make much money. All the boys were finally in school. And the crunch hit: we'd hit the limit of our overdraft in mid December and all the sh*t would hit the fan.
I couldn't keep indulging my passion for sewing, writing and creating: I was the only one who could get us out of this mess. My husband's job is fairly static in level/pay for now - long story, and I'd have to tell you what his job is to explain, which he understandably doesn't want me to reveal.
Basically I had to get a job. I started by doing some admin/receptionist temping work in late November and through December while interviewing for jobs in the transport planning field that I had left seven years previously.
These are the assumptions I had when going into the process:
- No one in my old industry would hire me. I had been seven years out of it and that would make my skills and knowledge redundant. I was unemployable.
- On the extremely rare chance I could get a job, I would have to agree to work full-time and that would have a massive impact on the family, childcare, etc.
- On the extremely rare chance I could get a job, it would take ages and a huge amount of leg-work to get it to happen. I would be working in admin for quite some time first.
- When I left the transport planning industry, that I had fallen into in the first place, I was absolutely desperate to leave and start a new life being a stay-at-home mum and then finding my dream other job. I would hate to go back. It was not for me.
- If I did go back, I would flounder for ages. I would feel out of my depth. I would take a long time to not only get back up to speed with industry knowledge, but also the basic skills of work like report writing, IT, etc, and feel like an imposter and make them wonder why they hired me.
- I would hate the commute. I would hate the time away from the children. I would miss them dreadfully and feel guilty and constantly like I was missing out. I would be sacrificing my happiness because I had to go back for work for financial reasons. I would do it, but I would feel a huge loss in the process.
- The children would hate it too. They wouldn't like breakfast or after-school club. They'd feel abandoned. They'd find it really strange adjusting to their dad often collecting them from school and doing the previously mummy things of making dinner, homework, etc.
- I would feel bereft having to give up the sewing that was so close to my heart, and the business I'd been working to develop.
But it had to be done, so I speculatively sent out my CVs to consultancy companies, contacted a recruitment agent in the area, worked hard on my CV, discovered Linkedin, and all the other things when you're going hell for leather to find a job. This is what actually happened:
- Two of the four companies invited me to interview. I could not believe it.
- Within a fortnight, I had had both interviews.
- They both offered me a job. They both offered me a job! At four days a week instead of five. perfect. With good pay. With a drop in seniority to where I had left off, but I expected and wanted that so I could have some time refreshing myself and learning the work again, without the pressures of managing staff and budgets.
- In fact, far from feeling like I'd almost have to beg for a job, they both liked me so much that they were trying to sell themselves to me, knowing I had the other company interested too.
- I accepted one of them. We had gone from a massive financial struggle and me feeling unemployable, to signing a contract of a great job with a great company, based really close to the station in a major city, and all in about three weeks. Rollercoaster doesn't even cover it.
Goodness, it took some adjustment. I spent several weeks afterwards feeling mostly stunned. I had to wrap up the sewing business, try (unsuccessfully) to get all my sewing work finished up, sort childcare out, buy work clothes (!), plan commuter routes, and all the other things you have to do when going from a stay-at-home to a working-mum. All in December with Christmas to organise at the same time. It was frantic, frenetic, hectic, overwhelming, and a whole lot of other words that all basically mean the same thing.
And while all the money worries, CV writing, job hunting, interview prepping, Christmassing, logistic-sorting and everything else was going on, I didn't have the time to write anything here.
I stared work on January 4th. I get most Friday's off as I work four days usually, and this is the end of my second week. It's possible that I'm in the honeymoon period, but having read back those assumptions I listed earlier, here's what's actually happening:
- I thought I would take quite some time to get back up to speed, though I knew I am quick on the uptake and good at absorbing new information. But I felt fine very quickly. I read around the subject and google search things where I need to. The things I don't know are mostly to do with the transport infrastructure in the north versus the south, where I used to work, and that's not a lot different to if I'd never stopped working and just relocated.
- I hit my stride pretty fast. I feel, in the best possible way, like I never left. There are loads of new things (telephone conferencing on Lync - blew my mind!) but I'm getting my head around them fine.
- I feel like I'm good at this. I write reports and they get complimented. I've not written a report in seven years! But turns out, it's like riding a bike. And if you're engaged and interested, if you're good at report-writing generally, you can do it. My colleagues seem to trust me, as do my bosses. One of my bosses actually said, a few days in and after my first report was finished, something along the lines of: "You get a feeling for someone when you interview them, but you never fully know for sure, and I'm really pleased to see I was right about you." They're giving me work and responsibilities as a result that I don't think they realised they could do, at the start. I feel like I'm worth the money they're paying me.
- I like the commute and the office work. I feel like my brain is lit up. I feel like I'm somebody, like I'm important and going somewhere again. I feel a bit ambitious. I like to be helpful and useful. And I know I'm a swot, but I love to be learning things again and using that academic brain that's been sat wrapped in bubble-wrap all these years.
- I miss the children, but they're happy at their before/after school clubs, their dad's doing wonderfully (though it's hardcore for him working 7am-2.30pm then rushing to collect the kids three days a week, cooking dinner, etc). I feel appreciative of all our time together. I am sillier with them. I am not ground down. I am lit up.
- Losing the money worries is huge. I feel a hundred times lighter. That weight had been on my shoulders and that worry had been grinding at me for a long, long time. We have new stresses now, mostly of the logistical kind, but they've not cumulated like the money stress had, and so we feel very blessed by comparison.
- I actually feel more organised and on top of things, despite having less time at home. I feel like I'm becoming that old organised person that I once was, and couldn't understand why I couldn't be all these last few years. No idea why that's happened: because it had to? Because I have the commute to put down one role and take up another? Because things have to be more efficient and planned and so I'm being and doing both?
- I like my job. I like being a working mum. I never, ever would have thought it, but I do. I like feeling like I'm doing well at things and being recognised for it. And the sewing? I don't miss it yet. And when I do, I'll be able to sew us a cushion on a whim or something, rather than feel that it's also a job and a deadline that makes me feel under pressure.
- What was one of the worst and most worrying times of our life, could, it seemed, only be fixed by the loss of so much: mothering, sewing, my dreams, and everything in between. How could we have known how it would turn out? Overall, I'd say we've gained rather than lost. I had to fix our problem and I went out and did it, and the sacrifice became a blessing in disguise.
As for the blogging, where do I go from here? Well I'm saying goodbye. Not necessarily forever, so watch this space. But I don't feel the urge like I used to, because it was a way to connect with my creative self and the outside world while I lived a very insular life with my children in a little village. Now I'm out in the world with grown-ups every day, and I'm creating all sorts of things (though not arty or crafty ones any more), and so I don't need it. Will I want it? I don't know that either. For now, I want to be good at my job and make myself proud, and when I'm at home I want to be fully present in home and family life. I want to clean the house, go to the park with the kids, bake at the weekends, share a glass of wine and a chat with my husband, basically live my life rather than document it. I don't want to lose the time I have by sitting here tapping away in this space.
It all may change, but for now, a heartfelt and expansive thank you and goodbye to all my readers. You lifted me through all the darker moments of the last seven years, and you were lovely to me in all the lighter and good moments too. I'm still reading your blogs, if you have them, though I may not often have time to read every post or to comment on them like I used to. I think you and this world are fabulous. It's just that I've set off on another adventure for now. Be glad for me - I'm happy. Things are good. And I think they're going to get better.