I will warn you in advance that this is self-indulgent, subjective twaddle about me, me, me, with barely any attempt at drawing any meaningful conclusions. Hey, it’s my blog.
I wrote last week about my love of autumn. I didn’t write about my love of the children going back to school. It’s not that I don’t love having them at home; more that I enjoy the structure and routine of the week when we have to be up and out of the house at a certain time of the day, and the sudden break in needing to intervene in sibling tussles.
I also love autumn because to me, as to many, it symbolises a new start. And this year, that’s what I’m trying to ensure I manage. My youngest is now at the school nursery. I drop three uniformed children off in the morning and am home again by 9am, with two and a half hours to myself. I wound up my freelance work earlier in the year, and after many false starts over the last couple of years (the starts in themselves not false, the circumstances beyond my control which put an end to them not false either, but more-or-less horrible) I really, really want a job.
Even typing this, I feel faintly grubby and ashamed, but I am bored. Having had five years at home to concentrate on my children has been an amazing gift, and was the right decision, but I have had to confront the truth that I need to get back to something else. Writing I love, but the novel that is buzzing round in my head is not happening on the page, and I suspect part of that is due to a residual sense of guilt and feeling of uselessness.
Do I agree that a person’s self-worth and value is tied up in what they do for a living? I say no, but, deep down, I think I do. I am tired of the “what do you do all day?” – from others, and from myself, even when I know the answer. The privilege of my education and training is always there in the back of my mind; the use that I’m making of both, at present, forces me to be honest with myself and admit that I’m not. I’m lonely, too: Twitter has been a lifesaver for me over the past few years, but although I enjoy my own company and the solitude of a quiet house, I’m starting to sense a need to work within a team at least part of the time. There’s also the external structure of “employment” as opposed to self-employment – again a bonus for someone who can always find something important that needs doing (or reading) first.
Will anyone have me? I’ve been scouring job pages for a while, now, trying to match what I can offer with what I want and need from a job. I have no illusions about swanning back in at a particular level; there’s nothing that I’d consider beneath me, provided that it pays the childcare I’ll need in order to work. At the back of my mind is the knowledge that I am incredibly lucky in having a chance to perhaps make a choice about where I go from here, and the dim awareness that I should at least try to think strategically about where things could take me. I have had some encouraging feedback, but I know it’s a long road ahead, and – if I’m being honest – I’m terrified and spectacularly unconfident.
And then, of course, there are the children. My eldest two were at nursery from a few months old: long, long days in a setting which, although I tried not to think too much about it at the time, really wasn’t ideal. Since No1 started preschool, though, I’ve been here, at home – always there to take them in the morning, always there to collect them at the end of the day, always there when they’ve had a doctor’s appointment or been poorly or during the holidays. They have lots of time at home around their schooldays, and, within the limits of cost and logistics, they enjoy after-school activities and playdates. My husband’s industry is almost exclusively male and notoriously family-unfriendly (something else to feel guilty about is that I have facilitated him not having ever to trouble his employers on account of his fatherhood, though he more than shares the burden when he’s at home). We have no family who can help out, and while there’s an option of wraparound at school, it has limitations, particularly for the older children – and fundamentally, they are perfectly happy as things stand.
Doubtless they would benefit in some ways from me working. We’d have more money, for a start. We are very fortunate in being able to manage as we do, but there’s not a lot for extras. They would see me using my brain and contributing financially to the household. But on balance? I can’t honestly convince myself that they’d be better off. It feels like I’m taking something of value away from them, out of principle or self-interest.
So there we have it. I warned you it was self-indulgent. Sooner or later, I will work again – I have to, even if just to keep myself in my old age. I always knew I would, even when I left work originally. I just didn’t expect to feel so….guilty.