I can’t cope with summer holidays. Not because of the incessant questions. Not because of endless play dates. Not because spending money seems to become a sport. Not because I have to hide her iPad. Not because my clothes try to become dressing up clothes without my permission. Not because of how challenging it is to watch some bullshit US children’s TV programme without ruining it by pointing out how sexist, misogynistic, racist, or unrealistic it is. (I do point these things out by the way, they generate interesting discussion topics, you’d be amazed by how much nine-year olds know!!)
I have always worked full-time except for one years maternity leave. My career can be incredibly draining and include a number of late nights a week, bringing work home and the sort of stress that raises my anxiety to a point where it manifests as a psychosomatic neck and shoulder spasm. Some days I have restricted movement sometimes I can barely get out of bed and need diazepam! After over a decade of working in this way it dawned on me, I AM NOT A TREE!! I can move, I decided to take my skills, experience and qualifications and join the world of freelance working!
Despite my initial sentence I have actually loved this summer holiday. Freelance working meant that I was able to plan my time so that I could have my first proper summer holiday with my daughter since she started school five years ago. It has been wonderful to spend time with her, getting to share experiences and thoughts, to get to know her as she is now, the real her not the person I rush through evenings after work with, or whizzing through the weekend filled with extra curriculars, home work, hair washing and trying to catch up with people, not to mention household stuff. What I haven’t loved is the lengthy period of unstructured time. It actually made me question my whole being. Sadly I am one of those people who attaches self-worth to professional achievement. During this summer holiday I have done lots of really cute motherly things but not much in terms of freelance work. To be honest was fully aware that this would be the case, yet it doesn’t lessen the feeling of failure. Professionally it felt like I have been trying to run on quick sand, the faster I run the deeper I sink in to an abyss of time theft and one day rolling into another with no ticks on the to do list, no racing to the deadline. I have walked around feeling the way you do when you realise you have left your mobile phone at home, lost.
For nearly two decades my Mon-Fri has generally been dictated by an employer, I manage my diary but they managed my time. Whilst I was studying they should have had a mandatory unit called “This career will literally consume you” anyway here I am still passionate about the job but not keen on the politics, bureaucracy and life consumption, leading to the decision to take my skills and go with solid plans that will assist in achieving the utopia that is work life balance and job satisfaction *insert raucous laughter*. In hindsight beginning this journey at the start of the longest holiday known to man was a win for motherhood but a professional own goal.
My thoughts are rarely linear, if you scanned my brain you would see that my thoughts are like African fractals. I’m like a computer with loads of programs running, the thoughts come at a rate of knots. One pops in and is quickly superseded by another, with a memory of a time that was at each juncture. Then there is that thing I must quickly check on the Internet, followed by a vacuum of social media scrolling which can uplift and then crush in a smooth few scrolls. I have been like this since I was a child, “could achieve more but she lacks focus, easily distracted, starts well needs to be consistent, brilliant ideas needs to commit them to paper with the same passion” le sigh, the struggle continues. These traits are contained during the school term as there are clear timelines and the day is short forcing me into an orderly rhythm. The beat of this rhythm is consistent and it makes sense. My thought patterns have structure, the circus continues but it does not distract. Baby girl and I know that we need our soundtrack to be on point to ensure that our ebb and flow does not become a tsunami!
Since the return to school on Monday balance is being restored, ticks are being ticked on the to do list and goals achieved. Being a mother is always my priority, at job interviews I have always been clear that I need to start slightly later twice a week and need to finish dead on five o’clock twice a week as I refuse to have baby girl in these streets from 8am to after 6pm five days a week, she doesn’t have a job I do, she didn’t ask to be born I chose to have her. In exchange I would work late twice a week (which is standard in my line of work ). Any employer that didn’t like that was not blessed with the good fortune of having me in their team. Motherhood comes naturally to me, maybe its nature maybe its nurture, but apart from the standard perpetual guilt and other guilt (read here) I feel like I handle motherhood well and am making a pretty cool person that will grow up to feel secure and make a decent contribution to the world. However achieving professionally is what makes me feel like I am really doing something, maybe it’s because I have to really work at it, maybe it feeds my ego. Parenting on the other hand is something I feel instinctively. Whatever the case I am grateful for the order the school day brings and the sense of fulfilment I feel watching the to do’s get ticked.
P.s. have you booked your place at our first #MRbrunch on Sat 17.09.16? Info here.0