Preparing for re-entry into the world of work


I’m likely to be starting back at work soon and that’s been churning up a lot of emotions. I’ll only be working on a part time basis and it’s a temporary contract so who knows what will happen after that, if I’ll find another part time role, whether we can afford for me not to do that or whether I need to consider full time options. Obviously I’m hoping that I’ll win one of the premium bond monthly lottery prizes of a million pounds but in case that doesn’t happen I recognise that we probably do need something of an income to live and I, albeit very reluctantly, accept that I may have to contribute somewhat significantly to that.

Anyhoo, with the countdown to my maternity leave ticking away as my baby transformed from a teeny newborn to a chubba bubba in the blink of an eye, combined with said baby trolling me with sleep patterns that do not always resemble either sleep or patterns I am struggling not to burst into the tears at the thought of a drastic reduction in my time with the girls. I was in a playgroup the other day and trying to guess which of the multitude of grown-ups were parents, grandparents, nannies, childminders and nursery workers when I suddenly felt a sadnesss weighing down on me at the thought that so many of us have children but then have to employ other people to look after them.

Obviously this is a hormonally, sleep-deprived over simplification of the many reasons and responsibilities that cause parents to return to work. And actually, although not without its problems, I found it a lot easier to go back to work after my first child. This time around there has been so much upheaval for me in the last few months, with not only the family expansion but the return to the UK and the readjustment that has entailed, that has meant these months have flown by a lot quicker. However, I also recognise that a benefit of the maternity eave that is necessary to attend to my baby’s essential needs has also allowed me to spend a lot of time with and really start to enjoy the company of my elder child.

There’s a line in one of my favourite books, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that seems pretty apt ‘and she discovered with great delight that one does not love one’s children just because they are one’s children but because of the friendship formed while raising them.’ I remember being reassured by that before my first daughter was born and it has become even more applicable in the recent months when I have been able to devote so much of my time to both my children.

My eldest is of an age where she is changing and developing at a rapid pace. Her vocabulary and powers of communication grow stronger day by day and that is enabling her to exert her personality in ever deeper shades. The truth is I want to be around her and, right now, she wants to be around me. As my last blog touched on I know this isn’t a state that will last forever and the idea of having to give up on time with her at this precious stage is, quite simply, a little bit heart-breaking.

Having said that, I know that she needs space away from us to learn new things and test boundaries and start to find her way in the world. So while I want to be around her as much as possible (aside from when she is driving me potty and I really don’t) but I also know that that isn’t the best option for her in the long run. She’s always been a sociable child and I think benefited greatly from her regular contact with other children via the childminder and frequent play-dates when we were living in France. So with all this in mind we agreed it would be best to start her in nursery, on a part time basis, as soon as possible. She had far more settlement visits than required, even after we argued with the nursery about this, knowing that she’d quickly adapt well to the change and would benefit from a little more structure to her week and some regular play sessions away from her parents and surrounded by other kids.

As anticipated, she has taken to her new schedule really well, aside from a little reluctance to get up early enough to get to nursery, like her parents she isn’t much of a morning person. But it’s definitely been the right call for her and I hope that even if my work doesn’t extend beyond my temporary contract we can find the funds to keep her in nursery. Because, my word, is childcare expensive!

As my current work situation is not long term I’ve been scouting other job options and have come to the conclusion that I need to be earning a serious ton of moolah to have anything left over after forking out for childcare for two children, and this is assuming that the beard will be able to find a job with a salary that can meet all other living costs.

If we had thought about the financial reality of childcare costs in the UK, there is a good possibility that we might have delayed the arrival of baby (and would therefore have had a different baby entirely, now there’s a whirlwind thought) aiming for a three year rather than a two year gap purely so that we could have benefited from the 15 hours of free nursery care that three year olds are entitled to.

Clearly people have different opinion on the optimum age gap between siblings but its pretty tragic really to think that so many people are forced to make these decisions not on what is best for their family in an ideal scenario but what is financially feasible. Perhaps I am just being incredibly naïve about all this, and should accept more readily that with a family comes responsibilities that include ensuring you are in a financially strong enough position to be able to provide for any offspring, it just seems sad that these kind of fundamental decisions can be so restricted by the status of your wealth, or lack thereof.

For me being able to work part time is a good solution to being able to give my children the space they need while being able to maximise the time I have to enjoy being with them and all the benefits that hopefully brings to everyone. Whether this is something I’ll be financially free to continue once my contract is over is another story, but whatever the future holds I will adapt to the situation we live in and make the best of it, because what else is there to do?


Daring to dare (but don’t dare to run a red light)

“I believe that the most important single thing, beyond discipline and creativity is daring to dare”. In homage to Maya Angelou, who died just yesterday, I’m starting this blog with a truly inspirational quote from this truly inspirational person.
I love that quote and think that daring to dare doesn’t just apply to the big things like travelling the world, quitting your job to write a novel or moving to Hollywood to become a star. Daring to dare encompasses whatever grand dreams you have but also the little challenges that we all face on a daily basis. Those seemingly smaller things, insignificant to many, but daunting to you.
I think the idea of doing things which scare you can often lead to positive results that you never would have foreseen, even when things don’t quite turn out as planned. For example, this week I finally dared to get on my bicycle after having brought it across to Switzerland and then looked at it for three months being too afraid to take it on the road.
Here’s what happened: I went to the shops, I came back. I got a little confused and ended up in the wrong lane when I wanted to turn left. The lights went green but I couldn’t go immediately so carefully watched the traffic on my side waiting for a chance to switch lanes and cross. Unfortunately I failed to register that when the traffic on my side had finally eased up the lights had changed. I was completely oblivious to the fact I was running a red light until I was crossing the road with two lines of traffic coming at me in the other direction.
To add insult to injury I then got pulled over by the police and fined. Upsetting at the time, sure. But actually I am a little proud that I managed to have a conversation in French under stressful circumstances. I got to try out some new phrases such as ‘je suis bête’ (‘I am stupid’) and could give my year of birth without hesitation. So as much as getting fined and almost being run over was rubbish, it wasn’t wholly negative: I got to practice my French, I am now much more safety conscious when cycling and it makes a good story!
Cycling in Switzerland may have been a smaller dare than actually moving to Switzerland but for me it was a dare nonetheless.
The concept of daring to dare wasn’t something I was aware of when I first encountered Maya Angelou. I remember reading Maya Angelou’s I know why the caged bird sings when I was about 15. The first of her autobiographical works is not an easy read, Maya experienced things that no-one should have to, but in spite of all the difficulties she faced she didn’t let these define her but kept on trying.
What I recall most about the book was how bewildered I felt when she finally achieved her goal of becoming a tram conductor, a feat which seemed tremendous as she was the first black person in San Francisco to do this, but then didn’t want to just revel in this. My teenage self, still a strong believer in the fairytale, RomCom perpetuated, ideal of the happy-ever-after just didn’t get it. I thought becoming the bus conductor was her happy ending and at that time found that part of her narrative really hard to understand.
I continued to hold onto this idea of life neatly tying itself up into a perfect state and had this idea that I would reach my happy ending just as soon as I found someone to love/owned my own home/had the perfect job/reached the perfect weight…
But real life, and not the Hollywood illusion, isn’t like that and thank goodness! Imagine how incredibly dull it would be if everything had worked out as I’d imagined at the age of 15 and that by the time I was (almost) 30 I had achieved everything I’d hoped for in life and contentedly spent the rest of my life patting myself on the back. I think the smug satisfaction would have got a little tedious after the first couple of years.
Now I comprehend exactly why Maya Angelou wasn’t happy to be a tram conductor even until the end of the book, because I’m like her. I have a goal, I work to achieve it and then I start looking for something else.
I hadn’t finished my Masters before I’d signed up for Law Diploma, and as that came to an end I applied for an internship in Cambodia. The world isn’t going to stop turning because I achieve something and nor would I want to.
I still want to be learning and trying something new, still daring to dare, until the undertakers come to prise me away from the world of the living. That’s just part of who I am and I plan to keep on challenging myself as I get older, whether this be crocodile wrestling, completing a novel or learning crochet, it doesn’t matter.
As the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez said: “It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”