Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Parenthood and a career

I love the response I get in work to my personal life.
It is inevitable it is going to be discussed at least one a week, because the nature of my job means I keep bumping into people I haven’t seen for years, months, or weeks.

Last week, I started on a course, this time I was with someone I hadn’t met before. Over lunch the subject of children came to the fore, and someone asked how many children I had:
Me: “Three”
She: “Oh, boy or girl?”
Me: “I’ve got a little girl who’s three and…”
She: “… you mean you have three children?”
Me: “Yes”, bemused, “Seren’s three, and I’ve got twin boys who are one.”
She: “And how long did you have off on maternity?”
Me: “I had six months both times.”
She: “Good on you.”

"How many are we?"

I hate the idea that I read too much into conversations, but it genuinely seemed to be one of those random conversations where I deserve a pat on the back for coming back to work so soon. Part of me thinks that this is ok, that it is ok for women to take as long as they wish for maternity leave… but knowing the reality that we couldn’t cope any longer on SMP makes me feel deceitful,  because I know if I had been on full pay, or even half pay, I could and would have taken far longer off.

The other that made me giggle, was someone I used to work quite closely with a while ago, whom I probably last saw when I was pregnant with Seren. We’ve started working together again, and after he caught wind of a few comments, he asked how many children I had, and formed a response that I must never have told him about my other (assumed older) children.
A case of how time flies in the realisation that I’d managed to ‘knock out’ three since we last met.

I think this is the thing that constantly amazes to me, when you are living it, you feel like you are going so slow, that you are on catch up because you’ve taken time off. And the reality is, you can catch up, so no-one really remembers there was a gap. And yes, if you can afford it- do it.

I caught up yesterday with someone whom I have known for more years than I like to remember.
I’m not sure if I can refer to him as my mentor, but he has always been far enough away from my work to know how I’m doing- when things have been at their worst with ‘a nightmare of a boss’ (an understatement), when things have been good (projects actually coming off the starting blocks), and when things have been fun (generally with the benefit of alcohol), he has always steered me towards what needed to be done, rather than getting bogged down in things that would come to nothing.

I think he’s been through his own bundles of poo, but he is ever the professional and just gets on with it, and I think this is most amazing trait, which I must improve on.

A couple of comments he made got me thinking, in summary that he wasn’t sure I’d come back this time, and that I hadn’t changed.

It’s weird, I don’t blame anyone for thinking I wouldn’t come back, going to the woman last week- it seems quite rare for women with three children to work, predominately due to the crippling costs of childcare or the lack of flexible working options. Mine is simply due to the flip of a coin, and Tony is self-named “Daddy Day Care”.

It’s the second one that got me, because it got me the first time too- how does parenthood affect work?

The first time I went on maternity leave, a kind-hearted woman sat me down and said: “You’ll be completely different when you come back, you’ll let things slide, things won’t seem so important because you’ve got other priorities.”

When I did come back, it was the complete opposite, there was the huge element of truth- I did have other priorities, but it made me more focused in work- to get the job done and get home. I got frustrated by people not meeting their commitments, because it created more work, people were wasting my time when I could be focusing on getting home to my gorgeous girl.

With three, yes, I do consider my diary when working away as it’s easier if Seren’s at pre-school or my mum can help out. When I’m working away I try and make sure my mum can pop over for a few hours at night so Tony can get a game of squash- his respite. And I do insist on being on the 1615 train from Paddington when I’m working in London, this means I walk through the door dead on 7- I don’t think that’s taking liberties.

But these ‘requirements’ are material, they don’t affect the ability to do my job, they just mean I have to take more responsibility for my diary.

The sad truth is I am fortunate.
I do love my job. It motivates me, it challenges me, and it’s never predictable.
And I think as long as my job keeps changing, I’ll never need to.

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