I used to be a people pleaser, scared to upset anyone and afraid of confrontation. I was a yes person, always spreading myself so thinly that I was virtually see through.
Then I had children but still I continued in the same way.
There is one of those sayings that gets frequently shared around social media “we expect women to work like they don’t have children and raise children as if they don’t work”. Never has there been a more relevant saying for the way I was living my life. But frequent followers of the blog or Instagram will know that it massively backfired on me and I ended up having a breakdown and suffering huge panic attacks.
So, 15 months ago I left my career and took a family friendly job at the council which allowed me to take my kids to school and leave at 2.30 to pick them up again. The aim was to allow me to still work but also have the time and energy to be the parent I wanted to be. Perfect it seemed, but there was one teeny tiny problem. It turned out that taking my career away from me was equivalent to removing my left arm. I was still a functioning person but I had lost an important part of myself.
I had found myself in an altogether different but equallydifficult situation. I wanted to work because it was important to my self-esteem.But the career I had, and ultimately wanted back, didn’t work around my family.My husband’s job allows me to work part time and term time but doesn’t allowfor any support with regular child care throughout the week. He can’t commit totaking the children to school regularly or being available for any kind of pickup. Child care wise we have two options – me or after school club. The kind ofjob I wanted didn’t allow for school pick-ups in the middle of the day. The sector(charity and third) that I wanted to work in didn’t pay enough to justify wraparound care costs for 2 children. So, the only option seemed to be stayingwhere I was at the council and sacrificing my job satisfaction and my happinessfor now.
I kept telling myself that it wouldn’t be forever as I lookedat and discarded hundreds of job adverts that simply didn’t work for my familysituation. The children would get older and more independent and then I wouldhave more flexibility and freedom I told myself whilst I mentally worked outhow many more years it would be until my now 4-year-old would be able to takehimself to and from school. It won’t be too long and they won’t need me as muchI would say which in itself was both a devastating thought and also the onlything that was keeping me sane. But I didn’t want to wish my children’s livesaway because I was so miserable at work so I continued manically trawling the jobsites trying every combination of words in the search engine that might producethe perfect solution to my battle between career and family.
And then, lo and behold, I happened across not one but twojobs that seemed to offer the solution. I hastily sent in my applications andkept everything crossed. I was asked to interview for both jobs. I was asked tointerview for both jobs on the same day!! And what a day it was, both interviewswere very taxing and exhausting but both interviews energised me and started togive me hope and a sense of purpose.
Without wanting to blow my own trumpet too much, I was eventuallyoffered both jobs as well. It wasn’t going to be possible to take both and bothhad compromises that I hadn’t bargained for. Neither role could offer me whatmy current job did in terms of family flexibility but both allowed me back into the realms of my previous career and gave me hope that I didn’t have to giveit all up for the next 10 years.
Old me would have accepted either of the jobs as they were offered and tried to shoe horn my life and family around that job. The likely outcome being resentment and compromise reminiscent of my pre-breakdown life and we all know how that ended. But I am not old me anymore, I am a new me. A previously broken, still slightly damaged but ultimately stronger new me. I have insight, I have perspective and I have a better grasp on my priorities. New me has also discovered #flex appeal and the epic work done by @motherpukka and @papapukka. I have followed for a while as they have talked about flexible and family friendly working. I have seen people share their experiences of making requests for better working hours and although I didn’t realise it at the time, I had been subliminally absorbing it all and storing it in my brain for future use.
So, I asked the first job to allow me to start work later soI wouldn’t need to put my children in breakfast club three times a week as wellas after school club until 6. They declined because it didn’t work for the restof the team. So I had to decide was that a compromise worth making just so I couldleave my current job which was making me miserable? Turns out it was, along witha couple of other negative points so I said NO. Me!! The people pleaser, theone who never says no to anyone (apart from my kids) for fear of upsettingthem, me who hates compromise (and talking on the telephone) actually phonedthem up and said no thank you. I possibly felt more empowered than I ever hadbefore just because I had been strong enough to decline a job.
Then there was the second job. This was a difficult one, the job I had applied for was not term time (which was my main priority) but was 50% day time hours and 50% evening hours so the childcare in the holidays would have been a lot easier to manage. But this one threw me a gigantic curveball. This had been the most exciting and energising of the two interviews. I came out of there walking on air believing that I was on the cusp of exactly what I was looking for but also knowing that it had possibly the biggest of all compromises – not term time. They offered me a job, in fact they offered me far more job than I had applied for and indeed an opportunity of a life time. They were asking me how much I could do for them, they would give me whatever hours I wanted and complete flexibility about how those hours were worked. But the term time!! The lack of term time!! I knew I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t take on a huge role and have to deal with the school holiday spreadsheets and the stress again. So I made it very clear, I told them I couldn’t take any more than I had applied for because I didn’t want the school holiday juggle. I was completely honest and transparent about how much I wanted the job but that I couldn’t compromise on that area, I wouldn’t compromise on that area for the sake of my family.
That could have backfired on me terribly, but I was prepared for that. I have dealt with far more difficult things than walking away from another job and I was empowered from already doing it once that week even though I also knew that meant staying where I was. But they did what every organisation worth anything should do, they saw that what I was able to offer them was too valuable to lose so they offered me the hours I wanted on a term time only basis. Boom, there it was – the answer to everything. I have now been offered a job that allows me to take my children to school, pick them up, work from home, work flexibly and have the school holidays at home with my kids whilst doing a role that excites me and that will give me the sense of purpose, I have been lacking for the last 15 months. In return they will get the very best of me – my enthusiasm, my experience and my dedication.
Its been a rocky old road that I have been travelling but it turns out that it was exactly what I needed. Sometimes when you are in the depths of despair it can feel impossible and it can feel unfair but maybe it was what you needed to get you to somewhere better and brighter. After all you can’t have the rainbow without having the rain!