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Monday morning

Awake at 5am today, it seems that Monday morning could not come fast enough for me. I love my commute into work. It’s a space in the day that is for me and me only. I queue with the hordes on the platform, waiting for the tram to arrive, hoping along with everyone else that when it stops the door is in front of me so that I am first to get on.

My stop is a school stop. Crowds of children tumble out of the tram, filling the platform. It’s hard to believe that they all fitted. People shuffle around within the tram, like atoms in a boiling kettle, spacing themselves out. I won at the game of roulette today – the spinning line of door/carriage/door/carriage stopped in front of me at – DOOR! I move decisively, a seasoned traveller now. I know where the spaces are to be found, further down the tram, alongside the seated travellers where there are hanging straps to cling onto and fewer people choose to go.

I have my Kindle in my hand already, I lift it in front of my eyes and the shoving, complaining hordes disappear. I cannot use this time in any other way. This is guilt free reading. I am not wasting time, I am not avoiding the washing up, I am not worrying about anything. I am travelling to work.

This, and the day ahead of me, is taken care of. I don’t have to steer or drive. I surrender to the journey.

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4

Doing Work. Work work. At Home.

I have brought work home with me tonight. That’s work work. From the office. Pah. This was never part of my life plan. I was going to write a novel, wasn’t I? In my lunch break (that’s the lunch break that I never take…)

This all started when my boss said

‘Why you have applied for a Band 3 position I’ll never know. It’s beyond me. You should apply for the Band 5 here when it comes up,’ and I stupidly got all excited, because I felt like a proper career woman in my new dress and I decided that I should apply for said job, change the habit of a lifetime and be a go-getter-y type of alpha female (I may have been getting a bit carried away, you’re probably now imagining some high-flying managerial post rather than a job that a graduate of 21 years old would consider it their right to get…I’ll let you keep thinking that)

She’s undoubtedly right; technically a woman like me, possessed of a Masters degree and a personable manner, should be working at a higher level – but what she didn’t realise, and I forgot, is that I have a very low tolerance threshold when it comes to stress.

I had a bad day.

It was Friday afternoon. I had to stuff 157 envelopes with letters, and people kept emailing me and ringing me, as I’d just sent out a mass email asking for information from them all. So, in a way, I’d invited the emails and the constant phone-ringing, but it was still very annoying. Especially when I’d just been told that the 157 letters had to be posted within one hour. By my boss, who also decided to send me lots of emails asking for information and giving me jobs to do, so that my computer kept making a pinging noise and distracting me from my envelope stuffing. It really was all quite annoying. I told my co-worker about how irritating it was, in a hilarious but maybe overly loud manner, given that my manager hadn’t gone on her lunch break like she was supposed to, but was in the adjoining office with the door open. So now she thinks I can’t handle stress, which is really unfair even though I can’t, and in light of this her enthusiasm for giving me the Band 5 job seems to have waned. Even though I have completed all other assignments apart from this one in a most efficient manner (I have it in writing!)

So, I’ve taken this report home, in an attempt to prove that my report-writing skills are better than my envelope-stuffing skills and make them give me the report-writing job.

Except that I seem to have been distracted by blogging and wine…Ahem. So. An update of the review, completed last November by my predecessor, I mean the last Band 5 worker, sorry I’m just the Admin worker but I’ve still been asked to write this report because they’ve sort of said they might give me the job but it depends on the interviews…Anyway…blah blah blah…pour me another wine….I can manage change and cope with uncertainty, just like it says in the job spec. What, did someone say I can’t cope with pressure? No, I thrive on pressure. Love it. It brings out the best in me. And I’m very reliable too…hard-working…my only fault is I’m too much of a perfectionisht…oh, is it not the interview yet…? No, I said perfectionisht, not pisht…

8

Awards, Spreadsheets and Life on Fast Forward

The Liebster award seems to be ricocheting around the Zero to Hero community. I am really grateful to Samantha on Grilled Cheese for nominating me for the award – she’s definitely a woman after my own heart with her love of cheese, amongst other things! I’ve decided to be an award-free zone for the moment, as the rules of these things are too confusing for me, and accepting them is seriously time consuming. I found many new blogs to follow during my search for suitable nominees. I’ve enjoyed browsing around and have decided to take the advice to put together a proper blogroll – this is my next project.

My life has become very busy as not only have I started a new job, but the manager of this job has suggested I apply for the post a grade above this one, which they have just advertised. I am very excited at the fact that she thinks I am capable of doing it. I’m hastily trying to substantiate my claims to be able to use spreadsheets and databases with ease, working day and evening to learn new skills. It’s a long time since I have had such a challenge, and I’m enjoying it.

My life suddenly seems to be moving in fast forward, which is a blessing as this month is Dry January. Yes, I decided to stop drinking for the entire month of January. The thing that amazes me more than the fact that I have managed this for 15 days, is the fact that I have managed not to blog about it for 15 days. I am sure I will be remedying this, just as soon as I have got to grips with how to make a graph out of some numbers on a spreadsheet…

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Working Mum Shoes

There was a time when the first day of a new job would have seen me arriving early, freshly scrubbed and dressed – if not smartly, then in the way I had planned to dress. As opposed to this haphazard, breathless arrival, fresh apologies tumbling from my lips, shoes once again clashing with my outfit, having forgotten my lunch. I really didn’t think that this phase would last so long. Initially I thought that once the breastfeeding stage was over, and my daughter didn’t see a clean nappy as her cue to ‘perform’, I would be breezing into work on time and unruffled. Later, I thought that this would come once she was able to feed herself without help and encouragement, then I decided it must happen when she learnt to dress herself independently. I soon revised this opinion, assuming that this would happen once she learnt to do her own hair (I am still traumatised by those days of trying to do symmetrical plaits and her shrieking ‘no! Daisy’s plaits don’t look like that! Do it again!’ while I fought to restrain myself from hitting her over the head with the brush). In the end I decided that stress-free mornings must come when children start secondary school at 11 years old, by  which time they can dress themselves, get up early to do their own hair, and walk to school on their own.

Not so. 11 years after I gave birth to her, at 8am on a Monday morning, first day of new job which starts at 830am, she is saying

‘Mum, I need you.’

‘Why NOW, child, why do you need me NOW? I have to be on time today, remember?’

She has lost her school tie (it’s her first day back after the holidays) and she cannot possibly walk to school without a tie. She needs a lift to school, apparently, and she needs me to go to the school office with her to buy the tie, because this transaction is completely beyond her. Of course, I take her, I buy her the tie, I stand there while she ties it. Now like a pea in a pod with all the other identically dressed children, she is confident enough to walk out through the playground on her own. I also have to take this route. She peels away from me,

‘I’ll go first. Don’t embarrass me.’ I make a rueful face at her ungrateful back, remember I have to get to work in 15 minutes, and run to the car. I’ve had to revise my opinion yet again. Motherhood is a permanent state of being on call. It will never end, as long as I am me and she is she. Maybe if I was a different type of mother, a different type of worker, then I would be able to get to work on time despite hearing that phrase

‘I need you.’ Maybe she wouldn’t say it in the first place; maybe she would be a different type of child. But I am that kind of mother, and she is that kind of child, and – miracle of miracles – I seem for once to have found that kind of boss.

A kind boss. A boss who says

‘I know what it’s like when you have kids.’

This sounds like a woman who has walked a mile in my moccasins – and even if she has never worn moccasins, would be willing to walk a mile in mine before judging me.

walking a mile in someone's moccasins, moccasins, Native American saying

Moccasins
Photo credit here

While she seems to demand (and will get) total commitment from me during the working day, she understands that my commitment ends the minute my working day ends – and not a second later.

‘We all leave on time,’ she says ‘I make sure of it.’

Not only that, she has offered me a reduced-hours contract so that I can work 6-hour days, which allow me to meet my child’s needs as well as do my job. How much easier would life be for working women if every boss were like this? I have been lucky enough to get a 30-hour contract on more than one occasion, and I have also attempted to work a full-time day, as a mother. I know that the extra hour and a half at work makes my life torture, although it significantly increases my pay. Arriving home with an exhausted child, doing homework, cooking dinner, getting them fed, washed and in bed for a reasonable hour, is basically impossible, although getting all this done in time for a late bedtime is possible. This leads to grouchy mornings, and endless shouting. I attempted this as a single parent, and I felt as if I was constantly yelling ‘HURRY UP’ at my daughter, in those brief stressful periods which were the only times I spent with her:

Hurry up, you’re going to be late for school,’ and ‘Hurry up and get to bed, you’ve got school in the morning.’

The 30-hour contract saved my life. I honestly don’t believe that I did any less work than anybody else despite being at work for less time, and this was borne out by my experience of full-time work. People might have been sat in the office all day, but there were stretches of down time when their work rate slowed; they lost concentration, stretched, ate, chatted or strolled around. I simply missed out all of this down time with my shorter day. Despite this, the perception that I was less hard-working than the full-timers was hard to throw off. I experienced resentment from other workers as they saw me leave early, despite the fact that I actually completed the same job as them but in less time, and for lower pay.

I assumed that once my daughter reached high school, I would throw myself into some kind of career, and feel a true part of the workforce with their macho insistence on working kamikaze hours. But no. She still needs me, and as long as this is the case, my commitment to any job is limited. So to have a boss who offers me a part-time contract without my having to ask, and insists that I leave on time rather than tutting about it, is a dream come true.

Hopefully 2014 is going to be my kind of year…

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Back to Work

The job that never felt like work, the one that took me from the sublime to the ridiculous and back every day, the one that I reminisced about after I became a proper professional (‘Remember when work used to be fun? When you didn’t lie awake worrying about it all night? When you WANTED to go there?’) – that job was unexcitingly  known as ‘support work’.

I worked with others in their twenties, most of us feeling as if life hadn’t really started yet, as if we were killing time while we decided what to do with our lives. Yet later we would look back upon this carefree time, and say: ‘that was living’.

For low pay, we worked for 12 or 24 hour stretches with people with learning disabilities, staying in their home, ‘supporting’ with every aspect of living – counting money, booking holidays, driving, enabling them to wash and dress, laughing, talking, miming, lifting, cooking; sometimes being hit, sometimes being hugged.

Everyone seemed to follow their heart in those days: uncompromised by responsibility, able to live on next to nothing, and full of energy. Just like those people we called ‘clients’. They gave us more than we ever gave them. And people would say

‘I don’t know how you could do that job. It must be so hard,’ but they were wrong. It was easy.