Technically, as I type this, I am unemployed.
Was I sacked? Nope. Did I get made redundant? Negative.
I resigned. Shit.
First things first, this wasn’t because I didn’t like my job – OR that my job was shit. No – I loved what I did (Ok, let’s be realistic and frank – I loved some of it) but more so, I treasured the people who I operated alongside. They had become the extended family I never desired – but equally adored. Peculiar cousins, weird yet wonderful Aunties, tactless Uncles and the irritating little brothers – loads of the buggers – my industry has a tendency to be saturated with young cool “hipsters”, who don the sort of apparels I did in the 90’s because they are now “retro”, and get labelled “young cool hipsters” by people like me because, well – I’m fucking old.
Superfluous yet superb family aside, that wasn’t enough for me to stay. And so, in January I sobbed my way through my reluctant resignation. And I was hesitant to this terrifying new adjustment – mainly because I love working, and I wanted to work. For me, post-partum employment offered a little slither of my identity back – the individuality that I felt had surreptitiously slipped away on both my maternity leaves. Plus, I dunno – I have always worked – so although there was rhyme and reason to my transitory joblessness it left me feeling particularly fretful and slightly clammy.
All this employment contemplation got me thinking back on “my career” (to date) and I can safely say that I’ve participated in a variety of vocations to say the least. I’ll give you a brief overview, shall I?
There was the time I worked behind the bar age 14 at a Chinese take away (both amazing AND illegal). Sadly it was short lived thanks (or not) to my dad. The warm (sweaty) summer churning out Mr Whippy’s in an ice cream hut nestled on the river Thames in Henley (again, amazing – however, also very bad timing – crop tops were in, ice-cream was free and I was already carrying a steady amount of teen tub. It was a corrupt combo). Crèche assistant (little did I fucking know guys. Little. Did. I. Fucking. Know). Nanny (I’ve said it once and I’ll damn right say it again – Little. Did. I. Fucking. Know). Runner at the BBC (cruising on the back of a motorbike shooting on location for Crime Watch? I didn’t know I was bloody born!) Local TV station runner (my concluding & flawed attempt at finally making it in front of the cameras. Fuck you Holly Willoughby, fuck you). And then, my very first Junior Account Executive role within the wonderfully bizarre world of ‘marketing’. Therein launched my, shall we call it ‘professional’ employment, and years of rinsing the term “work hard, play hard”.
Here’s the thing. For me, having one child and returning to work was harsh. Nevertheless, I revelled in the long list of positives that resuming my role after maternity leave delivered – Pret lunches, solo toilet trips, PEOPLE, using my brain, pret coffee, adult chat, banter, pret soup, solo toilet trips (did I mention that?), cheeky H&M lunchtime jaunts, and sporadic (although no longer EVER spontaneous) work drinks. So you know, it was decent. I earnt a good wage, I paid a fucking extortionate amount in childcare for my ONE child, and after the punishing nursery settle ins, then slowly coming to terms with fact that the combination of fulfilling my role as a mother AND returning to work meant I had been bestowed a life sentence of guilt, I felt like I managed it all, shall we say – reasonably.
Then I got meself up the duff again didn’t I? And so, post birth, post mat leave numero two – I returned into the fold once more.
Different. Bloody. Ball. Game.
Herein lies the problem. The system. “The system” being a structure that doesn’t offer an ounce of elasticity to its margins, yet eliminates every ounce of your earnings to cover the extravagant cost of two children in childcare. So, I could go to work – leaving the house at 7.30, wave “ta ta” to my two little chicks (as they hollered at me in the doorway) revel in the silent commute – do my days’ work, skedaddle at 5pm (to the unwitting sighs of the hipsters, who presumed I was off somewhere fun to get lashed at such an early hour) then battle (literally) my way home to relieve childcare at 6pm and crack on with, well – motherhood.
I could, and I did do that. Four days a week, for around five months. But I really wasn’t enjoying it. It was making me sad, awakening all my anxieties and I felt I was losing control.
I reached the point whereby staring into the ear cavities of strangers on the Victoria line had begun to make me twitch with anger. And, if I was subjected to counting the hair follicles on unfamiliar faces, that occasionally let out a poof of morning breath over my whacked mum-guilt ridden mug, then I would prefer to be inebriated, on my way somewhere fun to get inebriated, OR – at the very least – be getting paid for it.
Since none of these scenarios were a regular result of my commute and daily grind, I opted out.
As I have mentioned – this wasn’t a quick decision, nor was it an easy one. But it was one that had become more and more evident as the week’s went on. I mulled it over, I procrastinated, I stewed, whimpered and worried my way through every scenario. And it came down to this. I craved control.
I wanted to lasso back a little power. I wanted to take Elsie to preschool (three weeks in and yes, many mornings I have since wanted to punch myself in my big face for this particular yearning) nevertheless – if the system was going to spank me for birthing two marvellous little ladies AND the desire to return to work, then I shall holler a massive fuck you to the system and do it my way.
Now, hold on a minute – I am yet to completely figure out what ‘my way’ is. In fact, it’s a question I’ve been asked frequently in the last few weeks since going solo – and one that sends a little shiver down my solitary spine, because quite honestly? I’m not sure where I’m heading just yet. I’m still working it all out.
What I do realise now though – is that I feel in charge. I am calling the shots, not only for myself and my girls but for us as a family.
Hey, and if it all goes tits up, my boss said he’d have me back. Right Marcus? Marcus? MARCUSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.