I’ve applied for a job. There’s a gap in my CV and it’s got me thinking about what I’ve been doing for the last two years or so, and the two years before that too. That gap in my CV which I can happily talk about for hours over coffee, but struggle to explain in the “employment” section.
When Girlbug was born, I was so sure of what I was, and the timeframes. As I left work, heavily pregnant, “see you in a year” was my refrain. The year came and went, was amazing, hard, life changing.
I had been back at work for under a month when I fell pregnant with Boybug. But as I walked out for maternity leave round two, I was much less certain of what I would do. As it turned out, a handy voluntary redundancy scheme appeared with immaculate timing, and sealed my fate.
For the past two years when asked what I do I haven’t known what to say. In part, because I’m never sure what they’re really asking. Do they want to chat about what I used to do, or are they interested in how many nappies I’ve changed today? Who knows! What I do know is I don’t have a job. I love being with the kids, but that isn’t a job to me. “Job” is definitely absent. While being at home with the kids is what I want to do right now, is hugely rewarding and most of the time fun, it just doesn’t fill that “job” space in my mind.
Also, if it was a job I certainly wouldn’t have applied. Have you seen the terms and conditions??
The recruitment process sucks
Well, the first round was fine. I think I did OK. But then there’s a drawn out nine month test of endurance and dedication. And then the final round is the most painful thing I have ever encountered. No idea of how long that final stage will last, you really can’t do much planning for it. All your research can go out the window thanks to a left field manoeuvre from the baby in charge! The jubilation once you’re through is something else though. I’ll give you that.
There is no job description
Really, this seems to change daily, with seismic shifts every now and again. Today I have felt more taxi driver than carer. I hadn’t expected that quite yet, but both kids were in “independent” moods for a change. So less holding hands and blowing noses, more driving from playgroups to gym lessons. Other days I feel like I just clean, or referee squabbles, or cook for hours.
The reward scheme is unconventional
I’m not getting paid. In fact I’m haemorrhaging money at an alarming rate. Of course life is more than money, and being at home with the kids has massive rewards. But, while some days are full of reward and loveliness and new accomplishments, others are like swimming through treacle with two child-shaped rocks tied to your ankles!
The hours are totally unpredictable and can be changed with no notice
Obviously there are the endless broken nights, but I think I find the times when I’m not needed even harder. In the workplace and at home, I fare much better when I’m busy and I know my role. Recently that hasn’t been so clear for me. Girlbug is very independent, and Boybug is getting there too. When neither want to play, but also don’t want me to leave the room, I find myself a very reluctant and awkward observer. I don’t think I’ve ever been so busy and not busy at the same time.
There is no performance management
Ah, to have someone say “you handled that situation very well, good parenting”, or “we’ve been really pleased with how you’ve been dealing with nappies, so have decided to promote you to executive nappy changer”. I do miss praise and even constructive critisism.
The hierarchy is confusing and unfair
Who exactly is in charge? I feel like based on experience it should be me. Maybe at a push my husband. Sometimes I’m definitely in charge, my little soldiers following me neatly in a row. But in time there’s always a coup and I find myself usurped by one or other of the mini-dictators. Once the dust settles and I gather my thoughts I can normally regain control. Until the next time.
There are no training courses
I used to love a good training course. Free biscuits, a trip out of the office and a chance to watch the other participants squirm on the “name one interesting fact about yourself” ice breaker. (I used to play roller hockey with the England squad, always my fall back. Slightly interesting, not too personal, easy to talk about). Ironically, I feel like I might need a parenting training course, unlike the ones I used to go on at work!
I don’t have a commute
While I complained of my long commute, I do miss the designated time to do very little. I used to read so much on that commute. Now, I don’t have any time that can’t be filled with housework or childcare. Even if I don’t do it, the possibility that I should be niggles at me.
I can’t take a lunch break
I rarely get to go to the toilet in peace, so chance of a lunch break seems slim. I eat the food I really want sneakily behind the fridge door when no one is looking. Then I sit and eat with the kids. But not for long. There is water to get, toast to pick off the floor, fruit to peel, toast to pick off the floor, water to mop up, cups to exchange because they’re the wrong colour, shape, and size and finally toast to pick up off the floor. Lunch breaks are a thing of the past.
I can’t quit and they can’t get rid of me
A job for life may be a rarety these days, but this role is mine forever more. There aren’t many days when I want to quit, and I hope the kids aren’t plotting an exit strategy for me just yet, but the feeling of foreverness is a little daunting. This is so much more than a job!
Even if I get another job, I still have to do this one
And that’s probably the crux of why, for me, this is not a job. A working mum has a job and is a mum. They don’t cease to be a mum when they’re at work. By extension, while I have no job, I am no more or less of a mother than when I do. Being a mum doesn’t fill the “employment” section on my application form. It’s not a job, it’s just one of my responsibilities. I also do the laundry, but I’m not an old washer woman yet.
So for me I guess the question is whether I want to get back into the rat race, with performance management, regular hours, set roles and responsibilities. I’m still unsure. On a dreary day when we’re stuck inside driving each other nuts and eating the play doh (them, not me) I long for the structure of work. On a nice sunny day at the park, home is where I want to be. I guess I’ll just out my CV in for some jobs and test the water. The perfect work-life balance must be out there somewhere, right?