On Friday, I had a really bad meeting at work. Well, bad for me. I'd done some work for a senior member of staff, and he loved it, which was great. Unfortunately, he loved it so much that he wants to roll it out further, which means it has to be handed over to someone else. Because I'm part time. And I felt really frustrated that I wouldn't get to complete the project I had spent so long working on.
Work is a funny old thing. I'm not one of these
crazy lucky people who has a job they adore, a job they would do for free, but when I try to think of something I'd rather get paid for, I can't. (Except maybe hot air balloon attendant. And I'm not entirely sure that's really a job). And the less I'm there, the more I think about how getting good feedback for doing my job well is a fantastic feeling. Work, when it's all working, is an amazing adrenaline rush. Pouring myself into a project, thinking it's never going to get done, then finding a solution and suddenly seeing it all come together? Magic. Pure magic.
There are big downsides, of course. Those great days come along with a lot of bad days, a lot of frustration, a lot of, well, work. I'm not doing a grass-is-greener thing here about working full-time, I know how difficult it is to get up every morning and go to the office, again, then again, then again. But it turns out that not being there every day really does make a difference to how well I can do my job. I'm less committed; I have to be, unless I want to be working unpaid on my days off, a toddler under each arm, typing on our tiny netbook with my nose. So I can't promise to get something done by tomorrow, because I'm not going to be there tomorrow. It used to be the case that when something needed doing, if it was my kind of thing, people would come to me. But then I was off for a year, and now I'm hardly ever there, and instead I sit in the corner and most of the excitement passes me by.
Which means I'm not the go-to girl anymore. There's a new go-to girl now. This stings*.
A few people have told me that working part time is the perfect solution. These are not usually people who have done it. At the moment, I feel like working part time gives me an unparalleled opportunity to fail at two jobs simultaneously. Sure, I get to do two things, but it's not very satisfying to do two things badly.
I guess I could go back full time, but that's really not what I want. And yes, I know we can only make this choice because we are fortunate. (Although from another perspective you could replace 'fortunate' in that previous sentence with 'willing to stay in a small house'). It's not what I want because I really, really do value all the quantity time that I am able to spend with Pink and Blue.
Sometimes it's easy to talk about making sacrifices for our children but in the same breath we talk as if what we're missing out on isn't that important, actually. This is one of the reasons I'm not keen on talking about motherhood as The Most Important Job In The World®. This implies that sacrificing all that other stuff, like having a job where people take you seriously and you get to flex your brain and hey, they pay you, is just a nothing, a cipher. It's not important, so it's doesn't really matter if you make that sacrifice.
But the thing about making sacrifices is: you have to give something up. And that only matters if the thing matters. I'm really realising that making compromises at work for the sake of family life is no small deal. Accepting that I'm only going to be able to tread water in my job for the next few years is hard. J is having similar difficulties.
And then I went home after work and J was there, and the babies were freshly washed and had just eaten their dinner. We decided to go for an evening trip to the park, since it was still warm and sunny. I took off my work shoes and massaged my sore feet, while J put on some music and danced around the living room with Pink. Low evening sunlight streamed through the window, hitting her curls and lighting them up like a corona. Then we went to the park and Blue walked all the way home, even though it's a third of a mile. He's getting so big, and finally he's worked out how to use the momentum in his little-boy body so that his steps flow and he has lost the plodding gait of an early toddler. He was so pleased with himself. By the time we were at the end of our street, he was so tired that he was weaving like a drunk man. I picked him up and carried him the rest of the way, inhaling the smell of his sun-warmed skin. And I didn't wish that I had made my life's choices any differently.
But I still felt sad about work.
[Update, August : I've just linked this over at Tortoise Mum's 'Opportunity Cost' blog hop].
*Can I please say, for the record, that the new go-to girl happens to be one of my favourite people on the planet. Just in case you ever read this, H, you know I love you, right?