Twenty-two years, almost to the day, I went on maternity leave from my job ready for the birth of my first son. I never went back fulltime again. Until now.
For the last two decades, I have either worked part time or been a fulltime stay at home mum. But as of this week, I have a new contract and I’m back to working a five day week.
I’m nervous. It feels like a big change.
The reasons for the change are complex. I’ve been explaining them frequently for the past month or so since the offer and decision were made – to colleagues, to family, to friends, perhaps most of all to myself. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure this is the right decision to make, for financial as well as emotional reasons, and the opportunity has arisen just as my daily family responsibilities are declining so I’m pretty sure this is God’s timing. I’ve been in this post for the past thirteen years, with the hours gradually increasing since the start so this seems like the natural next step, both for me and the job.
But it still feels like a big change.
So I’m taking this moment to look back with gratitude on the two career breaks and all the part time jobs I’ve held since 1995.
Not all women have that same chance. I’m blessed that I have such a supportive husband, who earns good money, that gave us the choice for me to be at home more with our boys as they grew and then to be available to care for both parents as ill health overtook them. It gave me the time to get involved with Boys’ Brigade and host children from Belarus on respite holidays.
I’ve also been blessed to have jobs, particularly the current and last one, where there was flexibility to my hours. So when our youngest broke his leg and was in plaster for three months, I was able to swap three long days for four shorter ones in order to ferry him to school late and pick him up early. I’ve worked different days so I could take my parents to hospital appointments. Hairdressers, dental appointments, coffee with the girls have all been easy fit in. It’s been a mutual arrangement – I’ve also swapped days to come in for special meetings or training. But, again, not everyone has the blessing of such flexibility.
Now there are no more school runs to do, no more holiday childcare to find, and no more hands on care of my parents. Somehow, I still need to find new time for my voluntary work in Boys’ Brigade, my writing, and all those personal appointments. But, other people fit these in around fulltime work and I used to (well, most of it) before I had children. I’m just going to have to be more organised and disciplined with my free time.
And I am hoping that working fulltime will take off some of the pressure that comes from part time – less of a need to stay late to finish something off because it’s Wednesday and it can’t wait for when I’m next in on Monday. I’m hoping fulltime will let me pace myself a bit better, timekeep a bit better, and even stay on top of my waiting list and To Do List a bit better. Well, a girl can hope!
We’ll have to learn new routines together, my beloved and I. My change in hours will impact him too, mostly for the positive (there I go, hoping again!), but also in little ways, like I won’t be able to pick up his prescriptions or do errands for him in town. Perhaps we’ll go back to some of the routines we had when first married, things like whoever gets home first cooks dinner. Maybe we’ll have more evening dates so neither of us has to cook!
This long weekend stands at the end of one routine and the beginning of a new one like a river marking a county boundary. I’ve gazed back at the country I’ve crossed, the distance I’ve come, grateful for the peaks and troughs along the way. Time now to take a breath, cross the bridge and look ahead into the misty morning for the challenges and blessings to come.