Jumping off ladders

Back at work today with the sinking feeling that taking a year since I left for maternity leave has almost certainly damaged my career plans. I didn’t mean to get off the career ladder so soon. I thought I was a decent and popular teacher who would eventually get the opportunities hard work brings. I didn’t want to resent becoming a mother. I wanted both things so badly.

As I suspected, only going back for five days won’t help my emotional well-being much either. Or my Occupational Maternity Leave payments, which I will have to pay back as I am not doing 13 weeks of work. There is also my student loan to try not to worry about, as the terms of the Repayment of Teacher’s Loans scheme are beyond my understanding (and that of most other graduates, I fear). My pension is a mess. A dripping doubt that I must actually be an awful teacher disturbs me at all hours of the day and night; one of my only excuses for how I have managed to throw so much away when I tried so hard to plan well in advance. You simply cannot be everything you want to be if you are a woman.

It could have been worse. But I don’t have any other paid work lined up yet, despite wanting to be noticed, longing to be useful beyond the front door and aching to be paid for something I worked hard to qualify in. Despite also being head-hunted at various times in the past few months. I have managed to screw myself in a tangle of mad bureaucratic and emotional meccano. And I don’t remember where the screwdrivers and spanners are.

There are elements I could get very angry about. In some respects I just have to do this week and then recover, but the ramifications of taking such a long time off work may be far more long lasting.

Then there is the old adage, ‘know thyself’ (coined by someone Greek and ancient, but no one is quite sure who…) I know I am a limited person and cannot split myself emotionally between home and work when both make huge demands. Even taking care of Lily for a few hours this evening reminded me of how frustrated I get when I cannot give my full attention to all the things that must be done in one evening. So maybe I should accept my lot. Enjoy the positives. Try not to get angry or distressed.

Maybe there should be a mother ladder one can climb. Milestones, achievements, sacrifices and lessons we learn as we parent. I don’t want to jump off this ladder. I just hope my daughter understands when I abandon her to sort out a previous ladder that needs folding up and storing for a little while.

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