I am sat here in my bed, Sunday morning, listening to ´Serial´ on podcast, sipping my tea, and wondering how long I will get away with it for. H is off running 20, 30? kms through the mountains in the rain and the kids are watching Ratatouille downstairs. A good hour you reckon? You would be so wrong. My kids have ´high needs´,lets say, when it comes to adult company. I routinely feel like a terrible mother when surely, especially now, I should be savouring every moment of their delightful company? Except they seem to need me, and to a lesser extent my husband, pretty much constantly. They are 5 and 8. We ARE making progress, it is not like it used to be, and yes, yes I know, one day they won´t want to be in the same room as me, let alone talk to me, so I should savour it. I find that people who say this fall broadly into 3 categories; those who do not have children, those whose children have grown and whose memories of these days are tinted by that sweet filter nostalgia, and those who have children who regularly and frequently play independantly.
Is it my fault? Probably partly, but not entirely. O has always been a kid who needed adult interaction, he didn´t ever like to be alone, play alone, I don´t mean preferred not to be alone, I mean terrified to be alone. And so the parenting pattern, as is so often the case, got set with the first. Y is a much more independant kid but of course he watches and learns and does, to an extent, mimic the behaviour.
Of course I don´t know what really happens in other homes, probably much the same, mainly. The kids asked for pancakes for breakfast, last night, so I made up the batter before I went to bed. This was a well thought out time saving device however it also lead to me cooking up pancake batter before the kettle had even boiled the water for my first cup of tea. Pancakes eaten and at least a dozen “Mummmmmmmy”s later I threw on a dvd, grabbed my tea, phone and laptop and hightailed it outta there. Judge if you will.
It has been a lovely week. A super normal week. I am feeling fine, great even, and again as my week off approaches, full of positivity about the future. In another week I have my LAST IV CHEMO session. I can´t wait. Next week I have an appointment with anesthesia so, fingers crossed, surgery to reverse my ileostomy won´t be too many months away. Yay to that. I have had so much time to think over these last few months. A lot of time on the sofa, lying in bed, with barely enough energy to watch tv and certainly not enough to crochet or read, leads to a lot of thinking, when not sleeping. A lot of this has been about work. Where I am, where I want to be, how to achieve the many things I still want out of life.
OOPS. That has been 20 mins. I hear feet on the stairs.
Party´s over, I am now installed on the sofa. My physical absence too much to bear. Apparently. Y, the crazy strong willed, hardy youngest, is super sensitive to sad storylines in films. It is kinda weird. O, the sensitive, kind hearted, oldest, is rarely bothered by the saddest scenes in films. He doesn´t connect with the emotions shown on screen at all. Y, on the other hand, bawled his eyes out when (SPOILERS – if you can spoil mainly old films) Groot dies in Guardians of the Galaxy, when E.T. returned home, when BingBong leaves in Inside Out. Hence the appearance in my doorway (quivering lip) “Ratatouille has lost his family”. So here I am.
Where was I? Right. Work. God, keeping a train of thought going while raising young children should be considered an accomplishment of its own.
I won´t bore you with the details of my job, suffice to say I have been with the company for 12 years now and am in a really good position. I like my work, often there is little distinction between home life and work life and although that can be annoying it actually largely makes me happy, because I never feel dread about going to work, I never really feel like it is a chore. I love my job and it fits my life. On and off over the years I have wondered where it is going. There is nowhere really ´up´ from here. The only person above me is the boss. There isn´t really anyone below me either, before you start thinking I am head of some major corporation, but that is irrelevant as I am not looking to move DOWN the ladder. In recent years I have just been glad that I am trusted enough to be left to my own devices. I give a lot to the company and it gives a lot of freedom to me, to be with my kids, choose my hours, move the puzzle pieces of my life around as needed to make them fit. So I put thoughts of grander plans to the back of my mind, decided to be happy with my lot, which in a small place dominated by seasonal work or hard-to-come-by jobs in the civil service, is really a very good one.
And then. And. then.
I expect there are mainly two responses to this life changing event. One, eminently sensible, would be to batten down the hatches, secure your current position and hold tight. This has its appeal. I am absolutely confident that my boss would make sure I and my family were taken care of in the event of this battle becoming long and protracted, or if it should return. Many people would take a step back. Scale back the demands in life, turn their focus on the sweeter things; hobbies, time with family. Stop and smell the roses etc etc.
But there is another option and, quite unwittingly, it has become apparent that this is the camp I fall into. This whole experience has awoken in me a drive to move forward. Shake off the dust of the last few years, the baby/small child years where the overwhelming priority is family time. I am not suddenly going to become some high powered career woman, but I don´t want to stagnate either. I am not even 40! Sometimes I wonder if THAT looming milestone is having more effect on me than these months of treatment. There is a whole lot of life ahead of me. There are things I still hope for. My own house, for a start. We own a small flat in the city which we rent out and we currently rent the house we live in. I would love to own the house I live in and to be honest in today´s economic climate it sometimes seems like an impossible dream. Around here you can still get a mortgage but only if you have a 30% deposit. And with homes around here selling for 200K and up, that is a chunk of money that I can´t see coming my way in the near future. And it isn´t just the house. I want to travel more, with the kids, and travel x 4 is never cheap especially when you live on an island which means you can´t just do long weekends in the car but have to get planes or ferries in order to go anywhere.
I have discussed this at length with H. He is diametrically opposed to me on the work/life scale. He is not at all work shy, he is a hard worker and would never see us go without. But work is a necessity to him. Something that takes time away from his running, which he loves with a passion. I don´t have that passion for an activity outside of work. He finds this kind of strange but I get a lot of satisfaction from work. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment. I don´t know if it would always have worked out this way or if it has just arisen from necessity.
I always thought I would be a stay at home mum, in an ideal world. My mum was and I loved having her constant presence at home. But it just didn´t work out that way. Maybe if I had been less impatient. Planned for longer, put a little savings aside to cover time off before having kids. But I didn´t. Having kids was super important to me. It is the only thing I have ALWAYS wanted. Ever since I was very young, and right through my teenage years and on, I knew that having kids was the main thing I wanted from life. I remember at school everyone talking about what careers they wanted. I said ´teacher´ because I was too embarrassed to say; I just want to be a mum. So not a year after we were married we started trying for kids. I was 29 and overwhelmingly felt I had to crack on in the face of fears of potential fertility problems, advancing reproductive age etc. At the time I earnt more than H and when it came down to it there was no way I could leave my job, we simply wouldn´t survive on one income. In the end we decided that after my 6 months leave I would return part time initially, moving to full time after O turned 1. H then reduced his hours to part time to minimise nursery time. When Y was born my intention was to do the same but with one thing and another I returned to work when he was 4 months old. So H left his job to look after him so we could hold off on childcare until he too turned 1. And so bit by bit, slowly slowly, I found myself, more by circumstance than anything, in the role of sole breadwinner. For the most part it was fine. I occasionally wished I could stay at home but I am nothing if not highly practical and it simply wasn´t possible. My kids had a stay at home parent and were very happy. It didn´t matter so much that it wasn´t me. Besides, I work part time about 5 months of the year and the rest of the time it is mainly 9-5 so I still get a LOT of time with them.
And so it is that I find myself here. I have sometimes struggled with H´s lack of career drive but in the end it is a large part of what attracted me to him. Not the lack of career drive per se but where it comes from. He just wants to be happy and have a simple, straightforward life, spend time with people he loves, doing things he loves. In a world obsessed with material possessions and career advancement at all costs I really like that he promotes the ‘work to live’ vs ‘live to work’ side of things. It is all about balance, right? Work/Life, Him/Me.
Which has all been a REALLY long winded way of saying; I have done a lot of thinking and I think maybe things might be about to change. I am not sure when or how but I am putting the wheels in motion and I feel so excited about the future.