Working…or not…

I began writing here a couple of years ago when we landed in the USA and I suddenly had no paid employment prospects on the near horizon.  At the time I was searching for a new sense of worth…convincing myself that being at home/unemployable (for reasons of immigration policy, not a sudden lack of competence, though at times that is still how it felt) was a legitimate use of my resources.

Then, in true international-post-doc-wife fashion, I fell pregnant, and the ensuing couple of years became about the labour of love that caring for Kazuo certainly entails.  There is a kind of strange interplay between the Stay At Home Mother and the SuperMother…a bit like the evil dichotomy of Virgin/Whore that women have been trying to shake off for decades.  I feel very strongly that both positions are valuable, that we make the choices that best fit our circumstances and that women who are at home with their families AND women who return to some kind of paid employment outside the home are doing the work of community building and should be celebrated.  Personally, it was suddenly much easier to create a kind of network and sense of legitimacy in being a SAHM, even though I knew that had to be a temporary state of affairs.  This early in our life together (without owning a home or establishing ourselves) we cannot really afford to live on one income for too long.

But returning to the UK (and thus, the possibility of employment) has thrown up a raft of new Not Working kinda issues for me.  In the intervening years there has been a global recession, a change of government and some massive (and ongoing) belt tightening in the UK economy.  This is not a good time to be trying to find employment in a small community.  I am also discovering the costs of moving countries twice within a decade and of leaving here mid-career in my mid-thirties.

Finally, there is some cost involved in some of the other decisions I made over the past decade with respect to my teaching career…moving into boarding and letting some of my teaching professional development fall by the wayside was perhaps a bit of an error.  It was certainly foolhardy to keep thinking (in a very ostrichy way) that I would one day return to New Zealand, so jumping through hoops to register with the General Teaching Council when I had a secure position in an independent school was unnecessary.  Sigh.

Realistically, I do not want to return to the classroom just yet.  I know many mothers do so…I am just certain they have more personal resources than I do…I would find it difficult to sustain planning, marking, reporting and being a committed member of a school community whilst still maintaining a focus on the family life we are trying to build while Kazuo is still so young.  Equally, I think that since he has not been cared for by anyone outside the family, the transition to daycare/nursery needs to be a little more gradual (we are settling right now, and it seems a heart-wrenching process for both of us…), I would find it hard to leave him in care for a full week  just yet.

But it seems that right now, I am suddenly less employable than I have ever been, in the most fiercely competitive market I have ever entered.  Part-time jobs that pay well and have regular schedules just don’t seem to exist.  I am still looking…and persisting…but that feeling of being a little unworthy has descended again…even though I still have the safety net of our daily Kazuo and Mama routine to anchor me.  I am not sure I will feel properly settled here until I have resolved this issue, and gotten our schedules a little more fixed, and figured out just what I am ‘about’ for the next little while.  This keeps shifting every time I spy something I may be ‘qualified’ for…a stranger concept than I ever expected.

Anyway, there is a what’s-on-top about all that just now…I am sure I will bring some more clarity to this discussion in the next wee while.  But it is Wednesday, and I feel the need to try and find something new to apply for this week.  One job a week is the goal…getting there.  Wish me luck!


3 thoughts on “Working…or not…

  1. I feel the same way i have tryed to go back to work with Elijah part time and i just could not do it. I have been lucky enough to find a new job were we have moved to that allows me to take Elijah with me but it is very casual.

  2. Great post, Fiona 🙂 I remember the days of ‘immigration issue unemployment’ – when my husband & I had been together for not so long at all we moved to Canada (he had a job, I hated mine, I quit my job & went with him! I figured I had nothing to lose!), where I had no way of working!! I’d just qualified, had no experience, and certainly no visa in the land of visa impossibility…It’s a pretty weird feeling.

    I was a school teacher once too, but I’ll NEVER go back to it. I don’t think I could anyway – some nasty circumstances were involved when I left my last job (bullying by other staff, total lack of support, completely deranged & dangerous kids in my class…leading to terrible depression & anxiety that saw me unable to leave the house for some time. Long & horrid story!), and I don’t think anyone round here would go near me!! Not that I’m bothered – once I got ‘repaired’ and could function like a normal human being again I started my own business teaching music, and whilst it’s never actually going to make me any money, it makes me happy 🙂 (bah, who needs to have money anyway…we could still win lotto!).

    I understand completely about not being ready to put 100% into being a classroom teacher, I honestly don’t think I could be a good mother & a good teacher, they’re both such hugely involved jobs. I admire anyone that does manage to do a good job of both (and wonder if they secretly have a cloning machine hidden somewhere in their wardrobe!)

    I think taking time to work out what you’re ‘about’ these days will be a big help, it’s funny how much this can change after a few years of unexpected adventures, and becoming a mum. And if you think laterally, you might just find some part time work that’s a perfect fit for you & the family – even if it’s not quite what you expected!! Looking forward to hearing all about it 🙂

    Thanks for the fab post, I like a good thoughtful blog in the morning!


    1. Kathleen…thanks for you kind words, and your thoughtful honesty…right now it is all a bit like hard work, so it is heartening to know that ‘out there’ people do know how it feels…even if there are no easy solutions. Somehow I thought that 2-3 years abroad might have clarified these issues, now it seems that they are murkier than ever. Ah well…

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