Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Working nine to five what a way to make a living...( with thanks to Dolly Parton)

Today I handed in my keys at work, signed off on my travel expenses, finished some billing, and walked away. It has actually been seven months since I left my job in a pile of tears and snot and anxiety and I feel so much better now than I did then. Understatement. True story.

One of the reasons I don't blog much these days is that I don't have much alone time but  right now Isobel is asleep!!!! and I have had a late dinner of soup and cheese on toast ( my staple comfort food), the news is on on mute and  I am finally writing. The other reason is that I am a rusty writer as well as a bit of a perfectionist, so I reason that if I can't say it well I don't want to say it at all. There's not a lot of valid reasoning there, I know. But I do have a lot to say, and unusually for me, I now have the time to think about things other than work. So here goes. Hopefully there will be lots more blogging going on, now that Isobel has a bed time and sometimes sticks to it!

So I drove into work today at around the time I used to. I set off at 8.56 and got to work around 9.15am. I have dropped by work a couple of times since I quit, but today felt different. I dressed "up". That means I put on my best jeans ( which were wrinkled but clean), my staple black t-shirt and  dark blue swing cardigan that I got for my pregnancy and live in these days, my blue and black cotton scarf  ( see  a theme here?), my black fitted raincoat and my black heeled boots. Isobel managed to spit up on my jeans before I got out the door but I didn't care. Oh, and I showered of course. I felt as if I had to dress to impress, ( and yes, that's how I do it - not exactly high end, but my way) and put on a bit of armor. If I had been smoking I would have ditched the Marlborough Light 100s for the  harsher stubby reds.
While I was in the shower I was thinking about going to work, who would be there, the task at hand      ( involving some undone paperwork I was helping them with because until today, they had no-one in my position) and  how long it would take. I estimated about three hours and wondered if I could leave Isobel that long with Susan before she got cranky. I had got up and pumped a good five ounces for her so I was feeling good about that and hoping that Susan would not have to break into my very measly stash of frozen milk.  As I drove to work along this so familiar route, I remembered many of the feelings I used to have over the past 3 and a half years as I made my way to work. (I also realized how lucky I am that this is the first morning I have gone to "work" and left Isobel behind me, since giving birth to her). One of the biggest feelings was dread. Dread that a crisis had unfolded, that things would be difficult, that someone would yell at me, that I would not be able to handle everything. Who am I kidding? For about 15 years I have worked in the areas of homelessness, domestic violence and mental illness social work. Of course I am going to have to deal with crises, people yelling and the unknown. But looking back I realize how frayed I was. How fragile. How worried about everything. Even though I put on a very brave and professional face and did a flipping fantastic job!

They were all gathering for a staff meeting and before that a short meeting of the clinical team that I used to lead. People were looking harried. I walked into the clinical staff meeting as it ended to say hello and to ask a billing question - and met my successor sitting in the chair I once sat in. I knew that she would be there today, but no-one else knew that I knew, so they all looked a bit startled - as if to say - ooops, we cheated on you, Claire, we got someone else. But I know and like my successor and I had given her some encouragement and suggestions as she went through the  interview process, so I was not uncomfortable at all. One of the staff, said, hi Claire, have you met the  new director,  and she said, yes, we have met before. It was under-stated and perfect. I didn't make a big production, just got my question answered and went back to my work. There were a few moments when one of the staff was short and not very welcoming with me and I commented to another staff that it felt very weird. She told me about some little dramas happening in the team and how that's probably what was going on and of course it was nothing about me.
They all went to their big meeting and I looked at the task at hand and realized it would take me ten minutes. Fantastic. Just a few dozen clicks on the mouse and I was done. I called Susan and told her I was going to run a couple of luxurious errands, buy a celebratory latte and mocha for us, and come home. She gave me a report on Isobel, who was chuntering away and ready for her bottle of milk. I felt so happy and fulfilled and relieved.
I looked around the office, noted the changes that had been made, and patted myself on the back for a job well done. As I was driving away, I realized that I really was done with that place and that job. I had been waiting for them to throw me a send off party - a modest lunch or something like that, and months ago I had thought how I really needed them to tell me what a great job I had done, how they would miss me, and that they wished me well. It had never happened, and I realized I didn't need it anymore. When I got home  to my cute sweet little family that means so much to me, I was so happy and relaxed and RELIEVED! So glad to be home. I wrote my ex boss a nice email entitled "over and out" and told her not to bother about any party - which seemed a little redundant as it was obvious she had not bothered. I left the door open for "consulting" work at an hourly / daily rate and bid her farewell. 
I don't know how long this stay at home mum gig is going to last. I know it won't be for much more than a few more months. Right now, Isobel has two stay at home mums. Susan got fired / retired / conspired against about 10 days ago - the day after we got back from Kansas City, visiting Isobel's maternal ( ha ha ha ) grandmother.  Susan's mom. Only living grandparent and a first time one at the grand old age of 83. The firing / retiring / conspiring was not a surprise in some ways but the timing was. Susan had been working full time,  commuting two hours plus a day, doing an internship on nights and weekends and taking two classes in the evenings. She is older than me and has a number of health challenges and despite that had managed somehow to keep going. But she was completely exhausted and depleted.  It turned out that she got some severance which will keep us going till the summer. It was more than anything a huge relief for her and for me too. We both have just been sucking it up and trying to muscle our way through. She emailed me from class last night to say that for the first time she was awake in class, participating and had done the reading and knew what the conversation was about. This is a woman who has had one B since she started school three years ago. The rest were As. Amazing. But taking a huge toll on her. My goal is for her not to work full time until she graduates next May. This means that I will be looking for a full time job for the fall. Not one where my number one sentiment is dread. Please not that. I think, I hope, knowing that I am good, even though I had the type of job that was a thankless task and yielded few pats on the back or congratulations, will help me to be more happy go lucky in my next job. I never want to feel that terror, those breathless, churning, endless ruminations about the what ifs, what coulds, what the fucks.
If we did not have so much debt, I am convinced we could live simply and not work too much at all. We still have to work out the details. But for now, we are enjoying saying hello to each other, loving each others company and delighting in Isobel. And sharing all the loads. It is amazing.


Trinity said...

I love this post, Claire. I relate to it so much these days. I love how calm and peaceful and content you are. I too have found myself feeling an unexpected sense of liberation and lightness since bidding my job adieu. I knew that quitting would be an upgrade in quality of life, but I simply didn't realize what an enormous upgrade it would be. Isn't it amazing how much stress and drama we withstand, sometimes unaware of how effed up it all is? I don't think I realized how awful my job (also social work, you know) was for my psyche until I stopped working until I realized that I now wake up each morning happy and looking forward to the day. I don't sit in bed at night and dread the next coming day. It's...awesome. I feel like any strain that might present as a result of reduced income really pales in comparison to the now-realized strain of that particular job. Good riddance, I say!

Enjoy these beautiful days with your beautiful Isobel! It really is a gift to be able to truly dwell in the moment with our babes--to not be distracted by work shite. So, so happy for you, friend.

P.S. I'm sorry about Susan's job--that sounds like total douchebaggery, but perhaps some douchebaggery you both will feel thankful for in hindsight...because UGH! who needs that shit???

anofferingoflove said...

so, so jealous! ;)

glamcookie said...

Awesome post, lady! I am so glad for you that you are out of that job. I know that soul-sucking feeling well and NO job is worth it. DW and I had a month when we were both SAHMs and it was wonderful. I'm happy for you to experience that as well and wish you all good luck with a new position that fits into your lifestyle, Mama.

Mad Hatter said...

Such a well-written really drew me in with your description of your workplace - a lot of similarities with mine. I have 40 days left and I can't wait to be on the other side like you. I'm sorry to hear about Susan's situation, but it sounds like this time is what you both need. And I hope that you find a job for the fall that feeds your soul and your bank account!

projectprogeny said...

wow, that sounds so freeing! I hope you can really relax and enjoy your time together as a family for a little bit these days, with warmer weather too - nice! I hope the right work situation will come together in good time.

pleasantlyfurious said...

So glad that stress is behind you. Also so glad that a bedtime is emerging - that made such a difference for my sanity!

bwub said...

I'm sure the best part about your visit to your *old* job was the walk out the door (again)! Nice to be able to walk away.

At least you have some time, what with Susan's severance, to both be home and plan for your next career. My experience has been that the shock of change is scary, but often winds up being for the better. I hope that is the case for your precious little family.