Saturday, 8 September 2012

So when am I going to return to work?

Right, back to normal programming (although those dratted winds are still pestering us!). Okay, so I was chatting about how Kelly worked out her life dreams, the PayPal seminar I attended and my resulting connecting-the-dots realisation. 

I've since let my mind wander, unhindered.
                    Source: via Jane on Pinterest

And the result? Well, I haven't yet reached the startling clarity of Kelly's epiphany but I'm *so* tantalisingly close. I feel like all the jigsaw pieces are there, just waiting for me to work out where they fit. I'm trying hard to still my mental chatter so I can listen, ever so closely, to my heart.

Hmm, that sounds a little dramatic. Maybe. But I want to. And, most importantly, need to. 

My life as a snapshot

Why? Well, here's the lowdown on my life at the moment:




Currently a SAHM. Also a lawyer but haven't practised for nearly 5 years. 


Married for 13 years with 3 pixies aged 6½, 4½ and 3


Much better than it was 2 years ago. Gradually reducing my PND medication. Some 24 kg lighter. Currently not exercising or eating properly. Need to get fitter as I want to play active sport with the pixies.

Financial status: 

Really struggling. Not surprising after living on one income for 6 of the past 7 years, having the 3 pixies in 3½ years, moving state, recovering from PND and having to pay for 11 operations between us in that time.

But having Mr PB work 2 jobs just to (barely) make ends meet isn't sustainable for much longer. He's exhausted and cranky. We all are.  It's not much fun.

Something has to change.

So when am I going to return to work?
Ah, good question. It's one that's been vexing me for about the past 2 years or so, in varying ways. Up until then, this had been my plan:

Nov 2005
Joshua was born. I went on maternity leave for 12 months (extended by a couple due to having to wait for a daycare place for him).

Jan 2007

I quit my job and started a new one.

Feb 2007

As planned, I discovered I was pregnant.

Nov 2007

A week before I was to start maternity leave, my contract was terminated. A tough call. My boss was able to do this as I had worked there for only 10 months. If I'd worked there for 12 months, the Federal legislation to hold my job open for 12 months would have kicked in. *Sigh*.

Dec 2007
India was born. In theory, I intended to return to work when she was about 1. But I knew I had unfinished business.

Oct 2008 

As planned, I discovered I was pregnant.

July 2009
Sam was born.

September 2009

With 6 week old Sam, 19 month old India and 3½ year old Joshua, we returned to Hobart to live. Two days later, Sam and I were admitted to Hobart's Mother Baby Unit as he had been diagnosed as 'failing to thrive' (can you imagine how horrendous that made me feel?).

A fortnight later, I had to wean him as his palate was very high and he couldn't latch properly so wasn't receiving enough breastmilk.

The next day, I was diagnosed with severe post-natal depression.

December 2009 

We were discharged as Sam developed gastro and the nurse in charge panicked. My psychiatrist wasn't consulted. It was a shambles.

December 2009 to date

That was when my theory of returning to work when Sam turned 1 went off the rails.
I've since spent the past 2½ years grappling with having 3 young children, recovering from my PND, watching my Dad deteriorate and die, Mr PB losing his job and having carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand. 

That brings me to now.

This moment.

Do I want to return to the law?
My returning to practise law probably seems like a no-brainer to you all. After all, I've studied for, and practised, it for almost half my life. Why would I walk away from that? Why indeed?

For so many years, being a lawyer completely informed my identity. Defender of the right. Advocate for the weak. Making life fairer. Helping solve people's problems.

Yes, it ticked so many of my important boxes.

But not the most important one - putting myself first.

Raised with the good old Protestant work ethic, I thought hard work would bring its own rewards. That I should respect my elders. That my effort would be noted and appropriately recognised.

With all that in mind, I worked ridiculous hours, perched up high in a Sydney skyscraper. I rarely was home by 7 pm and often worked back to as late as 10.30 pm. I had to catch taxis home as the buses were limited by then. Often it cost about $50. Often my boss wouldn't reimburse me.

But I didn't complain. 

Yet I seethed inside. I was furious at the unfairness. The paths some took to further their careers. The cliques that abounded and the fast-track to promotion some scored in spite of their abilities.

I ploughed on. Stiff upper lip and all that. I managed to function at a very high level at the office for years whilst all the time concealing the fact that I had major depression.

I could keep meticulous control of the minutiae of complex insurance litigation cases but then return home to crumple in a corner of our bedroom and curl up in a ball, unable to leave it. I became agoraphobic. It was dreadful. I vividly remember Mr PB taking me on a drive to Middle Head, overlooking Sydney Harbour. But I couldn't even get out of the car. My legs wouldn't move. I was completely panic-stricken. I'll never forget the look in Mr PB's eyes. He was so worried about me.

I ended up taking about 14 months off work due to having to treat a complicated medical condition so we could try to have children. It was a real watershed for me. For the first time ever, I put myself first. I had to. It was the only way I could become well again, both physically and mentally.
There's me, up the back on the right with blonde hair and paddle raised
I went to the gym regularly, saw a personal trainer and lost 12 kg. Mr PB and I took up dragon boating and made many new friends. I took up cross-stitch and started the fascinating task of researching our family trees.

Finally, after such a long time, Mr PB could see the sparkle returning to my eyes. His 'girl' was returning.

But I couldn't delay the inevitable indefinitely. I had left behind a diverse practice of about 40 personal injury litigation cases, some of them million dollar ones. I returned to work. I was told that due to the "economic downturn", my practice had been distributed among my colleagues and I was to ask them for tasks to complete on their files. That meant even asking some who were many years my junior. Every day.

I had to beg. I had a budget to make. It was humiliating. Embarrassing.

Becoming pregnant with Joshua was my most blessed ticket out of that horrid situation. Every time I was treated poorly, I would pat my growing belly and thank my baby for gifting me an escape.

To be continued...

And that, sweet Planetarians, is where I have to leave you tonight, I'm sorry - it's late. I had intended to make this post succincter but realised that I haven't ever really shared that aspect of my life as a lawyer with you. I think it should give you a greater understanding of how I've reached where I'm at, career-wise. I will answer the question 'Do I want to return to the law?' next time, I promise!

Have any of you felt trapped in a similar difficult work situation? Were you able to extract yourselves? Or did you end up mired there like me? Do share - surely I can't be Robinson Crusoe!
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