Monday, 10 September 2012

So when am I going to return to work? Part 2

Cripes! I've loved reading your thoughtful comments on my last post - thankyou. It looks like some of us Planetarians have trodden and/or are treading similar career paths. Anyway, back to where I left off - going on maternity leave to have Joshua. 

My life as a stay-at-home mum
Christmas Day with 5 week old Joshua
Joshua's arrival completely turned my life on its head. That's completely normal with your first-born, I guess. But for me, it caused a much deeper internal shift. I suspect I had PND with him. I became quite neurotic, anxious and obsessive about doing things the 'right way'. Being a perfectionist exacerbated the problem. Not to mention being a Virgo with my love of order! But I also think my legal background had left me ill-equipped to adapt to the chaos of mothering a newborn. For so many years, I had been in control (mostly) of all aspects of my work, right down to decimal points, percentages of impairment and billable units. Logic prevailed most of the time.

But Joshie's arrival threw my old norms out the window. Overnight. Suddenly I was faced with a mewling baby who was completely dependent on me. I was horrified that he wouldn't follow my extremely logical (to me!) entreaties to go to sleep when he was tired. Over-tired, even. Confound it! "What's wrong with you?" I heard myself wailing to him. Often. I really struggled to adjust to my new reality.

And so started my mothering journey, off into the unpredictable beyond. Without a road map or any bearings whatsoever. All so hard for this surveyor's daughter. But gradually, life settled down. We developed a sort of routine. I stopped wearing a watch, checking the clock constantly and having nightmares that I hadn't filled in my timesheet. My life took on a slower rhythm, dictated by Joshua's sleeping patterns. 
My first birthday cake attempt!
My life as a working mum

But then the party was over - time to return to work. How I managed to swap daily between life's extremes amazes me now. After snatching little sleep due to Joshie's nocturnal habits (lots of night waking due to enlarged adenoids and tonsils and middle ear infections, all cured by 3 ENT operations), I'd suit up and race to the bus-stop to head into the Sydney CBD. Mr PB took Joshua to and from daycare.

I, meanwhile, beavered away in my office, attempting valiantly to please my boss, my clients and the court, all at once - very tricky given their often competing interests. I rarely returned home before Joshie was asleep. Oh, the horrid mother guilt! It was the pits.

And then my boss convinced me to change from working 3 days a week to 4. In theory, that didn't sound too bad. But I hadn't anticipated that really meant fitting 5 days' worth of work into the 4 I was paid for. Hmm, how often do we mums fall for that old trick?
Lunchtime with Daddy in May 2007
My great fortune lay in becoming pregnant with India only a month in. Mind you, it was utterly exhausting to haul myself to the bus every day, sleep-deprived, and get stuck in the interminably slow traffic. Although we only lived 13 km away, my trip sometimes took up to 1½ hours. Truly.

As my pregnancy progressed, those long bus trips became very uncomfortable. And the nights became so much more difficult. I really struggled to switch off from work. I developed insomnia as I lay in bed, anxiety gnawing away at me. Then my back started giving me grief so I slept even less. Somehow I managed to work through to until a month before India's birth.

My life as the mum-of-two aged 2 and under
Joshie and India meet for the first time
A fortnight after Joshua's 2nd birthday, India arrived, to our utter delight. Then the craziness really started! Juggling the competing demands of two littlies was both physically and mentally taxing. Miss India also had her own views on sleep being for the weak. *Sigh*.

But as hard as that time was, I never thought longingly of returning to the law. Quite the opposite, in fact. It felt like complete anathema to me, something which repulsed me. Even as life on a single income became harder, I never considered going back. I felt ill at the prospect of returning to such a toxic work environment as seemed to be the nature of that competitive area of law. Working in such an aggressive, adversarial system was also the antithesis of my values.

My life as the mum of 3 under 3½
Joshie and India meet Sam for the first time
And then Sam's arrival all but sealed the deal. Having 3 littlies so reliant on me made the thought of working as a lawyer so fanciful and unlikely. I was stuck in the deep trenches of motherhood. My severe PND only compounded that feeling.

Where I am now
India's first day of Kindy
It's only now that I'm starting to feel I can pop my head over the parapet and have a peek at the grown-up world I used to inhabit.

I know I can't return to insurance litigation. I'm too burnt-out and scarred from my Sydney experiences. Plus, after consulting a senior female lawyer down here, I know how hard it is to find a part-time job with family-friendly hours in private practice. Sure, I could try to get a job in the public sector at, say, the Ombudsman's Office. But my heart isn't in it. I can't even go through the motions.

Do you know that as I sit here typing this, the pit of my stomach is contorting in pain as anxiety grips at my very core. And that's just the result of *thinking* about it, let alone doing it. I need to listen to my body as well as my heart.

I've recently applied for two non-legal jobs but without success. I missed out on one by a whisker. Whilst it was daunting to have to muster the courage to apply after so many years out of the workforce, it did wonders for my confidence. I realised I had other talents to offer.

And that, my friends, is where I'll have to finish tonight. I'm sorry to leave you hanging. We're getting closer to answering 'Do I want to return to the law?'. Here's a hint - the answer is a very qualified 'yes'. I'll explain those pre-conditions next time!

So tell me, especially for the lawyer Planetarians amongst you, do any of this ring true for you? Is anyone else grappling with the resulting identity issues? Cripes, it's hard being a grown-up, isn't it?!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...