One of the most significant challenges that has presented itself since having the Dude has to do with my work. I’ve not been working now for over a year and it’s a new experience for me but feels really right. The issue is that surviving on one income is not easy for us and we didn’t really plan well so now financial issues are putting the pressure on and I’ve been toying with the idea of somehow going back to work. But at my core I don’t think it’s the right thing.
I feel like I need to give a bit of background here: I never knew what I wanted to do career-wise and was always a bit anti-career, at least in terms of the whole ‘independent woman’ thing and making big money selling my soul etc. While I’ve never felt very maternal, I have always considered mothering to be an important element of female identity. Now I’ve had a child, I’ve come upon the realisation that having babies and bringing up children, real wholesome family life, is not in keeping with living in modern-day western society.
I never did any study to get a qualification that would get me a high-profile, money-making job. I only ever studied what interested me. So after my degree I didn’t really have a plan. As most Canberrans do, I ended up in the public service (yawn), and although it took a while to find a role that I was even vaguely interested in, I got used to the job security, decent pay, and other employment conditions that made working fairly cushy. I operated at about 50 per cent capacity at best, and enjoyed being lazy. I had no idea how good I had it. But the downside was that public service achievements are only impressive within the government sphere, which isn’t really in the real world. This means that although I was working my way up and getting into more editorial roles (the kind of thing that really held my interest), I wasn’t really getting ahead. Editing some corporate magazine which could easily get axed with a change of government and contains stories about some nerdy freak working in the public service for so long that he got a framed bit of paper from the Secretary of the department saying how long he’s worked there is really not that impressive. You end up having arguments with your non-editor but nonetheless power-tripping boss about why meaningless jargon like ‘departmental executive briefing paper’ shouldn’t be written with initial capitals and the only story you considered even remotely compelling was canned because it might encourage people to drink too much at the Christmas party and create a public liability insurance nightmare. It’s a whole other world, the Australian Public Service. There’s a book in that… Or at least another blog post.
Anyway, the government stuff did stand me in good stead when I went to London to live in 2007. I got work fairly easily and although the pay wasn’t fabulous, it was good enough to live as I wanted and spend too much on cheap crap from Primark. I didn’t pay a lot of my Aussie bills while overseas, so I came back to a dodgy credit rating in 2010. I made an attempt to sort this out early on when I discovered it while trying to apply for an extension to my mortgage to finance our wedding in April, but then I couldn’t get in touch with the obscure company my debt was referred to and the wedding happened, then I was pregnant four months later and the rest is history.
Mr Chewbacca and I didn’t really plan the Dude’s conception, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, and one thing just happened after another so quickly that suddenly I was facing a countdown to having no income and relying entirely on Mr C’s contract money. It’s reasonable money because he’s on a contract but he gets no holidays at all which makes it tough. We moved to the south west suburbs to save a bit but even that seems to have cost us more, or at least as much as what it cost us living in the ritzy eastern suburbs. We now live virtually week to week, with me regularly getting in trouble for spending too much on groceries. I have a bad history with money, let’s just say that. There is a whole series of blog posts in that!
A few months ago I was offered a freelance role out of the blue. It was perfect: digital copywriter, kick ass creative agency, government project, and I negotiated a good daily rate. It was to be 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, for two months. I tried to work out some agreement about working from home but that didn’t fly. So I looked into care. Fuck! Daycare was pretty much off the cards as soon as we considered it. There’s no way I’m putting the Dude in with twenty other kids and getting him infected with god knows what. Plus being away from me and from his familiar surroundings all day every day would just be unfair. So we looked at family daycare, which was a similar type thing. Not doable. My dad agreed to come and care for him while I arranged something, and Mr C managed to negotiate one day a week working from home which was fantastic. Eventually, after finding nothing suitable in terms of daycare, I interviewed a young nanny who was just awesome. I figured we wouldn’t be able to claim government daycare money but I’d be being paid so much that it wouldn’t really matter. I hoped that in the second month I’d get the chance to work from home more.
So… it all fell through! The project I was supposed to be working on was put ‘on hold’ (I’m assuming this means a government agency couldn’t justify that kind of expenditure of a website) and that was it, back to square one. Oh, I was so happy! Okay, don’t get me wrong, I wanted to work, and we really need the money, but the whole crazy scenario made me realise just how much the Dude needs me and how important my time with him is. I realised that this time is so very short and it could make a big difference for the Dude. As I said at the beginning, I firmly believe that the way we live isn’t conducive to an entirely healthy attachment to family and upbringing, so mothering my son in a natural way is all important. But there are sacrifices to be made in order to do that. And so far, returning to work just doesn’t seem the right thing to do.