Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Groundhog Day

So it's been a stink day at work.

Manager stomping round huffy, complaining that I didn't put enough information on a purchase order, annoyed with me over having 2 physio appointments next week and the sarcy raised eyebrow because one of them happens to be on Friday afternoon. Well actually, I made it that way because DP's physio appointment with the same guy is at 4pm, and I know if my appointment is right before his, he can come get me on his way back from picking SD up from school, and then give me a lift home after, because I can't drive myself and I can't walk, you jerk-off. I also don't have unlimited money for taxi fares, because you lot pay me such a bloody pittance. But never mind, I'll just wave a magic wand and make my knee better shall I, because clearly my torn ligament is inconveniencing the company too much. And while it may seem to you that most employees would craftily make their medical appointments for a Friday afternoon so they can get home early and crack open the bottle of red, what you don't realise is that most employees are not stepmothers, and you have no idea what the Friday evening adjustment period is like in the house of a weekend father. Put it this way - it's not something you hurry home to, let alone finish early for extra exposure.

I sometimes feel that I am reliving the same day over and over at work. The same finger pointing snippy crap. The same nitpicking over stupid things while ignoring the really big things that we have to get sorted. Staring at the same screen, and repeating the same stuff over and over.

I decided while I was away in China that I really wasn't cut out for the corporate office environment, and that I am going to change careers. Gulp. A very scary thing, especially when re-training involves an unpaid year of study. When I thought back to all the things I'd enjoyed doing in the past, all of those things were when I was working with young people. I used to work in a wacky arts centre, doing an after school club for local teenagers with behavioural difficulties, and I have honestly never enjoyed a job so much in my life. I did it part time, as a student, and I wanted to go into some kind of youth work or work with special needs after uni, but went down the safe career path I did because it paid better and offered the steady and reliable career trajectory, instead of an uncertain life working in the nonprofit and badly funded public sectors. I thought I'd made the right choice for a while - good income, paid off my debts - but now I find myself in this eternal Groundhog Day scenario, and feeling like the place I spend most of my time in not only has no meaning and benefit to humankind, but is completely sucking my soul dry.

Now I work with a few people who LOVE IT. They like nothing better than to go downstairs to the canteen in their lunch hours, and discuss the finer points of TCP/IP networking, Linux versus Windows, and how many cores their processors have. I hobbled downstairs for my lunch today and overheard such a conversation, and it really made me smile. Why? No, not because I love all that stuff and am vastly interested in it. Precisely the opposite. Which is great - because it affirmed to me that I am not where I am supposed to be. I love seeing and hearing people be passionate about their work, and I wish that I could be one of them. But IT is not what I am passionate about. I've made the right decision to make this change to my life. Thanks, ubergeeks.

So, having made this decision, the scary part is setting about the How. I have started to do my application for the MA course that I am interested in, which is Youth and Community Development, which also carries the Professional Youth Worker accreditation for youth work in the UK. Assuming they even like my application (although the cynical part of me says that these days so long as you're willing to pay full fees they'll have you) I will have an interview to get through, in which I will no doubt have to explain why I am doing this since I haven't really done any work with young people for the past 2 years. Yes, I got swallowed up by the corporate machine and became more interested in spending my salary than the greater good of humanity for a while there, okaaaay? But I'm ready to give a shit again!

The other and infinitely more scary thing is how I am going to fund this. We're not exactly rolling in money - and although DP is firmly behind me and wants more than anything to see me happy, it is a slight worry. It kinda hinges on our mortgage going on to a variable rate next year and being able to take advantage of the very low interest rates, which will free up some funds in our kitty. The other thing it will hinge on is getting a Career Development loan, to fund day to day living costs while studying.

Now while I am excited about this potential new direction I'm going to take, anyone reading this who is a stepmum will probably also relate to the sense of guilt we often feel when we do something that is solely for us, especially when that may have repercussions for the rest of the family. I know that SD won't come to any harm if money is tight for a year - her needs will always be met, we will both make sure of that, but we won't be able to indulge nearly as many of her wants. And I've expressed concern on here before that my SD is, like many others of her generation, quite a materialistic child, and she's heading towards teenagerdom, when they are no longer so amused by simple free pleasures such as kicking through the autumn leaves in wellies, bike riding or playing board games. I worry that she'll blame me for a drop in our living standards, and resent it. While DP has quite rightly pointed out that I would be setting her a very good example by sacrificing some material pleasures for a while in order to study for my MA, which will provide me with the means to hopefully earn a better salary in future, doing something I enjoy, I doubt she will see that when she isn't able to buy the new Miley Cyrus album.

But none of this means I can't do it. Nowhere in the Manual of Stepmotherhood does it say "thou shalt sacrifice all thine ambitions at the altar of his children". It would be a sure-fire recipe for resentment if I was to carry on trying to plod on at this job for the sake of SD being able to buy a few more DS games. And at the back of my mind, there is also the situation of us having our own family gnawing away at me - I might never have children, that is something I may have to ultimately accept, but could I live with that AND knowing that I'd never fulfilled my career ambitions and found something that I loved to do with purpose and happiness? As stepmothers, we already sacrifice quite a lot in our lives. Our weekends. A carefree courtship with our loved ones. Money. Holidays. Being the first wife, having a first child with our partners, in some cases having children at all. And in some cases, our sanity! Bearing all this in mind, why is it we have such an issue when we need to ask for something for us?

But - something that actually has a massive bearing on how happy we are as stepmothers is how happy we are with ourselves. My other "Eureka" moment in China came when I realised that I'd actually be a better stepmother, role model, support, to SD if I was happier with myself, and followed the path I was meant to, rather than the path I thought others wanted me to follow. By plumping for the safe career with the reliable salary and job opportunities, I thought I'd be happy, but all I have is more stuff - and still no money at the end of the month. More than anything, I want to be able to teach my SD to listen to her heart, and I can't teach her that if I don't live that example myself.


  1. You are an inspiration, and I echo your values entirely. Having a pretty stink day too. And off to physio 2x/week as well. And stuff. Meh. Thanks for this post, I really needed it today :)

  2. oh the physio is painful huh...good luck with it hun! x

  3. Good for you!!!! I hear ya on the guilt...I feel so trapped sometimes because I can't just pick up and go anywhere to expand my career. I can't expect my husband to move thousands of miles away from his son for me to make an extra's a weird place to be.
    I'm so excited for you...can't wait to hear about the journey!

  4. I totally get this in so many ways..where do I start? I quit a stable job 7 years ago and went on a "sabbatical" for 1.5 years. The day I decided to quit I was driving home from work, steam rising off the top of my head from yet another cluster-F of a day. And then I just said to myself, "That's it! This is the last time I am going to drive home feeling this way". That didn't mean that I had made the decision to quit then and there, I just realized that I had to make a choice - either find a way to enjoy the job I have, quit and find something new, or just do the same-old, same-old. The long and short of it is I quit, and the money was tight for awhile, very tight. My husband was supportive but I knew it was hard on him to bear the whole financial burden. And the guilt about the SK? I felt all of that too. But it really did work out for the best in the end. And although it took longer than I wanted to feel fincially secure again, it was totally worth it. I'm really excited for you. And if you ever feel nervous about it and frustrated, I'll do all the cheering you'll ever need, because I totally believe in what you are doing! I've Binder Dundat. - G

  5. I know completely how you feel. I gave up my "dream career" because it wasn't condusive to having an instant family. I was working a rotating schedule, 2- 10 hour days, 2-14 hour nights, and then 4 days off. Plus having to work weekends, and holidays. Now I have a job I still enjoy, but I miss what I loved, plus I would probably be making more money, but that isn't the top priority all the time.

    I hope everything works out for you!

  6. "something that actually has a massive bearing on how happy we are as stepmothers is how happy we are with ourselves."
    BINGO! Good on you for seeing what you want and at least being able to articulate it! It may take lots of small steps, it may take time, but go for it. As they say, do what you love and the money will follow. If you end up a happier person, your kids and your family will be so much happier too.

  7. Don't think about it too much. Just do it, as they say.

    And i think there is something very true in the sentiment that a flush but resentful step-parent is not as good as temporarily poorer, but happier step parent. But anyway, your career is your responsibility. Leave the financial maintenance to the parents!

    Hopefully with your mind made up the last few weeks and months of your job won't be so bleak. Get the application form out!

  8. I'm in exactly the same spot. I'm looking at my career options to escape a toxic corporate environment that's dragging me down so much it effects my home life and weekends. But every change looks like I'm not experienced enough or will have to take a sizable pay decrease...which I don't know I can do with the mortgage and court costs. Hard choices right now...

    And I loved the comment you made about Fridays with weekend stepkids...Definitely something unique to stepfamilies- "Transition Day"

  9. you are doing the right thing!!! Just don't - for a moment - think about DP and SD. He's the parent - his responsibility. Make sure that when you wake up a frost clear morning 5-10 years from now - that you don't resent them - and feel you've wasted your life.

    Your life - your choice. He already made his when he had the kid!

    Way to go girl