Blue January

I was anxious but also keen to return to work. I didn’t expect there would be nothing for me to do. Yet, this is what I found on my return – and I’m spending my days begging my colleagues to give me something to do. With some result, but mostly very boring tasks that could be done without thinking. And I don’t like that. Not one little bit. Now I’m worried that if things don’t improve, I risk losing my job (again).

On the plus side (my Pollyanna side says) my working hours are working well. I have time to drop off/pick up the kids and work 6 hours without rushing (we pay the after school club and nursery, so I have to pick them up by 6pm). While £1500 fly out of the window to pay for their childcare.

However mornings are not working. I end up being incredibly stressed out every day, because L doesn’t think about what time Pallino has to be at school and is always late. And I end up stepping in and doing most of the work myself even when he’s dropping them off. So, when I get to the office I’ve already worked hard for around 2.5 hours (in case you don’t have children and don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s changing nappies and clothes, making breakfast, make sure everyone has their teeth/face/hands clean including me, preparing everyone’s school bag and put everyone in the car. All the while with a wriggly baby and an active 4yo who don’t want to collaborate because they don’t want to change their clothes, get ready or go out). And when I finish work, if I have to pick them up and put them to bed, that’s around 2.5 hours of work (see above, in reverse order, but with overtired children i.e. even less willing to collaborate). Which makes a total of about 11 hours of work per day, 6 of which spent worrying about losing it, and the remaining 5 forcing someone to do what they don’t want to do. Plus being on call every night. And some people tell me “you’re lucky” when I say that I work “only” 6 hours per day. How hard is to understand that I sacrifice a fifth of my salary because I have to, not because I want to work less. Still, in a way, I’m lucky that my employer allows it.

And just to clarify, what I’m saying applies to every parent/carer, working outside or not – the total working hours don’t change, only the setting, maybe the area of the brain that worries about work. Also, I’m not saying that I don’t like spending those hours with the children, or that it’s always a nightmare. I find ways to make things fun, and we do have good times together. But even playing or finding ways to make it fun requires a conscious effort, physical and mental.

I’m tracking my mood and I’ve recorded quite a few “bad” days, since I started working. My situation at work is a huge contributor, as I know that I feel much better when I’m busy, when I feel useful. I hope that my efforts to speak with my colleagues and make them aware that I’m available to help brings results. In the meantime, let this Blue January go to hell.


A day of change

First day back at work. LittleOne didn’t sleep, and even if I left L to deal with him, I didn’t sleep either. Luckily it’s inset day and Pallino doesn’t have school. L will be home with him after dropping off LittleOne to the nursery. This means I had to look after myself only this morning. I snoozed the alarm clock, I had breakfast comfortably sitting at the table, I had a shower, changed and left without dragging any reluctant child out of the house. If feels weirdly normal and familiar, like nothing happened. Still, today it’s a day of change. I’ve been off work for eleven months and now I’m going back. 

The Piano

It is an upright piano. It’s made of a warm wood, with an inlaid front panel. It looks elegant, and fits well with the furniture. It was bought second hand at a fair, not expensive but it was an effort. Anything for my child, they thought. It was carried six floors up the stairs and placed it there, in the living room, between the door of the balcony and the window, in front of the table. They found an antique lamp and put it on the top, one of those long and narrow ones, in aged golden metal, that can light the music sheet without blinding the pianist. The base was weighted to keep it from falling. It looked stylish, although it covered the top of the piano that had to be lifted to retrieve the music sheet stand, and that was annoying. The piano had a tendency to loose the tuning often, and some of the keys got stuck from time to time. A professional tuner would then be called, and fixed it while blaming the old piano for not being good enough. Something wrong with it, he said, I can only do what I can.

It was played for a couple of years, maybe three, by a girl who didn’t want to practise the exercises between lessons because she thought they were too easy until they weren’t but it was too late, felt embarrassed whenever other people listened to her playing, and wished she disappeared when they asked her to play at birthdays or other family gatherings. Time passed and she started to forget to go to the lessons, left the teacher waiting without even a phone call, until she stopped altogether. She stopped going to the dentist to tighten her braces too. Things were left unfinished, unresolved. In the following years, she had the desire to play from time to time, but felt self-conscious and never did.

Twenty-five years afterwards, the piano is still there, an expensive photo frame holder. It’s seen people leaving, children visiting, couples splitting. A cat has taken it as his throne. The room has been fitted with new flooring, new curtains, new sofas, a new TV.

A woman is sitting in another living room. A cup of tea on her writing table, the children asleep, she is lost in thoughts about her old piano, and that little girl. Can she give herself a second chance?


Cough and anger

LittleOne’s first full day at the nursery. The settling in process last week was smooth and uneventful, he played happily and cried only the first time when I picked him up, not when I left. Today he was happy too, but he has a bad cough and we haven’t slept well lately, and he didn’t manage to take a proper nap all day. The baby room at the nursery was too hot and with a stuffed nose, he couldn’t breathe well, poor love… but I needed a few hours by myself, even if I managed to rest only about half an hour, and the rest of the day passed by “surviving” (fold clean clothes, load washing machine, repeat, tidy up living room, clean kitchen, change bed sheets, time to pick up the children). I was sorry I wasn’t there to cuddle him when he coughed, I was happy I didn’t have to look after him all day. The face of the nursery carer when I told her I haven’t slept. She hadn’t connected that if a baby cannot sleep, the mother doesn’t sleep either. I had imagine this day, my first day without the children, differently. I would go for a walk, or shopping. I would have lunch with some friend. I would write. I’m writing only now that everyone else in the house is sleeping. I was too tired to go out. I didn’t speak with anyone all day.

Pallino is angry. Why is he angry? Nothing happened, that I know of. He’s been aggressive with his school mates, shouts at the teachers. Today I picked him up, we both went to pick up LittleOne, we walked home. It took me a hour to do all this, and I was tired before I started. We get home and he says “I expect to find my food on the table when I come home from school”. I was horrified. When did he hear people talking like that? He’s only watching CBeebies and Lego Batman movies. We certainly don’t talk like that to each other at home. I made him cook dinner with me. If he wants his dinner, he’d better work for it. He was fine after that, we actually had fun cooking together. Another weird moment was before going to bed, when he insisted L read another book to him, and started shouting when L didn’t and asked him to brush his teeth. “Never!”, he replied. He did brush his teeth, eventually. Is this just testing the boundaries? I try to stay calm and carry on regardless, and model the behaviour I’d like to see. But why is he angry?

Mid-life crisis (sort of)

I almost wish I could tell you that I ran away with my 20 year old secretary and bought a Porsche, but I’m always quite low in the career ladder and don’t have a secretary, and my Focus is still OK, so…

My work meeting last week left me a bit depressed. I’m about to return to work and I’ll have significant logistics concerns, juggling two kids, a workaholic husband and my own  work. My job security is something I would happily not have to think about, however I had the clear feeling that I should not take anything for granted. Happy days.

Anyway, I have been thinking about tidying up the house as much as possible before my return to work, and getting rid of anything we don’t really need. It’s a big job, but I will never have all this time at home without working again, so it’s now or never, really. And since I like to study a good theory before actually doing anything, I read Marie Kondo’s book. There is a lot of rethoric and repetitions, like in any self help book, but overall is a pleasant read. And, best of all, I like the philosophy behind it: we tend to accumulate things and lose track of what really counts; if we go through each of our possessions and get rid of anything that doesn’t make us happy, we’ll be left with space and a few precious things around us. We’ll be able to look after the things we love. And we’ll have time and mental space to do what we really like. It all comes down to loving ourselves and avoid excesses, granting space only to what counts. I like this. I’ve been thinking that each room in a home should have some empty space, but it’s so easy to fill up any space you’ve got with things and things and things. Just like we fill up any moment of time with things to do and then we get stressed out and bitter.

Unfortunately L is not of this opinion. He’d keep everything and is not interested in empty spaces, or tidying. Even though, as I write this, I remember that earlier today he saw me putting lots of clothes in bags to give away, and spontaneously picked up a few of his shirts and added them to the pile. So maybe it’s contagious after all. Anyway, I’m focusing on my things, and the children at the same time, and it’s quite enough to keep me busy! I already filled up about 10 big bags with clothes, bags and scarves that I don’t want to keep, and I folded nicely those I want to keep. I still think I have too many clothes, but now I can see them all (one of the basics of the konmari method is to fold the clothes and put them in the drawers vertically, so that they are next to each other, not one on top of the other, in this way you always see everything) and I’ve already started to create new outfits, instead of using the usual old jumper and jeans that were at the top of the pile…

The next step in the konmari method is to sort the books you want to keep and those you don’t want to keep. This is going to be really hard, because we own quite a nice collection of books and we love them. So it’s likely that I don’t want to give any away. However, I will go through all of them next week (some are still in boxes from our last move. So yes, we could get rid of them and we wouldn’t even notice. As for so many things we own. I do remember all my books though) And again, L pretty much disagrees with all of this.

Is this my mid-life crisis? Kind of. I’m getting rid of things I kept for 15-20 years. Clothes I bought and never wore because somehow they never felt quite right. I need air.

And I joined a choir. Nothing special for most people, but I had never done anything like this in the past. I actually avoid any artistic activity usually (apart from creative writing). I’m not even sure how and why I decided to go. It’s close to my place, there was a taster session and I found it relaxing. I still can’t sing, but it’s fun, and it’s peaceful. And it gets me out of the house and on my own for a hour every week, without any tiring physical activity (yes, that would be going to the gym…) A good experience, so far.