Returning to Work?

I had grand visions of blogging, an outlet, a diary, somewhere where I can vent my thoughts on the mundane everyday, my saviour. In the long-term, I had also hoped that it would provide me with a source of income that would allow the sort of work-life balance that is still mostly absent in the UK workforce, preventing many mothers from returning to work, if they wished. I am one of those mums. Returning to work, for us, meant high childcare costs and weighing out the options, it seems ludicrous for me to work, be away from my child, for the sake of spending all earnings on childcare costs. Who can possibly afford £90/day!? It seemed daft and as much as I needed the occasional break, especially without any family immediately around – which is the case for many of us these days! – I decided I’d stay home.

Then circumstances had us moving a few times, which, frankly, meant that it was probably good I wasn’t working!

In his short life, Dragon has moved a grand total of 4 times. The last one was particularly tough and 4 months later, he still misses his friends. But on the bright side, he has started school and plenty of friends and distractions are helping him move on and settle here. This is meant to be it now. No more moves. Put down roots. Our forever home. That’s in need of total renovation, but you know, you can’t have it all at once. Life happens in stages, over time. How boring would it be otherwise? It’s a story, right?

So my story picks up here, where we’re settling into a new community, away from friends, teeny bit closer to the in-laws. With Dragon off to school, my husband doing an epic commute to London everyday, it’s time for me to return to work. Except that’s just it. It’s been 5 long years. LOOOOONG years. Where do you even start? You’ve created a whole new person since the last time you touched your CV! Back in the day, churning out mean presentations for senior stakeholders seemed like I had reached the next promotion, top of my world-type stuff. HA! Wait till you have kids, right!? Your whole presence, meaning, values, ethos, priorities, your essence and CORE gets knocked sideways and you start seeing life through a different lens. Remember I had considered returning to work when Dragon was 9 months? I had such itchy feet; I couldn’t wait! Surely I was more than “just a mum”, watching this tiny tot, feeding it, keeping him safe, entertaining him, cuddling him, and all those things? Back then, my worth had to be somewhat substantiated by a monthly paycheck. I was confused, as many new mums are. Thrown in the deep end, hoping not to drown. Except now I long to stay at home. Of course now I miss those things. They seem like a lifetime ago because this tiny person in only four years has mastered SO MANY incredible things! And it makes you proud beyond words. I’ve come to appreciate the little things, the conversations, this person you’ve made and had such a huge influence over, who still comes to you for comfort and cuddles (the BEST!), with a cheeky sense of humour, who gets your weird train of thought and quirks, and has nothing but admiration for. And those little moments, the sum of all those, fills the time so much.

But you may say, they’re off to school, you have pretty much the whole day to yourself: What do you do?

For a start, house keeping, DIY, errands, school-runs, managing contractors around home improvement projects, household budgeting, etc.

There’s the rub. If I were to return full-time, all those jobs would be pushed onto the ‘free time’ around work. I’d see less of my family, more stress, Dragon in wrap-around care at school, rushed dinners, and overall, poorer quality of life. This leaves, for me, part-time or flexible roles, but I’m finding more and more, that unless you were previously in some form of employment that you can return to, they are incredibly hard to come by. Work in retail is a no-no; you can kiss your weekends good-bye. Why is it that unless I sacrifice the quality of my family life entirely, I’m not able to secure a job that would utilise my skills and knowledge – surely valuable assets to a company even on a part-time or flexible basis?

A work-life balance that suits most family is almost non-existent in the UK. The more I research, the more I’m finding that society is built very much on family-unfriendly fundamentals. Competent, intelligent women are staying at home and unable to contribute to the economy because of a basic lack of opportunities. Blogging has filled a small gap but that’s become so saturated that websites are falling into the depths of forgottenness. (Plus, the techy, maintenance aspects of keeping a blog/website are a true pain in the behind and off-putting.) But that aside, why is such a huge population almost entirely neglected? There are willing people out there looking for work! Why is it not the norm to accommodate a healthy work-life balance – a life where children don’t feel neglected, parents aren’t constantly under stress and pressure and actually able to spend more quality time with family, whether working or not? Why should it be such a punishment to want to work? Why should work be at the expense of family life, and not in parallel? Why isn’t there generally a more sympathetic attitude towards families and wanting to spend time with them?

I’m absolutely baffled but also enthused to try and shift this notion. It shall become a kind of mission to empower everyone to find their work-life balance and lobby companies and government to create a happier country, that shall benefit the economy and ultimately everyone as a whole. And maybe we all shall become more accustomed to a hygge life.

My first stop: The Work Life Balance Centre. http://www.worklifebalancecentre.org/

And in the meantime, I shall stick to volunteering 😉

 

A x

2016

Just wanted to say…
Happy New Year!

Frohes Neues Jahr!

新年明けましておめでとう!
Hope you saw in 2016 with a bang and boom. Mine was pleasantly uneventful… Half a glass of prosecco, some strange acts on Jools Holland, and thrilled like a piece of cucumber about being back in Scotland after wonderful ten days in Germany with family. I was very happy to see the end of the past three years – according to my horoscope, quite ‘bad’ three years, whatever that means. It’s in my Japanese blood to be superstitious – from horoscopes to blood types and palms, whether I want to or not, it’s always in the back of my head. Sure, some amazing things happened but I can’t deny that since January 2013, shortly after our move to Richmond, things started going awry. House sale falling through because a fox died by the air brick and consequently having about a thousand flies in the property to greet prospective buyer. (Thankfully my understanding sister consequently sent us the video to the ‘fox song’ which had only just been released at the time, to help me see the funny side of it…!) Car engine blowing up for the second time after having fitted a new one and was theoretically supposed to be OK for another 100,000 miles…! Just shit out of our control where I’m glad that the likelihood of it happening again are slimmer because my horoscope says so. And I want to believe it. Badly. 

So to everyone who’s looking forward to a fresh start, making changes, being positive, I raise a glass! PROST! CHEERS! カンパイ!

Here’s to 2016!


A Little Dartmouth Getaway

Bromance on the beach

I attended a wedding this past weekend in Dartmouth, Devon, UK. If unfamiliar with the coastal town, its nearest large city is Exeter and the American city of Dartmouth is indeed named after here. A truly picturesque postcard-perfect sort of town, on the southwestern coast of England.

We embarked on our journey in the late evening Thursday and arrived at the lovely self-catering Longbow Barns Apartments in the dead of night. Oh, how delightful it was to be greeted by a warm apartment after a 7.5h car journey! Dragon had woken up around midnight and proceeded to play ‘I Spy’ for some good thirty minutes before continually drifting in and out of sleep until our arrival at said destination. After swiftly unpacking our belongings in our home for the weekend, we set off to sleep…

….to be greeted by the most glorious sunshine and a view overlooking the harbour. Oh how delightful indeed! My darling husband immediately nestled himself in on the couch, announcing that he would quite happily live the rest of his days there! After the arrival of my in-laws/the wedding babysitters, my husband being true to his personality trait (yes, I profiled him, too!), had cabin fever and bundled us all in the car to set off to the nearest beach, Blackpool Sands. We have visited many a beach, as you may have guessed from some previous posts (hubs being a water addict!), but this was truly stunning. Tiny skimming stones in all shades of beige and grey made up the beach (which remarkably resemble walking through quicksand!), encased by impressive rock formations on either side. On the cliff tops, sheep were grazing happily and wind-swept pine trees dotted the hills behind. And I was obviously not alone in my admiration as we spotted seals on our seashore adventure! AMAZING. What a wonderful introduction to Dartmouth, truly.

 

Sunshine and wind on Blackpool Sands
Sunshine and wind on Blackpool Sands
Fun at Blackpool Beach
Fun at Blackpool Beach
Kite-flying at Blackpool Beach
Kite-flying at Blackpool Beach

That evening we strolled down to the town centre to meet up with the wedding party for drinks in a proper old man’s pub. I enjoyed a G&T (or two) for the first time in months and admittedly, it didn’t take long for me to feel very jolly! Conversation and drinks flowed as we caught up with dear old friends and the bride and groom. We left at a reasonable time – a toddler who wakes at 5 is no joy, let alone with a hangover! – to be greeted by walls. Had we really walked down these hills!?!? How were we going to scale up them to return to the barn!? I was out of breath five steps in… this was going to take a while. Neither Huz nor I said anything the whole way, just panting for air, sweat dripping from our foreheads in the cool November breeze. It was sobering… and the aching followed heartily the next day.

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The wedding ceremony was the following day and proceeded at three o’clock ON THE DOT (like, wow! Talk about time-keeping!) at the very quaint and exquisite Royal Castle Hotel on the harbour front. I’m sure half the buildings were built before such a thing as a spirit level existed! Or they just liked to eye-ball it…?! My friend, the Bride, was escorted by her father with a nervous but excited Groom awaiting her at the other end. Pure happiness in the air… followed by lots of merriment in the bar below and local restaurant Alf Resco. I won’t go into the details as they’re a bit hazy…

We returned in the wee hours of the morning, collapsed and repeated the early wake-up call for yet another day. Little man with so much energy needed an escape so we returned to Blackpool Beach… with all adults looking a bit beaten up and a toddler running circles around them… But in that tired moment, walking in these peaceful surroundings with loved ones around me, I took stock of everything that I have, how the best things in life are free (in the words of Janet and Luther), and that made my heart smile.

Fun at Blackpool Beach, splashing the water
Fun at Blackpool Beach, splashing the water