The relief of being ordinary

Somewhere between the roof leaking into our newly renovated room, requiring an emergency electrician, half a roof worth of new roofing iron and a continually backing up septic tank I began to troll the job adverts. Not seriously, mind, because I was staying at home with the girls until Pip went to school in 2017. But just having a peek.

I applied for a remote position with a company whose ethics and transparency mirrored my own, but it wasn't to be. I went for an interview at the university, but it also wasn't to be. I applied for a job locally, but it wasn't to be. Actually, the last one made me raise my eyebrow enough that when I got a rejection letter, I hit reply and asked for feedback. They called me, asked me for an interview. A few days later, they offered me the job. I mowed the lawn whilst the girls were at daycare, wondering if I was completely neglecting my children by doing this. How would they (me) cope without me (them)? However, the promise of a part time job with decent pay and conditions lured me in.

We were off. The first few weeks were brutal. Everyone hated daycare (same previously adored daycare, just an extra day), I hated dropping them off, I hated picking up screaming children who had been seemingly fine moments before I walked in. I still hate 'Feral Thursday' where both of my kids have a day of just letting it all out, whatever 'it' may be. Just typing about Thursdays makes my shoulders tense up.

I have noticed the benefits. There is money in our bank account. Millie has blossomed with confidence. Pip has had a language explosion and is making friends. I really enjoy talking (or not talking) to adults. I have Things To Talk About when I get home from work. Mr S gets to not listen to me worry about money.

For the longest time I wore a frugal badge with pride. Oddly enough, I seem to be more frugal, homemade and Suzy Homemaker than ever before, perhaps because it's a choice, not a necessity? I don't know. I do know that when my HR department sent an email asking if anyone wanted a bag of apples 'past their due by date' (snort) for their animals, I ran down the hallway as fast as my hot pink high heels would allow to collect my bounty.

'We didn't know you had pigs Amy.'
'I don't! I have a dehydrator and a Fowlers Vacola unit!'

8kg of perfectly fine apples. Yes please.

I digress.

I am also in the incredibly confronting position of missing my girls so much it makes me want to cry whilst filing in the compactors, then when they're home with me and asking me oh so many question at the same time, or yelling because I said we weren't buying icy poles, I just want them to go away and GIVE MUMMY SOME SPAAACE. So much love. So much frustration.

M starts school next week. I'm not mentally ready for it. It's hard to grieve your firstborn tiny baby going to big school when said almost-five year old is PUMPED and READY FOR ACTION. All I can see is the baby years slipping away. P starts next year. I'm absolutely not ready for that one, but she will be. This year is a juggle of daycare arrangements, work rosters, wonderfully understanding supervisors, exceptionally accommodating daycare providers and a little family called Smyth, growing up and into the world.

I devoted a lot of time last year to professionally writing, and building a blog with an audience, and piece by piece, I lost love for it. Facebook blog groups seemed to be SO many people shouting into the void 'HERE IS MY BLOG. HERE IS MY AWESOME POST. SHARE IT. WHY AM I GETTING NO SHARES? WHAT DO I DO? HERE IS MY BLOG. HERE IS MY AWESOME POST.' and then I was done.

It felt icky. It felt fake. I felt like I wanted no part of it. So I stopped.

I didn't realise the relief I felt when I got a job and started going to work. I didn't have to participate in a fake world to get reads to get sponsored posts and free products and make a living doing it. If that's the world, it's not for me.

I read a lot of great literature whilst job hunting, the best being Jon Acuff's 'Do Over'. Do yourself a favour, go and check it out. There's many ways to love the life and the job you have, and many ways to get great tools to make a change.

Many musings aside, there is a light in all of this. For three days of the week, I go to an office where everyone can wipe their own butts, no one yells at me AND they pay me to go there. Winner.

I used to be a grown up.

When M was a tiny baby who cried a lot and I was a new mother who also cried a lot because my baby cried a lot and why can't I fix this... well, my aunt called me and said 'She is learning to be a baby and you are learning to be a mother. That is all. It is okay.'

I still remember the timbre of her voice as she said those words to me and the relief I felt then is still the relief I feel now.

In many ways I suppose I am still learning to be a mother. As M grows into a toddler/little girl/tiny dictator/threenager I am again at a loss as to best roll with the punches. P is strangely enough a different person, so she's not exactly the same as M, making her journey different too.

I went back to my job when M was 20 weeks old. It was agreed upon that I would work from home, and ten days out from my return to work, it was decided that that would't work for my employers. I bandied about with the option of freelancing for them, but that wouldn't work because they feared it would be viewed as a 'sham contract', despite my having been a sole trader in my friend for the past ten years. So we reluctantly found a daycarer and I reluctantly went back to work, and hated it. So tired. Stressed at leaving my non crawling baby with someone else. Tired.

Then I began to enjoy it. Coffee alone! Shopping alone! BEING ALONE! I struggled with my workload and balancing short days with continuity of projects. I struggled with my colleagues who couldn't understand which days I was working, week to week. (I worked the same days every week.) I loved being a grown up again, but I found it so difficult.

I fell pregnant with P when M was 10 months old and my morning sickness was revolting. I carried a bottle of soda water in my handbag at all times and snuck out of the office at 10am every morning for a pair of potato cakes with chicken salt. I ate a lot. Some early pregnancy complications meant that we didn't feel like sharing this pregnancy with the world until we were certain everything was progressing ok. I mean, my gigantic bump at 6 weeks should have been certainty enough, but I hid that sucker under a scarf. At week 14 I handed in my maternity leave form to surprised employers, who looked even more shocked when I took my scarf off to show them that indeed, I was eating for two!

Surprise! Not just fat.

It was a difficult and tiring pregnancy which took it's toll on me early on. In hindsight finishing work in my second trimester would have been a lot easier on my body, but my financial situation didn't allow it. I balanced everything pretty poorly and forgot everything both at work and at home. I pinned a lot of things and spent a lot of time staring blankly at a wall trying to stay awake. At week 35 I finished my last day at work. Two of my colleagues remembered, made me a card and organised an afternoon tea.

Best. Card. Ever.

As the time to return to work approached I still wasn't ready. I extended my leave and thought about what I might like to do come September for my return to work.

A few phone calls later from my employers and I was offered a redundancy. I accepted and all lines of communication ceased, and on the last day of the financial year it was finalised. After five years of service, a place that was a huge part of my life suddenly wasn't anymore. It was a strange feeling. Even though it was an outcome that I was happy with, it still really felt like I was fired.

I'm not entirely sure that my employers actually told anyone of my final departure. I still run into my lovely ex-colleagues who ask when I'll be returning from maternity leave. It's safe to say I don't feel the love!

However I digress. Today I realised something important.

M and I were making brownies in the kitchen. She was sitting on the bench covered in chocolate, licking the beater and grinning at me. There was music on in the background, the kitchen was warm, P was snoozing peacefully in the other room and we were happy.

Photograph (c) Andrew Smyth

You can tell I love her, because I share the beaters and spatula.

I don't have a 'career head' on me at the moment. I'm here, enjoying the moments that make me smile, make me sad, drive me bonkers and make memories. I'm able to enjoy this time fully because this is what I do in the mornings. I get up and spend time with my family. It's because of the ailing print book economy and small business decline that I'm able to do this. I'm so grateful I live in a place that allows us to live and thrive on one wage. M and P are tiny for about five minutes. It's five minutes that I want to grab, bottle and hold on to forever.

Pretty nice, eh?