I’m Just A Shirker

The fact is I don’t want a job.

Something to do: yes. Money: most definitely.

But I have to admit that the thought of getting up early (especially now that it is getting darker and colder) and trudging to the station, being squished and delayed, then disgorging with all the other ant-like creatures to do largely pointless work until home time – well, it does not appeal.

I realise this makes me sound like a spoiled brat. I guess I am.

At first when I did not return to work after my maternity leave, it was a continuation of recuperation and getting to know the baby. I had SPD and was in a lot of pain. Plus I was utterly besotted with my daughter and could not take my eyes off her. (Somewhere, in an old, now inaccessible technology, there exist hours and hours of footage of a baby doing absolutely nothing, but holding endless fascination for her mum.)   There was the novelty, too, of a different place and pace, after years of a fairly high octane working environment and long hours. And then as she grew, she became still more fascinating, and we spent every minute together; learning numbers and colours, singing songs, going for little walks, dancing around the supermarket and reading stories. I don’t think I was ever bored.

Shortly after she began spending a few hours a day at nursery, the twins came along. I was busy again. (Even though we got a nanny when the twins were born, as I feared I would never get my eldest to school on time if I had two babies in tow.)

I admit that somewhere along the line I did start to get bored and frustrated. Not with my children, whose company I preferred over most grownups’ anyway. But increasingly they were at school for much of the day. There was always something to do; as we moved house, for example, I was responsible for home improvements, building works, garden design and so on. And that can take up a lot of time if (as I did) you take it seriously. Sketching plans, researching furniture and plants, meeting builders and so on. I do realise that some people do this AND have jobs. But as my husband often reminded me, the children were my job. School pick-ups, after-school activities and play dates, helping with homework, bedtime stories and generally being there for them, talking to them, listening to them.

When my maternity leave was drawing to an end and I was agonising over what to do, he said he’d rather his kids were brought up by an educated person  – and their mother – than a paid nanny who might not speak good English and would not love them.  In the early years, I think the children did get a very good start in life because I was there with them and I took my responsibility very seriously, and loved it.  It was good for them (at first), but was it good for me?  No.

Later on, I sort of wanted a job, or a business, or an interest. But I wanted to be there for them in the mornings, and when they came home, and in the holidays, and when one of them was home sick.

And with no financial imperative… My husband was a banker. We lived in a big house.  Why make life stressful for everyone?   Anything I did would likely cost money (work clothes, transport, not to mention possible investment if I were to start a business of my own, and childcare).  I couldn’t imagine anyone paying me enough for it to be a positive NPV project.  Not to mention the stress.  I knew it would fall to me (not their dad) to organise childcare and be back in time to relieve the nanny, to be the one to stay home if a child was ill, to coordinate activities and all the stuff that usually falls to the mother, whether she works or no.

Maybe the main thing is that there was nothing particular I wanted to do. I wasn’t a brain surgeon or a human rights lawyer, making a difference, saving lives.  I was disillusioned by the corporate money go round, which held no interest.  And I wasn’t an artist, compelled to paint, sing or write.  So if I couldn’t make money, and I didn’t have a burning desire, why rock the boat?

There were things I wanted to do. But maybe not enough. Not enough to overcome the feeling that I wasn’t good enough.  Plus ça change.



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Florence Feynman

I am a middle aged, middle class woman, thinking.

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