This is a blog for those returning to work after a period of absence. This is a blog for when you feel frustrated and fearful and wonder if you still have it in you.
This last two weeks at work has been positive and encouraging in many respects, I have signed a new contract with the law firm I work with, I had my first coaching session to help me on the blog, I have done some really interesting legal work, I have the beginnings of a new online venture and have kicked off discussions with potential partners and yet…..well, the actual work bit, has on the whole been a little bit dissatisfying.
That old foe of the ‘balance being slightly wrong’ has reappeared on the horizon and has been inching ever closer.
Less than a year ago, this would have been my signal to retreat, to take cover in the barracks of our love worn home and to declare I wasn’t ready. But not today. This time I want to make it work and I need to find a way. I’m loving what I am doing and want to protect my new ambition and new energy. This time I am prepared for battle and I am ready for the fight, advancing on two fronts.
The first thing standing in my way, is my reluctance to be that super mum, that epitome of organisation. I like our relaxed way of life, I like that I have (almost) always cooked the children meals fresh and homemade that day, I like the slow time around the chaos of running from one activity to the other. I don’t particularly want to become a military operation, a smooth running machine scheduled and prepped with Sandhurst precision. I don’t want to spend my spare hours, meal prepping, filling my freezer, packing snack boxes and school bags ahead…even when I know in my heart that it would make the balance so much easier to manage.
So I ask, what is the source of my resistance? Why do I continue to ignore the many working mum hacks tried and tested to make our days run that bit smoother? It is a question I have been asking myself a lot this week and I can only conclude that it is symbolic. I have to acknowledge that my reluctance to become more organised, more efficient, is simply a reluctance to take that final step away from my old life. Being a stay at home mum comes with its own challenges but the one thing you do have is the luxury of time (it’s all relative!) and by adopting a new stricter, timetabled approach it feels like I am putting on a new badge, officially recognising me as a working mum, which is a role I have spent a long time shying away from; a role I denied ever wanting. Yet here I am, in the new phase of our family life and I have to own up that I am enjoying it. Which means that if I don’t want the daily grind to chip away at the emergence of Kerry not just mum, then I am going to have to face the reality and pick up the tried and tested tools of the many women who have already walked this path!
The second front on which I need to advance, is the realisation I am just not up to speed! Working around drop off and pick up means my working days are short and yet if I am completely honest one of the reasons that I am working so many evenings is that it still takes me a long time just to get in the zone. I would no longer call it procrastination, I genuinely want to knuckle down but just moving my head from mummy to lawyer/writer is taking so much more effort than I want it to. Then there has been a loan agreement this last week that I have literally being wrestling with and it has been winning! I have felt so disappointed in myself and so cross – it’s not even been that complicated or long – it’s something I would have done in a couple of hours once upon a time, yet it has taken me days. Why? What’s wrong with me – I know this stuff, I know I do, but ugh!!! It’s making me tense just thinking about it!
I discussed it with my wonderful colleague and supporter and the words were, “you are just not match fit”. Words which (I am sorry G) were a bit of a blow….even though I know they were kindly meant. But again, there is such a difference to my reaction, as I do not feel defeated. With every step forward my resilience is growing and after the initial hurt, I have actually found comfort in the words, “I am just not match fit”. Is every champion immediately medal worthy simply on deciding that’s what they want? Of course not! They have to fight, push, train and determine their way to peak performance.
So that’s what I am going to do and I am going to enjoy it.
It’s all in the attitude – I would have felt absolutely beaten this time last year but with a new approach, I am taking pleasure in those moments when knowledge long forgotten pops up and allows me to make meaningful contributions. I am taking pride in rediscovering old methods and processes. I am starting to believe in myself and trust that yes, I still have the skills that will get me back to my very best, so long as I keep going.
And as I write this blog, I am reminded of two things:
- I have written before about Kate Northrup’s idea of a fertile void – the idea that we need time to lay fallow and if that happens, the ideas, creativity and entrepreneurial seeds which grow, will come back bigger and better, stronger because of the years passed and the rest;
- About Jo Pavey – the British athlete who ran her personal best at the age of 40, 8 months after giving birth to her second child. I heard her once on the radio and in her words, she just needed to get out of her own way….She just had to believe and practice with that belief.
So here I am, warming up, exercising my old brain muscles, accepting I am a working mum, putting our systems in place and getting myself and our family match fit. I have a long way to go, but this time I am going to stay the course! Bring it on!
ps – thanks to Pinterest for the image