Thursday 15 December 2016

Returning to work after being a long term stay at home parent.

The time has finally come.  After over 7 years of being a stay at home Mum to my two boys, I'm looking for work.  Ethan has been in full time school since 2013 and Felix started preschool this September.  He's only there for 15 hours a week, so not full time, but it's a few hours.  For the last 7 and a half years we've lived off one income.  Actually, that's not entirely accurate, I did receive maternity pay for the first 9 months of Ethan's life (6 months at full pay, 3 months at the SMP rate).  Anyway, for the best part of 7 years we've lived off one income.  During those 7 years, Pete's pay has increased, his jobs have changed and we went from being a family of two to four.  However, whilst his pay has increased, our living costs have increased and the actual cost of living itself has increased, especially in the last year.  We make do.  Pete earns a good wage but it is truly stretched covering the four of us and all the expenses life bring.  We could certainly do with a bit more money coming in.

It isn't just about money though.  After 7 years of full time parenting, I'd quite like to do something else.  I'd like to leave the house with a purpose.  I'd like to feel like I was contributing financially.  I'd like the boys to see me not "just" as "Mum".  I'm not berating anyone who stays at home to look after their children full time.  If I did, that'd be to berate myself!  I just know that I'm starting to feel a bit.. I'm not sure.. Bored?  Crazy?  Like I'm getting cabin fever.

Back in 2009 as a new SAHM
I feel apprehensive about returning to work.  What am I going to do?  I don't really want to go back to an office job anyone could do.  Ideally I'd like to do something I'd enjoy.  I looked into freelance copywriting.  The positives for something like this are that I could work from home, I could choose my own hours, I could work as little or as much as I like.  I wouldn't need any new qualifications.  I like the idea of writing work.  The negatives are that I wouldn't have colleagues or make new friends.  I wouldn't have to leave home so wouldn't get that feeling of "getting out" and also, like with blogging, there's the risk that you're never really "away" from work.  It would be unpredictable so my earnings and the amount of work would fluctuate.  My initial investigations haven't brought up any available work in any case.. I put together a new CV and contacted a heap of digital agencies and copywriting agencies.  I got a few "we'll put you on file" responses and two "get back in touch in January, we're crazy right now" and mostly I got ignored.  A bit disheartening but it's a funny time of year to be job hunting.

I've been looking at jobs online.  So far very few things have been suitable.  There are quite a few jobs around with terrible hours with awful pay.  Luckily I'm not in the position where I have to take anything.  I have to be realistic though.  Whatever I take on has to work around family life.  My husband works long hours and his job requires him to travel quite a bit at the moment.  I am still primarily needed at home.  His job comes first.  I've inquired about leafleting.  Not very exciting and certainly no chance of new colleagues and friends but it would be great exercise and definitely flexible!  But, the guy never returned my call.  I applied for a job in a local bakery but heard nothing.  It was all looking a bit hopeless..  But then two weeks ago my friend heard about a job at the school she works in.  An "Art Technician".  Something right up my street, a roll supporting the art department.  I knew I could do it but beyond that, it'd be varied, interesting, I'd have colleagues, a workplace, it paid well and, most importantly, it was part time and very flexible, and, drum roll.... TERM TIME ONLY! Quite possibly the perfect job!  I applied and two days later received a phone call to ask if I'd like to come in for interview the following week.  Would I??!! Oh yes!

So.. Last week I attended my first job interview in 12 years.  After being out of work for over 7 years.  It was a little bit daunting, but I decided that it would be a learning experience and maybe even a bit of fun at the same time.  I didn't want to assume the job was mine but equally, I wanted to be positive.  The interview itself was a good experience.  I got there 10 minutes early (that's a big deal for me, I'm terminally late) and, after a few minutes, I relaxed and it felt reassuringly familiar.  A work environment, the usual interview questions.  I must admit a couple of the questions were tricky but I was able to answer them and (I think) quite well.  It was good to think I can still do this kind of thing!   After the interview I was on quite a high.  They told me they would be making their decision that afternoon so I knew I didn't have long to wait.  I hopped in my car, retrieved Felix from my parents house (they were looking after him whilst I was at the interview) and drove to pick Ethan up from school.  Back to normality.  At five past three, as I walked into the school playground, my mobile rang.  Seeing the local landline number I answered straight away.  It was the school I'd had the interview with.  I could tell as soon as the lady returned my "Hello!" that she was phoning to let me know I hadn't got the job.  Of course it was a let down.  I asked why and was told that there wasn't anything I'd done wrong, that one of the other candidates simply had experience of working in a school before and I didn't.  That I shouldn't feel bad and to keep applying.  It did make me feel a little sad but it would have been amazingly easy if I'd walked into a job such as that so quickly.  When I told my friend who'd told me about the job that I hadn't got it, she said to me "Do you know how many people applied for the job?" "Not a clue!" I said "I assume not that many seeing as they took my application form even though the closing date had officially passed!".   "Over 60 people applied" my friend said "and 5 were interviewed, including you.  You did well, you shouldn't feel bad!".  It did bolster me a little, hearing that.  Perhaps I'm not totally unemployable.

Well. That was last week.  This week.  I'm no further on.  I've not seen any jobs advertised that are suitable.  Pete is still very much feeling the pressure of being the sole breadwinner.  "You should apply for JSA" my Mum says "Don't apply for JSA" says Dad "It's the last thing you should do.  Your Mum would say that but she's never experienced what it's like going to the job centre.".  They both have a point.  Is money becoming tight?  Yes.  Am I officially job seeking?  Yes.  But I've never applied for JSA before.  Somehow it doesn't seem right.  And do I really want to be reporting to the job centre every week, having some action plan drawn up?  Having to apply for things that really aren't suitable?  I'll talk to Pete about it, but probably not.

It's 10 Days until Christmas Day now.  Things in the world of work are winding down.  It's an odd time of year to be job hunting.  We're manic with Christmas stuff.   Presents to wrap.  Activities at school and preschool.  Card writing.  Trying to meet with people.  Next week I have both boys with me all week, school & preschool finishing this week. Realistically, the job hunt has to go on hold until the new year.  My plan of action will be contacting those copywriting folks again, phoning them, making myself known to them!  Scouring the job sites.  Tweaking that CV.  2017 will be the year of work!  How exciting.. I think!  Watch this space....

My two boys in 2016

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