Sunday, 21 February 2010

Time for a reality check

Last night, the dog managed to get fed twice. He did this by rolling mournful, starved eyes at me until I opened a tin: and then when I went to put the boy to bed, repeating the routine for my husband, who assumed I'd forgotten and opened another tin.
This is not good. This is a trick the dog pulled off regularly in the chaotic days of us both working full tilt, when we were too busy to notice who'd done what. Three months on from giving up my Proper Job, I am confronting some home truths.
1. The mountain of ironing that never got done when I was working fulltime? Still there. Not exactly the same ironing (actually, possibly much the same ironing) but still not done.
2. The exercise I never had time for back then? Um, still not doing it. I did go swimming last week. It nearly killed me.
3. The family photos I meant to sort out? The albums still stop abruptly at the point my maternity leave ended (we did take photos after that - we're not completely rubbish parents - but they're either stuffed in a drawer or still on my camera's memory stick. As they were when I worked fulltime. Ahem)
4. The house is not noticeably cleaner or tidier for me being here more. Without the civilising influence of our nanny, it is in fact noticeably worse.
5. I do not seem to have learned Mandarin/read Proust cover to cover/broadened my intellectual horizons in my newfound free time. I have, though, wasted more time on the interweb.
In my defence, up until a fortnight ago I didn't have childcare, so work rather than domestic bliss has swallowed up any free time.
But nonetheless, I was wrong to blame my job for everything that had been squeezed out of my life. It turns out I don't actually care about ironing (well, not enough to do it) and that I don't go running every day because I'm frankly too lazy, rather than because I have no time.
Which is not to say I regret my choice. The bigger goals I set myself upon committing career suicide - getting to know my husband and son again, and trying new things professionally - have actually worked better than I hoped. We are a more relaxed and united family, now all pulling in the same direction (except, possibly, the dog). I am happier personally, and to my surprise also professionally: some interesting projects have come to my way.
But I would sound a small caveat about downshifting. In any life, there's stuff you just don't have time for: and the nature of that stuff may reveal much about that life, and what it's costing you.
But it can also reveal something about your priorities. I fear mine, like the dog's, are not always noble.


  1. That's life isn't it? What's the expression, if you want to make God laugh tell him your plans?

    I have a habit of writing a 'to do' list before every half-term holiday, things that I *must* do during the week(s) off. Before this half-term I found a list I wrote a year ago, and yep, I'd only done one of the things on the list.

  2. I'm so happy that the important things are working really well (and who wants to waste time on the ironing when you could be doing other stuff - any other stuff)

  3. I couldn't agree more. I downshifted into freelance about 2 years ago and yet somehow the laundry and the exercising still don't get done on a regular basis. Guess it wasn't the job's fault after all

  4. Ironing is a waste of electricity anyhow. Much better to simply define creased as being the height of fashion. I've been working towards this goal now for years, with admittedly limited success. That's my excuse anyhow - and I'm sticking to it.

  5. Now I'm not bringing any money in, I feel compelled to do what I can to save money. So when our car insurance quote came through before Xmas I spent a hugely dull two days on the phone and web, and managed to save £200. I've had the loft insulated. The house insurance renewal stuff arrived last week and I put it in the post tray with a deep sigh. There's a pile of things to sell on ebay which just keeps getting bigger and bigger. My other half wants me to investigate phone and tv packages, yawn. Usually he'd do it and get ridiculously enthusiastic about it, but now I'm not working it seems to be my job and I just can't get interested. Still, I'll do it.

    I really don't have that much time, only 10 hours a week when the kids are at school/nursery and I do actually enjoy exercise (more the feeling after I've done it) now I have some time. So by the time I've done that and had the odd coffee with a friend (I'd hate the man at the car insurance firm to be the only adult conversation I had all day), the day's gone.

    Photos are always on my list too, as they were when I worked full time. It's one of those things that technology has apparently improved and now we have to print the damned things ourselves we never get around to it. My mother in law has been waiting for photos of the kids for years now...

    A sense of underachievement is the biggest thing I feel since stopping work and I have to keep reminding myself of things I have achieved: happier kids (undoubtedly), better behaved four year old (massive improvement here), fitter and healthier me, better fed family, happier cat, more time with my mum, starting to renew friendships again. It'll be great to add to this list as time goes on, but things like car insurance will never make it onto the list I'm sure of that.

  6. I remember the first tiny flat my husband and I shared in Wandsworth - one bedroom and it soon got filled with stuff. When we moved to our first proper home [a 4 bedroom in Sheffield] it was incredible how quickly we managed to fill it with crap.

    My days are much the same - I remember before my son was born feeling that I had plenty to fill my days - now I'm wondering what on earth I did with my time [aswell as my money!].

    However much time or space you have, you soon fill it with the stuff of everyday - much like my handbags which are now the same size as a small suitcase filled with nappies, wet wipes, the usual accoutrements [but never a tissue when I really need one!].

    As not Supermum points out - that's life!

  7. So know that feeling!

    But we are blogging right? So we have been doing something? NO???? Pleaase say yes ! :-)

  8. The experience of honest toil ,other than chatting, may be improving .I have sometimes thought that a garden is good image of a Conservative .You spend generations evolving and refining, and then along come the socialists to plough it all up and plant uniform rows of appalling agri product . Its not just the horror of the result it’s the wanton destruction of what there was.
    Perhaps one day, on discovering that the soil and local conditions resist your modish internationalist master plan , you will throw your towel to the ground and murmur ..” I have been wrong …. God forgive me”
    On the day of this epiphany I shall solemnly recite the words of Andrew Marvell who died in 1678.

    What a wondrous life is this I lead
    Ripe apples drop about my head
    The luscious clusters of the vine
    About my mouth do crush their wine
    The nectarines and curious peach
    Into my hands themselves do reach
    Stumbling on melons as I pass
    Ensnared with Flowers I fall on grass

    ..and you will admit, through painful sobs of contrition, that there was indeed a mediaeval warm period.

    Make it so

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