Friday, January 31, 2014

My year of Less is More: Cutting back on paid work

One of the changes I'm making in my year of Less is More, is that I've reduced my paid employment to  two days a week.  It was three days in 2013 and four days in 2012, so I'm going backwards at a nice, steady pace!

I like my job a lot.  I teach in a school with fantastic staff and kids - it's fun and a lovely environment to spend time in.  I feel smart when I'm there.  I'm always a bit surprised when my thoughts and contributions appear useful to others!  Being honest, I would happily work more.  I like it.  There's nothing much more to it than that.  The money helps us, but we've lived off one pretty modest income for most of our married life so it's not so much about the money.

However, I have found juggling work and family really tough. My energy bank seems to be smaller than other people's (or I have five kids and I'm way too optimistic about what can be achieved in a lifetime!).  Ok - it's probably just smaller than I would like it to be.  So I get tired if I don't have enough time on my own.  I get tired if all I'm doing is rushing from one thing to another, trying to squeeze all my life jobs into a short amount of time.  It's not great for my marriage or the people around me.

If I'm at work, I can't be at home for the kids.  My kids don't seem to care much about quality time.  They just like me being at home.  It's not that they're miserable when I'm at work.  It's just that they like it a lot more when I am there (I haven't worked out exactly why yet - it is super dull when I am around, but I'm guessing it doesn't matter too much what I'm actually doing.  Just that I'm there.).

Being honest, I do feel like a bit of a failure.  I know I shouldn't, because being around for my family more is totally worthwhile and I'm not putting that down at all.  It's just that I've felt a bit embarrassed admitting that I'm only working two days a week, when I work with amazing women who have so much more on their plate than me.  I look around and wonder why I can't do it all. But I'm not them.  I'm me.  I just can't keep pushing hard all the time - it's exhausting!

There are challenges with this decision.  It's always so tempting to pursue more work.  It gives so much instant gratification and value.  We could be so much better off financially.  The more you work, the more of a significant voice you have in an organisation.  The more you work, the more interesting your job is.

But for now I have to learn to rest and be content with the place I'm in.  If I want to do my life less rushed, this needs to be a part of it for me.

4 comments:

Thumbnail said...

A great article. I can really empathise with feeling like a failure when compared to others ... (e.g. 'If that mother can get three kids to church on time, why can't I manage it with two?')

It's taken me a long time to be comfortable with not comparing and not expecting to be able to do everything that everyone else 'seems' to be able to do.

Obviously everyone has a struggle somewhere and I usually can't see where they are struggling, and perhaps looking wistfully at what I seem to be able to achieve.

I try to recall the words of old Mr Grace in the BBC sitcom of the 1970s, Are You Being Served?: "You've all done very well!"

Jenny said...

Thanks for the encouragement. Yes I'm getting better at not comparing but it still creeps in often enough to still be annoying!

Kathy Vincent said...

Jenny, I love your article and your honesty. Sometimes I also wonder why my kids really love it when I'm home!?!?! But they do. As you know I work from home, so the response from the question by others "what do you do?" is very blurry and disappointing in my mind in a career based kind of way. My answer to them is full of 'ums' and 'aaands' as I try o justify the life of a mum whose kids are all at school. I have accepted that I don't do MANY things well, and that busyness, in my mind is not a master I should be slave to, so I only do a few, but it's nice to hear someone else talk about the struggle of balance and especially about being happy with your limitations. Thanks! Really helpful to me. Kathy x

Jenny said...

Thanks Kathy. That's really affirming for me because saying you're going to do less to be less frantic is a bit counter cultural.