I left my job at a corporate housing company a month before I had my first child, a beautiful blue eyed boy. I took maternity leave for 12 months, but after the business owner started harassing me to work from six weeks after I’d had my son, I eventually resigned. A middle aged man who could not get his head around the fact that I NEEDED to take leave in order to learn how to be a mother was not a person I wanted to return to work with.
I was asked to work for a friend a couple of days a week in the same industry, and this was going well…until there appeared another bun in the oven. Yes kids, pill babies DO happen. Given my propensity toward heaving in the rubbish bin beside my desk for a full 14 weeks at the beginning of my pregnancies, it was agreed that I ought to give up work for a bit.
After we moved our growing family out to the hills of outer Melbourne, we decided that I would stay home while The Groom brought in the bread, old school style. I had no networks to speak of out east, and only started to find people once our eldest began preschool at a local kinder. Between breastfeeding, kinder committee, the ravages of PND and still learning on the trot how to mother, I could not have imagined how I could also hold down a job. I did attempt to pop my second born into childcare a couple of days a week while the eldest was at kinder, in an attempt to become work ready. To say that this did not go well may be underbaking. After his 6th attempt, the care worker told me “He was pretty good today, he stopped crying for long enough to eat some fruit.” Um, no, that was not okay with me, so we nipped that in the bud, and work was going to have to wait until the boy were at school.
Then, of course, my maternal instinct starting whispering at me to breed again. I told that mole to shut her face, but she was having none of that. She amped herself up from whispering to screaming, until all I could think about was wanting a baby. As happens, I discussed this with The Groom, and although he was concerned that another bout of PND may result, we had two contraception free roots. And that was all it took. He suggested that we give the matter more consideration, but the sperm had burst through the gate, and our youngest was already percolating.
Work did wait until this last child started school. I told everyone in the entire world that I wanted to go back to work, and that if they heard anything, they should let me know. This loudness paid dividends when a local parishioner came to my rescue, via the priest, via the principal. I went to see her at her house for an interview on Good Friday 2015. We sat in the lounge and chatted for two and a half hours. I started after the Easter Holidays. I was the only applicant. I think this is what they call “networking”?
I still work for this company, doing bank reconciliations and other administration duties. The place has changed somewhat, since I began, however. The lady who interviewed me became a very close friend of mine. She supported me in every way she could when my Mum was battling with, and died of, cancer. I supported her when her own cancer returned and ended her life, too soon. The loss of both of these mother figures in such close proximity took a while to recover from, I won’t sugar coat it. These were my first experiences with deep, unrelenting grief.
My job was the same, of course, however now I was working at an office for her husband, a sweet, intelligent, Italian man nearing 80 years old. He was grappling with the loss of his dear second wife, after already having buried his two adult children, and his first wife, from who he was divorced. We felt like a couple of orphans, somehow, although I was keenly aware that I was far from alone. I had The Groom, three children, two dogs, sisters, Dad and our stepmother, cousins, uncles, aunties, friends…he had me.
On we slogged, tackling life without our friend and wife. Business suffered from the results of the loss of her, but he would not hear of retiring. What would he do with himself, if not for work? So on I went, reconciling ever diminishing accounts for him, trying to look after him by looking after the admin. Talk about inadequate.
She has been gone for two years. I decided that I need to find work elsewhere. I’m longing for a new environment in which to thrive, rather than shrivel. I want busy, I want vibrant, I want co workers. So onto Seek.com.au I go. Excitedly. The first job I find is perfect. School hours, reception and admin for a company who put on performances for primary school children. I won’t have to worry about what to do on school holidays anymore! They don’t even tell me I’m not in the running. Oh.
Application after application goes out, mostly to schools in administration roles. Frankly, being in an environment where one is surrounded by children and those whose job it is to connect with them just feels joyous, to me. Most don’t even reply. On the rare occasions I do receive feedback, it’s from a recruitment company telling me that because I have no experience working in schools, I can’t get experience working in schools. I assure them that I have worked tirelessly within in schools on a volunteer basis, but it appears that this matters naught.
I eventually get an interview at a school where I know the principal, who is on the interview panel. I sort my outfit, arrive slightly early, feeling comfortable as soon as I sit in the foyer, awaiting my turn. I am ushered into the interview room…and pretty much shit myself. In an obvious way. My voice all but disappears. I start doing this weird arse click thing in my throat that I have NEVER done before. I sweat.
I am asked how I perform in a team environment, and I utterly forget how I perform in a team environment. Team? What’s a team? Brain seizure. I forget to remember that I TWICE organised a trivia night fundraiser for local families with high needs, terminally ill children, replete with silent auction, MC, and around 350 attendees. Like it never happened. I have zero recollection of a trivia night fundraiser I organised for our primary school, with live band and a snazzy dress up theme that even the disinterested Dad’s were convinced to obey. Yes, The Groom dressed up as Lenny Kravitz. It was as hot as it sounds. But I digress.
I leave the interview, not entirely sure what just happened. I am certain, however, that I have very much fucked my chance. I receive a phone call later that day from the principal, who I served on a school committee with, and I’m asked, “Just before we discuss the interview, I have to ask. Has something happened that I don’t know about? Is there something wrong?” So yeah, na, not good.
The thing is, something had happened, but I hadn’t known about it either, and as such was completely unprepared. While I had been raising our glorious children, taking them to kinder, and school, and training for any number of sports, games of footy, basketball, cricket etc, I had been slowly forgetting myself. My self esteem, once fairly healthy, had disappeared. Entirely. When I had interviewed for the position at the corporate housing company in 2003, I had arrived disheveled after being caught in a rain storm, and I had bloody NAILED the Christ out of that. I had great, genuine answers to every question, I exuded a kind of confidence that must have come from my relative youth. I had not yet been worn down by interrupted sleep, self neglect, grief, the appearance of silver hairs, chin hairs, and so much more.
How had I not noticed?! I’m a perceptive chick. It’s one of my strengths. Completely missed it in my own self. Pfft. Who knew?
Happily, after I fell to sobbing pieces that evening in The Groom’s lap, I picked my pathetic 44 year old arse up, and decided that this was not who I was prepared to accept that I had become. I would never again let myself wail “I guess I’m just a pathetic LOSER, who’s only purpose is to breed!!”, because dammit, 44 is not even bloody old, and I know for a fact that I am intelligent, capable, and valuable to any workplace who is smart enough to hire me. If I can convince my greatest critic of that (that would be me), then I know I can convince a perspective employer. I just didn’t ever imagine, when I was 27, or 33, or 40, that I would either feel like this, or struggle so hard to find a job. Lesson learned.
I have a job interview tomorrow, which I applied for via Seek.com.au,. I had a help from a friend who used to be connected with the business I’m interviewing with, who provided a personal reference for me once he heard I had applied there. He didn’t have to do that, and I am very touched that he did. Let’s see how it goes, and if it doesn’t, then I will just get back on that skittish horse, and try again. Dammit, someone needs me in their office, they just don’t know it yet.
Image by Anne Taintor
© Melanie Bateson