It’s become a thing now, an Easter holidays thing. On the Wednesday after Easter in 2014 I went back to work after my last maternity leave and wrote about it here. On the Monday after the Easter holidays last year I started my new job and I wrote about it here. So, here I am a year on, and I thought I’d write about how the last twelve months have gone.
Last April I left a permanent job I’d been in for four years to take up a twelve-month contract with a company in the same industry doing very similar work on similar terms.
My main motivator, but not my only one, was to get better work-life balance. It came down to geography, my new job is 10km closer to home, but it’s the 10km that matters. That final 10km used to take up to an hour each way every day. So, on a good day I’ve gotten up to two hours back. Two hours less spent crawling in city traffic, two hours less spent sitting uncomfortably in the car, two hours less diesel used, two hours less spent out of the house. Two hours more for me and my family.
Two hours, four days a week. That adds up pretty quickly. Those two hours mean that we have time to have dinner at home on two work days, and the kids only eat dinner with their childminder two days now. This is a big deal for them and it in turn means that I need to batchcook less, so that’s more time again.
The commute is so much better, the N11 improvement has shaved off time too so now I’m looking at worst case commute of about an hour and twenty minutes, or a best case of about 50 minutes, with an average of a little over an hour.
My new employer is a big supporter of flexible working and working from home, so where working from home wasn’t an option in my previous office, (although I hear that is changing which is great for my ex-colleagues) it’s mandatory in my new one. We have more staff than seats, so everyone has to work from home one day a week. This has proved invaluable as my husband has had to travel with work a number of times, the combination of the shorter commute and working from home makes the juggle all the easier.
I have no regrets, at all. Sure, I had good friends at my last workplace, and I miss them, but the ones that matter stay in touch. I don’t miss the traffic, or paying €6 a day for parking, or the traffic, or did I mention the traffic. And the traffic.
My new job is challenging enough to keep me interested, but not so far outside my comfort zone that my stress levels are unmanageable. I’ve travelled abroad twice for short trips, for long enough to make me remember what solo travel is. I’m learning and doing, I’ve even enrolled in a short online course for career development.
Working from home is a revelation. Flexibility is priceless, appointments can be worked around, laundry moved between washer and dryer, dinner shoved in the oven, and at clocking off time I go collect the kids, an hour earlier than every other day. At first we didn’t let on to them that I was working from home because we thought they’d want to stay with me, but they soon got it, and now even the smallest asks “Are you working at home today?” and when I reply that I am she skips along saying “yay, you’ll get us early and we can eat us dinner at home”.
There are downsides, don’t get me wrong. The industrial estate isn’t quite so leafy as the suburb I used to work in, the eating options are pretty terrible, there’s new policies to learn and new people to get to know. These are small things.
I took a leap of faith last year. I knew that I couldn’t keep it up the way I was. With the support of my husband I resigned from a permanent job for a twelve month contract. There were no guarantees. It was a risk, but the risk paid off, I proved myself in my new role and applied for a permanent vacancy when it came around. I got the role, so I’ve been permanent since October, and my four day week is no longer parental leave which runs out, but my contracted hours. It’s all worked out.
I’ve worked on the balance between work and life and made huge inroads. This year I need to work on the balance between everyone else and me. I’ve started by exercising during the time I’d normally be commuting on my work-from-home day and getting out for a walk on my office days. Little bits.
The kids are loving it. I’m around more, they’re all up in the morning before I leave now so they see me. This often means that I get to witness the morning tantrums or see the tears from a pyjama-ed child on the stairs saying that they want me to stay, which is hard. But I see them, and they see me. That’s good.
It’s working out well for all of us.
And since last year my smallest boy got the last word on my post I thought I’d include his unsolicited thoughts on the matter, that he shared with me a few weeks ago when we were walking in the door after school on a day I wasn’t working “Your new job is really working out great, isn’t it Mam?”. I agreed but asked why he thought that. “You’re just here so much more and that’s the great thing”. The wisdom of a five-year-old.
If you’re surviving day-to-day, week-to-week, permanently tired I’d really encourage you to take some time to look at your options. I had no inclination of looking for a new job (or no energy to apply myself to), I convinced myself that no new employer would tolerate my parental leave or my 8-4 working hours, but a text message I sent to a friend when I was ranting about traffic started something a series of events and ten days later I found myself in an interview. The rest is history. The hardest part was writing my CV, everything else was painless.
Think about it, look into it, what’s there to lose in looking?