I was asked why I now feel it was the wrong decision not to look for a job at a pivotal time. I’ll try to explain, realising that you don’t know a lot about the background – perhaps I should start by filling in some of that.
When we moved here, Ro was just two: that is, we moved in the day before his second birthday. I was 32. We had offered the annexe to my mother and stepfather; he having had a heart attack, but he died the next year, before they moved in, so she lived here alone for fifteen years before she died too. I was talking to LT at dinner the other night about anniversaries (specifically, that I aim not to mark unhappy ones, ironically) when a thought struck me, I checked the date on my phone, it was exactly 15 years since she died and I cried, for a minute. I don’t do anniversaries unless they’re good, it just struck me for a moment.
She was the age I am now, when she moved here. I was a bit apprehensive, to tell the truth, and I know she was too. I was very happy, had settled in well and was a bit worried about the balance being changed. But it went reasonably well – fast forward a few years, to when Ro was about to start middle school, I was in my late thirties and Russell and I considered, as another period of change was happening, whether to change our lifestyle or carry on as we were doing. I was supporting him in his auctions, we were both very involved with local organisations, had lots of friends and an active social life, Weeza was in the sixth form at school and Al was getting towards taking GCSEs.
We still didn’t have a very big income but it was enough In short, we both agreed that we’d keep going as we were, that I wouldn’t look for a job and Russell would keep his business going in the same way as before. And it did work and so it continued.
But I’m quite sure I made the wrong decision and I should have taken on an outside situation, with fixed hours and responsibilities. In fact, the numerous voluntary things I took on became overwhelming, and so did my home life with my mother as she became less well. As time went by; the more stressful things were at home, the more it seemed vital to me that I kept on outside interests, but the ones I’d like to have ditched weren’t possible and the interesting ones were too much work at various times. And all the major deadlines came at once, in early summer and again in September. My mother resented me being busy, in a way she didn’t with my sister, who had a full time paid job. That was real work and it took priority, but being a governor of two schools and a churchwarden and chairman of Nadfas, the local Meals on Wheels organiser and various other things were my choice and took my time from her. I am sorry to say that I needed the time away from her and I also needed to feel that I was being efficient and keeping everything going and never letting one of those spinning plates wobble – I felt that if I stopped, I’d collapse and so would everything.
Russell and I always supported each other and I did always put the work I did for him first, and told him so, and we did always make time for each other, if not anywhere near enough time for relaxation. He was wonderful. But I remember once, when I was away with my daughter, and another guest and I sympathised with each other about the deadlines we’d had to meet, to be able to get away, and Weeza was quite contemptuous to me afterwards. I was just doing voluntary work, the other woman had a responsible job and I shouldn’t have compared my workload to hers because I was only a volunteer – so, my work didn’t matter and shouldn’t pretend that it did. I suppose it’s natural that a child, even a grown up one, doesn’t think much of what her mother does, but the thought that she didn’t regard the work that I actually got a lot of respect and fulfilment for as being of any importance at all was a bit of a slap.
Money doesn’t and never will own me. I don’t judge people by what they do and how much they earn. But I came to feel that paid-for time is a justification to pick and choose what else you do. People just accept it. When I did a voluntary job, I didn’t feel able to leave it until I’d found and trained my replacement. But when a staff member found a better job or decided to retire a couple of years early, no one suggested they should take responsibility or feel guilty (not that I am saying they should, of course), even if we were left in a very difficult position.
It doesn’t matter. It was all very interesting and I enjoyed and was fulfilled by a lot of it. And, I should acknowledge, that I have a tendency to be whole-hearted. I suspect that I’d have become very involved with any job and taken on more than I was paid for. I also suspect that I sound self-pitying, and can only apologise if I do. I lived the life I chose, I’ve been tremendously lucky and I’ve never been in a situation where I couldn’t have walked away if I wanted to enough. Just two days a week at a local business would have taken so much pressure off, though. Thirty-five years too late for that.