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The Decade Effect

1
Last week my only child turned 10. I’d wanted him my whole life. Not specifically him of course, just a child.  I’d never wanted much apart from that. I had a job which paid the bills, not a career. When he arrived my life started and my vocation stretched out as far as I could see. I would have more, be a professional mum. But I only had him.

A decade has passed of this career ladder, and there’s been no promotions. In fact I was absolutely at the top of my game 10 years ago when I took that tiny purple thing in my arms and tried not to squeeze

SelfishMother.com
2
him to death with love, and then attempted to feed him from the equipment attached to my body.

Right then, my cheeks burning in the tropical post-natal ward, my bum exposed through a hospital gown, he needed me more than he has ever since, and I doubt there will be a time when he will need me like that again. The opposite of climbing the greasy pole, I have been demoted day by day.

On the morning of his birthday my helpless bald twitchy wide-eyed naked pooing screeching floppy angel walked out of the door on his own carrying a saxophone and with

SelfishMother.com
3
his hair waxed up in a crazy quiff, barely pausing to turn to give me a cursory wave.

Of course I’m still needed. He can’t earn money, make butternut squash risotto or good choices regarding hygiene. In fact he can’t even wax his own hair. But he’s on his way. You could say I’ve done my job or that my metier was doomed to start with, like someone who takes a job in CD pressing just as the digital music era blossoms. I did that too.

So it’s been a whole decade of him. I did write a book too (unpublished). But basically it was all him.

SelfishMother.com
4
I think of the decade before, in which I had four serious relationships, moved house five times, changed job three times, qualified in two different fields (never practised), and endured a bag load of fertility treatment. It’s all just phloof compared to the last ten years.

I didn’t go back to work after I had him, partly because I didn’t have a career path to maintain, but also because I’d waited so long for him that I couldn’t bear to hand him over daily to some random individual who would see his life take shape. We really struggled for

SelfishMother.com
5
money for a few years, but it’s ok now. I’m very lucky.

But it’s left me here. Still with this job, but with much less workload, unskilled for the modern world of work. I’ve always been slightly crap at technology and now I’m like an old lady looking over her glasses with her mobile phone at arm’s length, poking distastefully at the keys. In fact I am her. Where do I go from here? Another few years and I will certainly be unemployed. 

Maybe I need to get a job. But I don’t know who would have me, and we don’t desperately need the

SelfishMother.com
6
small amount my earning power would fetch. Should I volunteer, get a dog, foster, write another book, move to the country, train as a landscape gardener/yoga teacher/school teacher?

Then Friday I picked him up from school. He was more subdued than usual. Questioning revealed nothing. When the front door shut he let rip. The effort of not crying at school exploded as the pressure was released by the safety of the closed front door. He sobbed, open-mouthed. I put my arms around him. There were no words for a bit, but eventually it came out: nothing

SelfishMother.com
7
much, just a friend had said something hurtful. Then he was ok again, and playing Fortnite.

But in that moment I got back all the job satisfaction. Whilst I hated him hurting I loved that I was the one making it better. I was still the go-to for comfort, still needed in this organisation, and not just for pairing socks and cleaning up cat sick. There is still work to be done here, and maybe there always will be. 

 

SelfishMother.com
Helen Cardwell

By

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- 11 Mar 19

Last week my only child turned 10. I’d wanted him my whole life. Not specifically him of course, just a child.  I’d never wanted much apart from that. I had a job which paid the bills, not a career. When he arrived my life started and my vocation stretched out as far as I could see. I would have more, be a professional mum. But I only had him.

A decade has passed of this career ladder, and there’s been no promotions. In fact I was absolutely at the top of my game 10 years ago when I took that tiny purple thing in my arms and tried not to squeeze him to death with love, and then attempted to feed him from the equipment attached to my body.

Right then, my cheeks burning in the tropical post-natal ward, my bum exposed through a hospital gown, he needed me more than he has ever since, and I doubt there will be a time when he will need me like that again. The opposite of climbing the greasy pole, I have been demoted day by day.

On the morning of his birthday my helpless bald twitchy wide-eyed naked pooing screeching floppy angel walked out of the door on his own carrying a saxophone and with his hair waxed up in a crazy quiff, barely pausing to turn to give me a cursory wave.

Of course I’m still needed. He can’t earn money, make butternut squash risotto or good choices regarding hygiene. In fact he can’t even wax his own hair. But he’s on his way. You could say I’ve done my job or that my metier was doomed to start with, like someone who takes a job in CD pressing just as the digital music era blossoms. I did that too.

So it’s been a whole decade of him. I did write a book too (unpublished). But basically it was all him. I think of the decade before, in which I had four serious relationships, moved house five times, changed job three times, qualified in two different fields (never practised), and endured a bag load of fertility treatment. It’s all just phloof compared to the last ten years.

I didn’t go back to work after I had him, partly because I didn’t have a career path to maintain, but also because I’d waited so long for him that I couldn’t bear to hand him over daily to some random individual who would see his life take shape. We really struggled for money for a few years, but it’s ok now. I’m very lucky.

But it’s left me here. Still with this job, but with much less workload, unskilled for the modern world of work. I’ve always been slightly crap at technology and now I’m like an old lady looking over her glasses with her mobile phone at arm’s length, poking distastefully at the keys. In fact I am her. Where do I go from here? Another few years and I will certainly be unemployed. 

Maybe I need to get a job. But I don’t know who would have me, and we don’t desperately need the small amount my earning power would fetch. Should I volunteer, get a dog, foster, write another book, move to the country, train as a landscape gardener/yoga teacher/school teacher?

Then Friday I picked him up from school. He was more subdued than usual. Questioning revealed nothing. When the front door shut he let rip. The effort of not crying at school exploded as the pressure was released by the safety of the closed front door. He sobbed, open-mouthed. I put my arms around him. There were no words for a bit, but eventually it came out: nothing much, just a friend had said something hurtful. Then he was ok again, and playing Fortnite.

But in that moment I got back all the job satisfaction. Whilst I hated him hurting I loved that I was the one making it better. I was still the go-to for comfort, still needed in this organisation, and not just for pairing socks and cleaning up cat sick. There is still work to be done here, and maybe there always will be. 

 

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