After my husband died, I took one for the team. The family team. With two children to keep on track and focussed, the late nights at the office, which often ran headlong into the early morning starts at the office, had to stop. We had to somehow become a cohesive, working unit again. Business trips halfway across the world would be of no use to children waking up in the middle of the night crying and frightened just wanting their dad back.
Coming from a strong administrative background, it was quick work to find a fairly undemanding job. No pressure, no impossible deadlines, no late nights. Perfect.
Of course there were fears that my ego would not be able to withstand the bruises of working below my ability and intellect. But my ego had to sit the hell down and shut the F up because what I was doing for my children and our diminished family was more important than chairing Board meetings and line managing human resources – or, as I still like to refer to them, people.
That sorted, then, I pitched up for school events, got to know the children’s teachers and got to know my children. My husband working from home had had the lion’s share of raising our little people. A naturally sociable person, he hadn’t minded the tedium of playground small talk, the stab-me-in-the-eye-when-is-this-parents-evening-ever-going-to-end or the exhausting marathon of school sports days. My children had a champion in their father – another small worry for this newly minted sort-of-stay-at-home-mum.
The children’s champion had been the good cop in our parenting precinct. And I knew enough psychology (thank you, Dr. Phil) to understand that doing a 180 on the children, bereaved or not, would serve only to confuse and undermine the strong structure they needed in place. I couldn’t suddenly become the good cop even though a father alive on Thursday and suddenly dying on Friday is not standard issue.
No, all other belief systems the children had come to rely on had to stay true and consistent. Mum, suddenly condoning late bed times, tardy homework and chocolate donuts for breakfast would make their grief that much harder to come to terms with. Mother had to show up the way she had always shown up when not at the office – the hard arse.
After an uncertain start, the children morphed into well-accomplished, well-adjusted young people over our first few bereaved years. Studies were once again prioritised as they fulfilled a new ambition of making their dad proud, a dad they believed still watched over them.
In the meantime, I continued to do a good job at work and was valued for the skills I brought to the table. Albeit there was a lot of sitting on hands and keeping my mouth zipped on days when I could clearly see best practice had left the building.
And the hits for the team just kept on coming when colleagues less sure in their ability sought to undermine mine. Walking on the eggshells of other people’s insecurities is exhausting work. Still, a certain amount of dumbing down was always going to be par for the course.
Except it is now time to stop taking one for the team. To branch out again with a job which can rise up to meet the skills, intellect and work experience I had before my husband died.
That being said, I still don’t want a job which seeps into my personal life more often than it doesn’t. I don’t want to be travelling God’s good earth three weeks out of the month, and I certainly don’t want a job where I fit my young people around it. They still remain my willing priority.
Tomorrow the search begins.
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