Thursday, 11 June 2015

Compromises with jagged edges

I made the decision today to return to work in September.

It was hard. I kept waiting for an epiphany, or at least some information that would influence me decisively one way or another. It never came.

I found out where I've been placed yesterday. The job is not quite my ideal, but second to staying at my old school, it is probably the smoothest transition possible. The school is close by; I will have to drive but won't have to commute on any of our crowded and dangerous city freeways. The job is special ed: a different student profile, but a lot of parallels with my old job. (In fact, as far as I can tell, the funding went straight from my old program to this one. So it was rather obvious that I go with it, I guess.) There is a lot of I will have to learn, but I know what questions to ask because I've worked in a similar setting. It's also (going to be) a two-teacher program, so similar to my old program in that respect as well. The difference is that at my old school I was the "veteran" who helped transition the new teacher, and in this case the roles are reversed.  That could be good or bad: if the incumbent teacher is as easy to work with as my former colleague, or dare I say it, myself, it could be a great asset. If not, it could be a giant pain. Still, I now have a reality to plan for, rather than an infinite number of possibilities. That in and of itself has definitely brought down some of the anxiety.

However, I still struggled and struggled with the decision. I'd turn things over in my head one hour, and think I'd made up my mind, only to feel completely the opposite about the matter the next hour. Wake up at 1am with one idea of what I could live with, wake up at 5am with a different one.  I constantly asked Mr. Turtle  for his feelings and opinion, but he seemed to have much the same conflicted feelings as I do. Sometimes, perhaps, thinking so much alike is not an advantage! But he took good care of me last night, doing all the chores that I said I would do one minute, then forgot about the next because I was so preoccupied. He cooked us dinner and made me Tension Tamer tea. I lay on the floor staring at AJ saying "But how can I?" Mr. Turtle said that he didn't think it was possible to look at the situation objectively, which is the probably one of the few things we can say with certainty.

I asked him before he went to work today if he had any final thoughts. He said: "I know you are strong and whatever you decide to do you will make it work." Then I asked: "Is going back to work full time, and retaining my contract status worth putting AJ through the transition of going to child care?" That was the question I kept coming back to: the one that was more important than all the others. Mr. Turtle said Yes. There are advantages.

So I called and accepted the job. I'm going back in September.

What else can I say? The decision for us came down to this: there are two ways to go, broadly speaking (due to the nature of this particular job part-time work/job share isn't an option), and we had to take one of them. Both options involve sacrifices and compromises. Some of those are short term, some are long term, which makes it more complicated because it's harder to understand the long term consequences of an action. But there wasn't an overpowering moral imperative either way. At least, the way we looked at it, based on our attitudes, knowledge and perspective, there wasn't.

There are many circumstances and events in life we have no choice about.  Things are one way, or they are not. Events happen, or they don't happen, and we just have to respond to the reality. Sometimes however we do have a choice that will influence our circumstances, and I believe strongly that in those cases it's important to make the choice, consciously. I could have made this decision easier for myself, sort of, by relying on assumptions: "I have to go back to work", or "It's best to stay at home." I gave myself the space to challenge both those assumptions and many others. It is really hard to do and I do not know if I made the right choice. As I've noted before, the only way to know the consequences of your actions for sure is to act.

I know it's going to get harder before it gets easier. AJ will have hard days; Mr. Turtle will have hard days. As for me I know there will be days when I just hate myself  for my decision. But I'm hopeful that this was the right decision for our family in the long term and that we will adjust and benefit from the many positive aspects of my being employed.

If I'm not wrong.

During challenging times in my life I often find myself returning to the poetry of Seamus Heaney. There's something grounding in it. Literally. Many poets look up for inspiration: light is clarity, spiritual awakening, enlightenment. Seamus Heaney digs in the dirt, stares down wells, looks for the door into the dark.

These lines are from the poem "North." In the poem the speaker stands on a chilly beach by the Atlantic, and communes in his mind with ancient Viking raiders (full poem here). 

"the coil and gleam of your furrowed brain" - we perceive our thoughts as somehow separate from our bodies, but they are also located in our physical bodies.

"Compose in darkness" - in some cultural traditions darkness was considered necessary for poetic inspiration. To me this also says that sometimes we have to create, live and act without full knowledge or understanding.

"Expect aurora borealis....but no cascade of light" - There will be guidance along the way, but not necessarily dramatic epiphanies

"Keep your eye clear...." - Honesty with ourselves and others is hard, very hard. But with practice we can become both more perceptive and honest.

"Treasure": Treasure is the feel of AJ's soft flesh and weight in my arms; her complete trust. Treasure is every moment I have with her, and every moment I hold her in my heart when we are apart.

...‘Lie down
in the word-hoard, burrow   
the coil and gleam
of your furrowed brain.

Compose in darkness.   
Expect aurora borealis   
in the long foray
but no cascade of light.

Keep your eye clear
as the bleb of the icicle,
trust the feel of what nubbed treasure   
your hands have known.’

- excerpted from "North" by Seamus Heaney

Thank you to everyone who offered comments and perspectives on my last entries. 


  1. I wish you the smoothest transition possible. I know how hard it is to go back to work. For us, it's probably a bit easier because staying home isn't an option... I am sure you will feel better once you see AJ doing well at daycare.

    1. Thanks! I know, sometimes having choices makes it harder....earlier I'd kind of convinced myself there wasn't a choice, so I wasn't questioning it as much although I was still anxious about it. Once I considered all the options it was more stressful, really. I wish you a smooth transition too! your plan sounds great.

  2. I've said it a hundred times, but I always see it's true: you made the right decision for your family with the information you had, and you should trust yourself. Best luck in this new chapter xoxo

    1. thank you! it's true, trusting myself can be the hard part. I have a tendency to focus on the negative (in any scenario). I have to remind myself that although we can and certainly will make mistakes, we also have a lot going for us as a family.

  3. Oh geez, I'm way behind on commenting on your journey through all the emotions of maternity leave ending. Flopping back and forth depending on the hour/day/mood is something I completely understand in the decision making process. Having to choose between full time or stay at home seems so much harder than a part time option. But, then again having too many options sometimes does make it even harder. Sounds like you have some peace now that your placement is known. Also, even though you had to think about the long term for your family and career it is important to remember that even though this decision is made you can change your plan later if your family or career needs something else at another point in time.

    1. Thanks Marcy! yes, it is true decisions aren't forever. Part time might be an option in the future. thanks for your comment! I do feel better now that the decision is made, which doesn't mean there won't be challenges in the future, of course.

  4. Oh, I love this poem! I haven't read too much Seamus Heaney, but I love the idea of looking to darkness for inspiration, for composition. That is how birth begins, right? In darkness.

    We are trying to decide whether to move closer to my workplace right now, and I have so many worries: what if my job goes south, what if we make this move and I realize I hate it here, what if I get fired and we've moved for me ... and then my husband has a horrible commute? So many questions, and no right answers, no clear advantages. (Not a fabulously better school district or neighborhood, for example. Just different.)

    I wish you peace in the transition, rocky as it will be sometimes, and comfort in the treasure that will be your constant.

    1. Thank you Justine. It's so hard to make decisions when your mind is going to all the possibilities! I hope you are able to find the right choice for you too.

  5. Gorgeous poem, perfect for processing this difficult time. I'm glad you came to your decision, and it seems like you have done everything you can to think it through and look at the new position and discuss with the Mr., with AJ in mind. I can only imagine the cycling through of your thought process that could occur between now and September, but it sounds like a good decision, if a difficult one. I wish you the best summer ever, full of beautiful moments that will give you great memories to sustain you through the difficult parts of starting back up in September. Peace to you.

    1. Thanks so much! so far, so good. It's hard, but decisions have to be made and then I live with them and learn from them. I could always make a mistake but most mistakes are no disastrous! so I remind myself. I can be very pessimistic so I try to remind myself that parenting is the ultimate act of optimism, especially for an infertile/subfertile. Why work so hard to have a child if we don't believe the world is a good place and things will be fine, and that we can probably cope whatever comes at us?

  6. Here from Mel's roundup. I'm also at a point of career transition and change my mind daily about what I want to do (options being a) try to get a full-time job that will challenge my intellect but create family challenges or b) look for something more part-time and recognize that by making family the priority I may never be able to return to option a). It's quite exhausting flip-flopping, so I'm happy that you've been able to settle on the decision. And, like others have said, it's the rare decision that cannot be undone at a later date if circumstances change.

    Best of luck in September. In the meantime, enjoy the summer!

    1. Yes, having many choices is a privilege, but it feels like A LOT of pressure to make the right one, and more so one's fault if the choice isn't right. but you are correct to put things in perspective. Taking one path doesn't necessarily mean all doors are closed. And there's more than one thing to do in life: the most awesome people I know have never put limits on themselves. But it's still hard. I wish the best to you too. Thanks for leaving a note.

  7. All amy of us can ever do is make a decision based on the information and knowledge we have available at that time. Whatever you decided, it would be the right decision. Don't be hard on yourself if the transition is hard. Wishing you the very best for the next phase of your life.

    1. Thanks. :-) I'm not expecting it to be easy; I just hope it's a kind of difficult I (and other members of my family, especially AJ) can live with.