Regular readers will know that I have been chomping at my metaphorical bit to get back to work after two lots of back-to-back maternity leave. I have been craving conversations that don’t go round in circles, and an environment where my opinions are admired and actively sought out. (I don’t know why I was so naive to think I’d find that in the workplace any more than at home, but for a brief while it was a nice dream).
I didn’t expect a welcoming committee, exactly, but I had built up my return in my head with such tremendous excitement, that arriving at a brand new site, into a brand new job and a brand new promotion, I was deflated to find the same-old anti-climax of antipathy. Still, at least someone had thought to pack up my things after my precipitious exit from my previous post; “we’ll have to continue this meeting later, a gallon of amniotic fluid has just escaped out of my pants. No, Jenny, you don’t need to minute that”. A cardboard box sat on my desk, and I peered inside, looking forward to a nostalgic saunter through my working past. I looked in confusion at the jumble of crap that greeted me; none of which was mine. Clearly over the course of the last three years my erstwhile colleages had taken advantage of my absence to rid themselves of unwanted clutter; “who’s is this empty box of Tampax?” “oh, that’ll be ******’s, stick it in that box over there”. “Anyone want this broken stapler?” “oh, she might have been saving that – stick it in the box…” And so on.
Placing the box in a corner I sat at my new desk to survey my domain and work out what the dickins I was supposed to be doing. When the midwife hands you a baby and fiddles around down below for a while, she’s not just delivering your placenta and doing a bit of cross-stitch, you know; she’s inserting the extra bits… The Guilt Gene, for example, and the Enhanced Tear Duct. Oh yes, and the Total Fuckwit Chip. I am pretty certain that when I left work I was a capable, competent, ambitious, respected Bright Young Thing. Now it appears I am a useless, clumsy, half-witted Ditzy Old Dullard. The simplest of tasks have this week taken me three times as long to complete, despite the helpful accompaniment of the Ballamory theme tune which haunts me wherever I go. So much has changed in the last three years that it is as though I have been cryogenically preserved, or released from a ten stretch in Holloway, emerging into a world of technology and progress previously unimagined.
This week I have had scores of encounters like this one; “Is your team getting on alright with Widget? We’re finding it more cost-effective than Fidget, but I think we’ll all be relieved when Nidget finally comes in!” Nods of agreement and wry laughs all round. “Absol-UTELY” I exclaimed, with a horsey snort, “that’ll be the answer to all our prayers”. What on earth was I thinking, opening my mouth? God I hope no-one asks me for a break-down of Widget’s pros and cons. Not only was Widget not in use when I was last at work, but nor was Fidget. In fact, I’m struggling to remember what was in use, although it may well have been Didget.
It appears my predecessor made cakes. Lots of cakes. And brought them in for her team on a regular basis, as I have been constantly reminded this week. I do think it is inordinately selfish of temporary staff to offer these sorts of extra-curricular treats, and I’m quite certain she’s done it deliberately to show me up. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover next week that I am also expected to baby-sit Karen’s cat or massage Derek’s feet. How on earth am I supposed to measure up to such a paragon of virtue? Either I will have to burn the midnight oil and substitute Annabel Karmel for Delia’s finest, or drive further up the bankruptcy avenue with regular trips to Waitrose. Perhaps the nanny can bake…
For a mother returning to work after a career break, the end of the first week will naturally prompt agonising soul-searching over her decision. I have thus spent the weekend in deep reflection on my working life, and have come to the following conclusion. I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. Interestingly no-one seems to have picked up on this fact yet, so my plan is to keep my head down, walk busily up and down the corridor every half hour waving pieces of paper, and hide in the loo during performance meetings. After all, I’m equally clueless as a parent, and no-one seems to have sussed that out yet…
Photo credit: Atconc