Friday, 8 January 2010

The Great Work Confidence Trick

An interesting opportunity has appeared. A chance to apply for some short term consultancy work that would be interesting, very useful on my CV, relevant to my own studies, fits into our time scale and pays pretty well. In fact that rare sort of job that ticks every single box.

In the pre-children era I would have been thrilled. I'd have been chomping at the bit, frothing with excitement and desperate to get the job. But today I'm not so gung ho. It would be full time for a few weeks, so the boys would have to go to nursery all day rather than just the mornings. It involves three weeks of being away from home Monday to Friday. Dave has said that he will do the childcare, I am indeed married to a saint, but it is a big ask from me - I'd not be all that happy if he trotted off for that length of time leaving me on my tod. I'd have to miss Luke's 3rd birthday and am having internal debates with myself whether it would be wrong to just move his birthday a few days so it falls on a Saturday rather than a Thursday.

These are all issues often faced by working mothers, and the to work not to work debate seldom seems out of the headlines. Kirsty Young's article in the Telegraph has attracted the most ire recently, but Liz at Living With Kids, Plan B, Blooming Marvelous and Used to be Somebody often muse about the issues of working vs not working and how to achieve some form of balance. It isn't my intention to add to that particular debate here.

What I do want to talk about is a slightly different issue. It's been five years or so since I had a job where someone paid me to do something for them. Since then I have been doing my own research for my studies, but that is all on my own time, effectively for myself and to my own deadlines (although my supervisor may choose to dispute that one). I could be quite flippant and talk about how I'm worried that if I worked in an office now I might try to send colleagues that disagree with me to the naughty step, or how I might hoist anyone foolish enough to raise two hands in the air at the same time onto my hip and wipe their nose for good measure. But the reality is that now I'm being confronted with the possibility that I might have someone paying me to complete some work, I'm scared. I don't know why. The job is well within my capacity. I can do it, not in my sleep for it is more interesting than that, but I have done very similar before. Somewhere in the past couple of years I have lost my confidence in myself outside my role of mother. If truth be known I don't have that much confidence in my role as mother either, but that is best left for a blog post another time.

Pre-babies I had a career. A good one, lots of repsonsibility and decision making. I have degrees (multiple) from excellent Universities. I am doing a PhD for Chrissake! I know that I am totally capable of doing a job. But I do know that most jobs are a confidence trick. Go into them thinking that you can do them and you usually can. Now my confidence is lost, abandoned somewhere between the odd nappy mountain and Annabel Karmel mush making and I am really worried that I won't be able to do a job worth doing anymore.

A big part of me is keen not to go for it, but to take away a warm fuzzy feeling of being asked to apply and then say thanks but no thanks. Childcare and birthdays missed aside, we have a lot to do before we leave in April, without me being pretty much absent for six weeks of that. It would be nice to really enjoy our last few months here, rather than have them whirl past in a manic haze of trying to stay on top of things. But the other part of me is going 'stop being such a wuss! Get your act together and apply for it! It is a fantastic opportunity for you, you won't get another like it'.

After quite a bit of faffing, I did apply for the job (they did ask me to after all). I should hear whether I get it next week. I feel like I'm waiting for the executioners axe to fall.


TheMadHouse said...

I so understand this feeling, I think you will found it is more common than people care to admit. I believe my self confidence is also at an all time low.

When we are working we get appraisals, feed back and people tell us we are doing a great job. We don't get this as mums and I think we need it.

Whatever decision you make, just know that it is the best decision for you and your family at the time that you make it.

I am sure that you are more than qualified and capable of doing the role, so weather you need to fake the confidence for a few days, or choose not to take it further, goof luck!

London City Mum said...

FM - understand your dilemma, as you well know!

If I had to put a totally selfish spin to the whole debate, it would be to use the time-tested "what if?" query.
Take the job, show how good you are, and stop the fretting. If it does not feel right you will know very quickly and can always walk away with your head held high.

Surely this is preferable to pondering months/years later as to what might have been.

If you don't make the most of the opportunity, you will never know. I call it a 'calculated risk'. The boys will think no less of you and as long as you celebrate Luke's birthday somehow, it will not matter if the day coincides with the actual date.

Go for it!


Anonymous said...

I really understand what you mean - I am trying to set myself up as a professional translator after 20 years of teaching - one minute I'm completely fired up by the whole thing and then the next I just want to creep back into the classroom where I know exactly what to do and who I am - it's scary stuff this whole working lark!!

Mwa said...

Oh, yes. Oh yes.

I think in this case you should look 100% at your own fulfillment and happiness. Especially as it's such a short time thing. Our children's birthdays get moved to the weekend all the time. And six weeks is such a short time. It's also not as if you have a tiny baby there. What do you honestly want to do?

Good luck!

Lynn said...

Hey, good for you! I completely understand--I was asked to do some consultancy work last year for two months, which would have resulted in my having to relocate for 2 weeks. Although the work was amazing and WELL within my capacity, I couldn't bring myself to put the kids in daycare for that amount of time. My husband was very supportive, but in the end, I just couldn't do it.

It sounds like you're in a slightly different situation, one major thing being that neither one of your children are breastfeeding. It also sounds like you'll (mostly) be around for that time, and frankly, kids can deal with celebrating birthdays on a different day. We had to do that with Ana's fifth birthday, and we ended up doing a cake at home on her actual birthday, and then a party a week later. She ended up getting two cakes, which was like having two birthdays!

Bottom line, though, you have to do what you think is best for you and your family. If you do that, then you can't make the wrong decision.

Toni in Ithaca said...

Trust me, being about 25 years your senior with two grown offspring, multiple degrees, responsible jobs behind me, and luxuriating in retirement. You will be a better woman, professional, mother, and wife if you take a risk like this once in awhile. Luke won't remember this birthday 30 years from now. And, you have full spouse support, which is grand. You can do it!

Glowstars said...

You've applied, which gives you a while longer to think about whether it's the right move for you and your family. And, when you get it, you don't necessarily need to take the job if you decide it's not the right time for you. Good luck.

nappy valley girl said...

I know how you feel too. In the past 5 years, I've had 2 maternity leaves and one enforced leave of a few months due to moving abroad and having no childcare at first. I feel like I have fallen out of the loop with all the people I used to work for (those that are still going and haven't closed due to recession). It's very hard to get back out there. But if you apply, and you get the job, there is still a choice as to whether to take it.

Mamma Po said...

Oooh, how hugely exciting. I think only you can decide whether it's the right decision for you and your family - although it does sound pretty demanding.

But I totally relate to the wavering confidence thing. I read an interview with Bill Nighy recently where he described how he still got the most awful stage fright. The only way he got over it was to mentally go through all the parts he'd done, all the awards he'd won and all the accolades he'd received. Only after he'd reminded himself of how successful he clearly was and how much other people rated him, did he feel able to go on and do his stuff. If confidence is a trick (which I agree with you it mostly is), then this method has got to be worth a try. Especially as you've got such an impressive academic track record.

Good luck with whatever you decide. Oh and I didn't know you were leaving Bosnia? Have I missed a vital post? Will have to go and explore the archives!

deer baby said...

I know just what you mean. I think you should go for it because otherwise you'll always wonder and it will give your confidence a boost. But if you don't get it, you'll know you went for it. I agree with TheMadHouse, being a mum is generally a task that goes without any feedback. And we so need it.

angelsandurchinsblog said...

I really hope you get the job. Confidence is something that can be won back, and it can happen very quickly, particularly in a situation like this when you have to hit the ground running. It never gets easier to be away from the children, but working does prepare you for the day when they don't need you there full time. And that, apparently, is even harder than this getting back confidence stage. I sob to think about it, personally.

And move the birthday! He won't care as long as he gets cake and pass-the-parcel.

planb said...

Firstly thanks for the link!

But more importantly, I too, proper job notwithstanding, know exactly what you mean. I think there are two things here: one is the utter amazing flatteringness of someone wanting you for you, not because you're somebody's mum. I've been offered a couple of things really that are totally wrong for me but both times I've gone "ooh! I could really do that" before realising that it would be more work for less money and I don't want to do it anyway.... It's just so nice to be asked.

And then there's the confidence thing. I don't think not working changes that - I totally have it too (why do you think I'm still in the same job after 10 years?). I wonder sometimes about applying for a new job, but I'm just too scared to put myself on the line; to be judged... I think as we get older we start to know what we're good at, we know the people who aren't going to push us out of our comfort zone and we settle into that. If we want some excitement we slide down a mountain on a couple of bits of wood and clever things... (given half a chance). Anything else is scary and we're no longer in a place where we need to put ourselves in those scary situations...

For what it's worth, I think Mwa is right. Do what you want to do. And enjoy the ride x

Anonymous said...

Go on, let him have a special birthday with his father and a bonus birthday with you both. Brains need a refill from outside from time to time.

Kelly said...

I am in the process of trying to work out what to do about returning to work and one of my main concerns is that the majority of my confidence has been built over the last 5 years at work because I have done so well. I already feel it slipping away from me even though I have only been off work for 7 months and wonder what would happen if I decide to have a few years bringing up children and not working.

And I thought the decision whether to return to work or not would be a simple one. Ha!

Good luck with your application x

The Dotterel said...

I find the longer I'm out of the classroom, the less I want to go back so I can understand something of what you're saying. And your circumstances - the deadline for leaving and so on - just make the decision even harder. Trust your instincts; I'm sure they'll be right. And if the Queen can do it, so can Luke!

Mummy said...

One of the best pieces of advice given to me is whether they will remember it when they are 18 and whether they will hate you for it.

I suspect in this case the answer is "no" and "no" so if you are going to enjoy it then you should do it.

SnafflesMummy said...

Just wanted to wish you look with the job and whatever decision you make if offered it.

Im sure wheatever you decide it will be for the benifit of you and your family.

TP said...

I shall beat you over the head with a stick next time I see you. You know this'll be great. Big hugs - xx

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

To everyone - I did apply, but didn't get the job. Big Grrrrr but I'm feeling ok about it. I think. It was an honour and a bit of a surprise to be asked to apply in the first place so I am quite chuffed about that. Obviously now they don't want me I really want the job, but the reality is it is probably better all round for me not to spend the next couple of months running around like a headless lunatic trying to fit it all in.

Thanks for all your comments and support. I really appreciate it. Am hugely stressed for time at the moment, but will reply to all your comments when I can.

PS - Thirsty P - when are you on Skype? I keep checking but you are never around. Would love a chat. xx

mothership said...

I really understand your ambivalence. I do think, though, that much of the reluctance to leave the boys for 3 weeks is being muddled up with your own anxiety and loss of self-confidence (says she, who has not had a shred of paid work for 2.5 years and is beginning to think she imagined it all).

If you do get it, I urge you to take the job. If only so that you can remember that you also have a place in the working world if you want it at some point as well as the home front. When you're back to 'normal' everyone will be more appreciative and grateful for their current roles. The boys will be FINE and your 3 year old doesn't know when his birthday is.
And if you don't get the job, it wasn't meant to be
Good luck!

Metropolitan Mum said...

Sorry to hear you didn't get the job. You would have done brilliantly, I am sure!

xx MM

Muddling Along Mummy said...

Does having not got it clarify how you feel about the possibility ? It was the prospect of not working that really cleared up for me that I wanted to carry on with my day job ... I hope that you reach a decision that works for you all

Muddling Along Mummy said...

Oh and I don't think there's anything wrong in shifting birthdays by a few days - we did for Toddlergirl's first and will for her 2nd

Tattie Weasle said...

Me too - confidence and being paid to work. Personally I think I am unemployable! It is scary. Crossing fingers for you and as my Grandad used to say: Take it one step at a time....

Lady Mama said...

I can relate. I went for a job a few months back, then fretted about not actually wanting it, then didn't get it and was relieved. Being out of work for a few years understandably leads to feelings of trepidation about returning. When the time is right a good opportunity will come along and you'll do it no problem!

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

MH - thanks. I miss adult feedback as well. But the big old smile is a good one too.

LCM - I like the what if tactic. I shall be using it more in the future!

Kathryn - People who haven't been out of the world of work for a while don't necessarily understand how scary it is to go back into it - especially when you know you are more than capable of doing it. Good luck with the translating stuff!

Mwa - Thanks. Decision out of my hands now, they didn't want me after all. Grrrrr. Now of course I want it very much. Ah well.

Lynn - the difficulty is working out what is best for me and what is best for my family. Where is the line between being selfish and doing the best for yourself drawn? So tricky.

Toni - thanks so much. If I had got the job, I'd have taken it. Oh well, next time!

Glowstars - you are right. I did apply which means I can hold my head up high, even though I didn't get the job. Fingers crossed for next time.

NVG - Being out of the loop is what makes it difficult. Suddenly the world of work is not so friendly any more, which makes it scary. I do sometimes feel that I am now never going to achieve my potential as I'm never going to get a job that is interesting. I almost feel that i've missed the boat a bit. Oh well, we shall see...

Mamma Po - Yes, back in April. Shall be seeing you on the island this summer? Confidence is such a trick. I need to remember how to fake it for a bit.

Deer Baby - Thanks so much. I did go for it in the end, but didn't get it. But next time I won't be so worried about applying!

A&U - Didn't but am ok about it. And you are right about the cake!

Plan B - it is always nice to be asked. I do worry about being in my comfort zone too much. Much as I hate leaving it, I'm always pleased when I do (hence Bosnia...)

Owen - you are not wrong there!

Kelly - that confidence, it is all such an ephermeral thing. Hope you find yours. When you do could you check and see if mine is there to?

Dotterel - Thanks. I'm so relieved it isn't just me who is worried about doing things that I used to do with no second thought.

Mummy - You are so right. I like that way of thinking about things.

Snaffles Mummy - thanks, I appreciate your support.

Thirsty P - where are you?

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Mothership - I think you have a point there, when everything goes back to normal everyone will appreciate normal that much more. I didn't get the job, but I'm more relaxed about the idea of the work now. We shall see what the future holds...

MM - thanks. I'd have been amazing. They don't know what they are missing. Ah hem!

MAM - obviously I really want it now... but that is mainly because I can't have it.

TW - I think I'm getting more unemployable the longer I'm out of work. It will be a shock when I eventually get back in there. I may need to set up my own business and work for myself in order to avoid it!

LM - I know how you feel. I was relieved too. Here's to the right time though!

Iota said...

Aaaargh, I SO understand.

When I started in the Civil Service in 1987, there was a lot of talk about helping "women returners" get back into work, and the dept I worked for ran confidence-building seminars and assertiveness training. At the tender age of 23, I remember saying to myself (and I hope, I hope, not to anyone else), "What is their problem, these women? How hard can it be to go to work? It's just a job. It's part of life. Why do you need confidence training for normal life?"

It never occurred to me that one day I'd be among their number. Ah, the arrogance of youth!

And then 5 years ago I worked part-time in a job that was well within my capabilities (very beneath them, honestly). Because of the personalities involved, I couldn't really cope (plus Husband was job-hunting at the time, and we didn't know one month to the next where or whether we'd be moving, plus I had 3 kids under the age of 7). That experience of not coping has made it all the harder now to think I ever will. The annoying thing is that I can see very clearly that it wasn't ME who was the problem in that work situation (boy oh boy, was I tempted to put my boss and a few of his colleagues on the naughty step!) But somehow I was the one who took on all the stress and disfunctionality.

This sounds a bit self-pitying, and I just sense that I'm the wrong generation. Thirty-something mothers seem to take the return to work in their stride. I'm forty-something and feel like it's a hurdle I'm just not equipped to get over.

I like Mamma Po's comment re Bill Nighy. I read him say that too. Perhaps there are some tricks to confidence that you can learn (ooh, I need one of those seminars I used to poo-poo).

angels&urchinsblog said...

Reading all the comments is like a post about working/confidence/being a mum in its own right. Love some of the advice, and I'm definitely going to follow Mummy's 'Will they remember when they're 18' rule. And Dotterel is quite right about moving birthdays being good enough for the queen!

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Iota - I could do with one of those courses. Why is it that those with experience lack the confidence that should come with experience and those with none who clearly shouldn't have the confidence have it in buckets?

A&U - We should publish a book of mothers advice made up from comments on blog posts!

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