The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

The return to Gainful Employment

on May 21, 2016

For over a year I have been meaning to write this post.


At first I thought I would write about the excitement and fear at the thought of returning to Gainful Employment after six and a half years away. I thought I would chart the slow journey to finding Gainful Employment again. The dusting down of a CV with a big gaping hole in it. Wondering about the creative ways I could explain how my new found experience in parenting, adapting to a new culture and building a support group from nothing would make me  a suitable candidate for consideration for this job.


But as luck would have it, the return to Gainful Employment happened rather sooner than I expected.


So then I thought I would write about those first few days being back in an office. Having conversations that I hadn’t had in six and half years. Seeking out vocabulary from the recesses of my brain that had been left dormant. Strategy planning. Objectives. Capacity building. Finding myself in a familiar and yet unfamiliar environment. So then I thought perhaps I better wait until I had passed the three month probation mark, just in case it didn’t quite work out.


Then somehow, before I knew it, it’s now been a year since I returned to Gainful Employment. An eventful year. With highs and lows. At home and in the office. Challenges and new experiences. It has taken this whole year to transition myself into this new role. There have been times a plenty when I have felt the need to explain my six year absence from Gainful Employment. Feeling almost apologetic that I had the opportunity to take time out and be with #1, 2 and 3. I will feel eternally grateful that I had that time.


I realise the feeling apologetic part is entirely my own doing. It is me that worried about whether my skills and contribution to my job was relevant. The only person who saw the gaping six and a half year gap was me. If I didn’t have the required skills, experience, relevancy, I wouldn’t have gotten the job otherwise. I can see now that I was out of practice more than anything.


I wondered whether having taken this time out that I would re-evaluate what kind of Gainful Employment I would seek. A career break is as good a time as any to assess what other options are available. I’ve seen other people take this opportunity to try something new. Build a new business venture with skills that were once thought of as just a hobby but with the click of a mouse you can have your own on-line store.


But as it turns out, at the core of what I want to do, the Not For Profit sector is still very much for me. The way I see it, the voluntary sector is full of great people doing great stuff for all those causes that need your help. And we are a giving and caring society who want to help those causes. Matching the two up together is what I want to do. Helping people and organisations do good and to do it well.


It feels good to be back in that space. At once familiar and unfamiliar. I’m in a completely different sector and on a huge learning curve absorbing all that I can about conservation, the environment, climate change and the cause and effect of how we currently live our lives and the impact it will have on resources available for tomorrow. With education comes more consideration. I am so enjoying this part of what I do. I get to share it with #1, 2 and 3 who all are learning about wildlife conservation and climate change. Being able to talk to them about my work is one of the great things.


At the same time, my return to Gainful Employment was a juggle for them too at the start. So used to having you at home and then suddenly not so much. The one to drop them off at school and pick them up afterwards. Sometimes even having time to do fun stuff instead of cramming it all into the weekends. But what softened the blow, is the fact that #1 and 2 started Big School last August and so with the longer school days, I wasn’t really missing out on that many hours. Well that’s what I tell myself. Truth is, you think that when they start Big School is when you will have more time to do your own thing. Except it doesn’t work out that way. There’s packed lunches to think of, packing the right school stuff for the right day’s activities. There’s homework, project work, reading, writing, maths practice to fit in. Where does all this fit in?


In the short space of time that you really want to spend asking them how was their day and not much else. Least of all rushing from one place to another and hurriedly start a piece of work that would take you or me about ten minutes to do but a whole lot longer for a 7 year old at a time when it should be unwinding for everyone instead of winding everyone up.


In an ideal world, wouldn’t it be great if you could work part time. Somewhere not far from your home so that you could still do the morning school drop off, be amongst Grown Ups and do Grown Up Things before finishing work in time to do the school pick up. So that for the small people you are there for them at all the right times. Perhaps a couple  of days a week you may even have time to yourself and leisurely do your weekly Big Shop as well as meet up with a friend for a chin wag and coffee.


I was lucky enough to have six months part time to ease myself and the whole family into my new role. I worked three full days and two half days so that I could still pick up #1 and 2 and get round to doing some chores. It helped enormously. By the time I was due to go full time, it felt doable. Even though I missed those two half days with #1, 2 and 3. I know how fortunate I am that I haven’t been juggling like this since #1 was four months old which is the standard maternity leave in Singapore. I marvel at colleagues who have done that. Some even returning a whole lot earlier to eke out their maternity as long as they can. When I think back to those early foggy days of new parenting where I couldn’t even string a thought together to get myself organised let alone look at Excel spreadsheets and Word documents.


And that’s another thing that has changed. Whilst Word, Excel and Powerpoint still exist, I’m still trying to catch up on a whole new world that has sprung up in the workplace. Things like Google Drive and Dropbox. Social media and EDMs. There appears to be no franking machines around because post goes straight to Inboxes. Which is a good thing of course. Saving the Earth’s resources. For want of sounding like the old person who says things like ‘it wasn’t like this is my day’ or ‘back in the day’ or ‘before you were born we used to…’.


It takes time to get yourself reacquainted with Gainful Employment. All these new terms and technology can sometimes shake your confidence a bit. But with anything, once you get back into your stride it’s like you’ve never left before. Thrive on this learning new things. It can seem a bit daunting at first but really it’s just a different way of doing something familiar.


When you’ve taken time out of Gainful Employment and as much time as I did, it can be a challenge to get back into it. Wondering whether you’ve still got it. Whether it’s ok to be thinking about other things like #1, 2 and 3. Whether it would be ok so take half an hour because #1 or 2 have School Assembly you need to attend. There were times I felt guilty about not having enough time with #1, 2 and 3 and there were times I felt I had to prove that I could still put in all the hours needed for Gainful Employment.


Where once it seemed like only certain professions were on call at any time. I’ve realised that office hours don’t really exist anymore. In the same way we engage with mobile phones and have laptops to take home, work is never far away. A quick check of an email here. A ‘team’ WhatsApp chat group there. We are more connected and closer to our work colleagues than ever before. If someone sends you an email at 10pm, do we reply to it there and then or do you wait until the morning. Will they know you have seen the email and what does it say if you don’t respond there and then?


After a year of this, I’m almost fully properly reacquainted with Gainful Employment. I can’t imagine not having this. Both for financial reasons and for fulfilling a sense of self. But do I feel guilty on the days when I’m getting in just before #1, 2 and 3’s bedtime? Of course I do. But I also feel relief that I have something else to occupy my mind and challenge it in different ways that parenting alone does. I like all the new things I’m learning and the people I work with. I like how I’m working for a cause I fully believe in and in some small way must be making a positive contribution to.


It can be riddled with guilt at times with feeling like you’re doing neither job as well as you think you should be doing but in truth you’re doing an amazing job of both. My priorities have definitely changed since the arrival of #1, 2 and 3. They have made me look at the world differently. More than ever, I feel that time spent away from #1, 2 and 3 should be time spent well. It’s not enough just to do a job to pay the bills. Choose something worth doing and do it well. 

Welcome back to Gainful Employment.

Earth Hour 2016






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