August 12, 2009

The most pressing problem this week, has been money. You are going to have to bear with me, cos I am not entirely sure what this post is about yet.

I havent been in paid employment since the middle of the summer. And even though this was the absolute worst case scenario- have found that I actually quite like it. You have to understand that I went back to work when Rachel was 4 months old, and the kind of job I do, is a bit all encompassing. Its very easy to miss the little things, the playing, the stories, making buns- when you are committed to a job where there will always be a crisis, with massive consequences, to divert your attention.

Social work is a funny one- am not complaining about it. I loved it. It was all I wanted to do. When my case loads were manageable- if you could get past the bureacratic nightmare of a collapsing, under resourced service, with a blame culture, the whole world wanting your head on a stick, being universally hated, admin on a scale never imagined, on computer systems provided by the lowest possible bidder, and the fact that whenever you meet someone at parties and mention what you do, you get a Dave Pfelzer-esque tale of their most personal horrors- it was pretty great. I have never worked with a kid that I didnt like, and even though my job was to make a service work for them, that didnt really work for anyone-I can absolutely list dozens of occasions, where my effort had a real and lasting consequence that will be make a positive lifelong difference.

Its gets harder to tally the negatives, when you return to work-post baby, and you are having to justify your part time status, by working a full time caseload in part time hours, and you realise that the biggest personal threat to you, is managers wanting to save their own skins, not the violent situations and people you come across. The importance of your role in  kids lives, means that you end up working twice your contracted hours, by working every night when you come home- and it still isnt enough time to manage the basic tasks which are essential and will protect them, never mind the stuff which would make life easier for them.

When you are taking calls about things you hope your child will never experience, while supervising the playdoh at toddler group you realise there needs to be an alternative. For, me, and several of the people I went through university with, whether we were able to find that alternative, depended very much, on how tired we were from living with that pressure.

This year has been like learning to breathe again. Finding that not everyone lives their life, with an endless to do list, of minor tasks which make a huge difference- that the service which doesnt work, will continue to not work, in the same way, whether you are in the middle of it or not, has been liberating. Life has the potential to be pretty nice if you have time to enjoy the small things- playing in the park, reading, watching Dora, sitting outside with your friends.

Dont get me wrong- learning what it was like to breathe, only came after the breathtaking shock of me extracting myself from a profession which has defined and shaped my life for so long.

I made a plan. Its a fairly good plan-I have a place at Leeds University for the autumn, to expand on my social work knowledge, with an MA in Social Policy, which will prepare me for my first research. The plan could mean that I get to experience my little girls childhood, whilst still sane and functioning AND get to contribute to the field I have been passionate about for as long as I can remember.

But then we come back to the cold hard realities, that us lefties are so bad at. Money. The absence of a rich family/husband/grant/bursary/student loan means that its looking like an increasingly unlikely plan. The need to maintain the basics. House, food, utilities, books and tuition take precedence.  I have a very bad feeling that tuition is going to be an expense I am not going to have to find, and that my return to social work is imminent.


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