Sunday, 22 January 2012

Shaking off the winter blues

I used to hate January. Or rather, since my mid-twenties, every year I've come to feel a growing sense of unease in late December, deepening to depression as the new year hits. I had trouble sleeping, lacked energy and enthusiasm and absolutely loathed the thought of having to go back to work after the Christmas break. I'm sure that there were many reasons for this - the combination of the darker days, the post-festive slump, but also the feeling of time passing and my life still not measuring up to some increasingly unrealistic goals (rats, I really have left it too late for that stage career and hmm, how likely is a lottery win so that I can afford that little place in the country?!).

Fortunately, last January and this one, I've felt a lightening of the darkness. Last year, I spent the first half of the month waiting for the baby to arrive, and then was frankly too tired and overwhelmed and busy and (once we'd got into the swing of things) happy to spend much time in introspection. And this year has been different again. Yes, I've felt a little blue under these grey skies, but something's changed and I don't think it's only because we're become a family. Rather I think it's that I have finally found a work-life balance that suits me. In some ways, it's a shame that there is so much pressure on us to work 5 days a week and that it feels like the only acceptable way to work less requires the 'excuse' of childcare. I've returned to work on a 4-day contract (although technically I've been working only 3 days to use up some accrued leave but that ends soon) and it has made a huge difference to how I feel about both work and my time at home. After 11 months on maternity leave I was looking forward to going back to the Office and that feeling of enjoyment is still with me most days (hey - who doesn't have off days?!) Equally, my time spent at home, with my family is also better - there's more of it, for one thing, which means that it can be savoured rather than that inevitable sensation that there's not enough time to get everything done, or the even worse feeling that you've just wasted 2 days doing nothing at all (although I'm all for the occasional slob-out, this is an increasingly rare occurence with a small child).

Working part-time gives you that additional space to breathe. To do the things that you want to do, as well as all the things that you have to do. I've got more time in the kitchen, more time in the garden (or at least, planning for the coming growing season), more time to make things, to spend time with people I love and to make new friends and find new hobbies. I'm incredibly lucky that my work is supportive of part-time hours (frankly, if the baby rate in our Office keeps up we'll have more people working part-time for childcare reasons that full-time!) But if you do have the opportunity to work less and play more (or just work at something else) then I'd say 'don't hesitate' - money may make the world go round, but it doesn't always have to be the most important thing in our lives.

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