It’s been 11 weeks and 6 days since I left my job and became unemployed.
Yes, I voluntarily quit my job and decided to put my mental and physical health first to be (excuse me for want of a better phrase) a ‘stay-at-home-mother’ (for now!).
So many people often laugh and belittle the title but it hasn’t been without complication and is definitely the hardest decision I’ve made to date, one I absolutely did not take lightly.
Mentally and emotionally, I was admitting complete defeat. Although not difficult for some, personally my previous job wasn’t the easiest to contend with – as with many, over-prescribed and under-appreciated, and despite putting up a fight, it didn’t take much to feel like a total failure 24/7 after many unhappy 10 hour days, 5 days a week.
Financially, feeling this unmotivated and under-appreciated came at the unforgivable cost of £1,200 a month in nursery fees, £50 a week in fuel and many a Great British Pound in forgotten lunch boxes and ‘run away from my desk at lunchtime to survive snacks’ – I’ve now left all that behind in addition to an entire salary… Another ridiculously hard parting for sure. As well as this, my departure prior to what’s known as the ‘qualifying week’ for maternity pay, has also left us rather short-changed.
So when did I decide to put myself above my job, money, and stability I hear you ask? In all honesty, it hit me like a train in slow motion for a few months then the fire started and I burnt out in the blink of an eye.
For months, it started as a series of small interferences with my day-to-day life: things like feeling overwhelmed, regularly crying on my way home from work, not enjoying anything outside of work at the fear of heading back the next day. This quite quickly snowballed after finding out I was pregnant in Easter earlier this year. Emotions running higher and baby brain swallowing me whole, I was tripping at every hurdle and it began to show it all aspects of my life, work being the hardest to go unnoticed. As the pressure mounted, I became a stressed-shell of my former self and found that I couldn’t stand up for myself at the fear of confrontation or worse, dismissal. It was all-consuming and I slowly lost my ability to concentrate, my confidence in decision making and imposter syndrome kicked in HARD. Recently, I read an article (forgive me, I can’t remember where) about how imposter syndrome is actually more about colleagues making you feel inferior and not accepted than you being bad at your job. It was a shocking eye-opener that, yes I could have been getting worse at my job through stress and anxiety but feeling inferior was, in fact, more a part of feeling inadequate. I was jumping through hoops, working away and for many weekends and extended days but it never ever felt like enough.
Now, here’s a bit of advice pregnant mama to pregnant mama – whatever you do, research your rights and make sure your employer follows the guidelines for pregnant women in the workplace. It can make a HUGE difference in how your role and job load is handled and a risk assessment is an absolute necessity, wherever you work. I felt at a disadvantage with this and only wish I’d been more outspoken at the time; this was an unignorable protruding factor on my ‘why I should quit’ list.
As we reached early May, heading towards my 9th week of pregnancy, the downward spiral only got more slippery. The dread of the job took over and I’d lost every ounce of gusto for my job and my home life; my entire life felt unbearable and with that, I sort medical help. Having previously had fairly negative interactions with the NHS and mental health, I was fortunately not ignored and was signed off work with ‘work-related stress’ for two weeks – even that felt like I was letting my job down. I didn’t quite know what to do with my days and regularly lay around feeling unmotivated and generally unwell; the weeks passed quickly and before I knew it I was back to the constant dread. On my return to work, my absence seemed like the elephant in the room. If it wasn’t for the lovely ladies who sat around me reassuring me with ‘are you ok’ and ‘if you need to talk, you know where I am’, I’m really not sure I would have survived the 6 weeks that followed.
As I slumped into my corner desk and tried to plow through the never-ending tasks that seemed to have festered in my absence, I’d never felt so behind or snowed under with jobs where deadlines had passed or were imminently due. With no assistant or colleague to share the load with, I started to crumble all over again. Nothing had changed and almost seemed like my time away had never happened. It was never really discussed beyond a short and sweet meeting where I agreed that I was fit for work again. In no time at all the tasks began piling up and it only got worse – it was then my overall capability was beginning to be questioned.
As I entered my yearly appraisal, I knew I was officially failing. I’d appeared to have stepped into a losing battle with little to no lifelines left to use. After raising many flags about my concerns, there was no mention of my increase in workload, my work quantity being constantly chosen over quality, me being signed off work with stress and certainly not a peep about how my role had changed since becoming pregnant. Needless to say, I was rung out and hung out to dry. My mind began to ponder whether I could survive 5 to 6 months more of this without a. being fired or b. miscarrying – it was at that exact moment, mid-meeting, that I had already made up my mind: to leave was my only option. I spent the following 2 weeks vigorously researching my maternity options and entitlement, spending almost every lunch breaks on the phone speaking to god knows how many people in the Government’s benefits department. Devastatingly falling short for statutory maternity pay, I luckily qualified for maternity allowance but this was going to leave me with an 8-week pay gap which we couldn’t really afford to do, but what choice did I have.
On Monday 24th June, I handed in my notice to an unshocked response. When asked why, my schpiel of ‘my health absolutely has to come first’ came pouring out – this was greeted with even less shock but the deal was done. Feeling oddly free but unnervingly cut off, I began my shut down almost instantly. I took on zero new tasks and wrapped up every piece outstanding in the 4 weeks that followed. I guess, for myself, I still wanted to prove that I could do the work at hand (when it came in reasonable and realistic quantities!). I left with my head held high and my mental and physical health just about intact. I regretted nothing and still don’t.
We didn’t know how we’d cope with one income but have picked up a few tips for how to save our pennies along the way – we’ve had to:
- Cut down nursery days – the biggest saver! From 4 to 2 days with the help of Granny Day Care twice a week has been a godsent – plus the added bonus of spending more time with Rory at home has been priceless!
- Condense our cars to having just one – in order to save the next wedge we condensed to paying for just one car, one tax & one insurance by handing my lease back to the garage and trading in Kyle’s for a bigger, more economical car (hello Kadjar with a humongous boot and space for us all – new baby included!)
- Stop needlessly buying food (a biggie for us!) – plan, plan, plan! Impulse food buying is a wallet emptier for sure! Now we always check out which days/times supermarkets reduce their meats and have sometimes chosen to batch cook for lunches to help save a few more £££’s!
There is a definite moral to the story guys & gals, and that is never ever take your health for granted and whatever you do, do not hesitate to put yourself first, even if it seems impossible. You only have one you and driving yourself into the ground will not be doing anyone any favours.
It’s been the toughest and weirdest few months of my life so far and to think if I hadn’t have been pregnant I would have moved on to another job has made it a tricky one to swallow. I guess being unemployment has to be my title for now – I know it won’t always be like this and it won’t always be this tough! Just remember, you can never bloom the most beautiful flowers without a little bit of rain!
Love to y’all, OCM! xx