On Monday afternoon I took down my calendar, my photos of the girls, the card my senior partner sent me last autumn to mark, well let’s just call it a really long time with the firm, unearthed a Christmas card from underneath my telephone and packed them all in my bags along with my work shoes, the random detritus of working life that accumulate in the back of a desk drawer, and a few of my textbooks that linger on my shelves as a bastion against progress. My work paperwork, the big sturdy holepunch that has a big CARIE sticker on it, and the stapler that says CATH all went in a document box to spend the next year gathering dust on the top of one of our bookcases, and my files were handed over to colleagues who received them with increasing looks of woe and panic.
And then I left to catch my train home.
And that was it. Well sort of. I kind of have a Blackberry that picks up work emails and I did give it a glance on Tuesday just to check that there wasn’t anything important and forward a couple of things on to the right people.
But technically I’ve finished work for a year, give or take a few months, and even in reality I know I’ll stop checking email and the Blackberry will be allowed to run out of battery and tucked away with its charger until next year.
And it feels really strange.
I don’t know why it should; I have done this twice before; two lots of handover notes, two lots of deciding who is best placed to run my files; two lots of emptying my desk and walking away; and yet I just can’t quite get my head around the idea that I’m not just taking a week’s annual leave for a well deserved rest, and I’ll be back before I know it.
Well the latter at least is probably true.
I’ve always tried to live by the concept that my profession is what I do, it is not what I am, but while I think that is an important distinction to hold on to, in that I am not, nor have I ever been, just my job (I’m a wife, a mother, a writer, a photographer, a creator, a woman of faith, a lover of cake, a recent convert to the merits of the German football team, and so many other things as well), I think it is disingenious to pretend that it is not a part of what makes me me.
And perhaps it is that, combined with the sudden stop, that can make it all feel so strange. I’m lucky enough to have a job that for the most part I enjoy and that I’m good at. And it takes up three days and a whole heap of other odd minutes, snatches of dreams and random moments of clarity over the washing up every week. I knit a lot less than that and if I suddenly stopped knitting for a year I think that would seem more than bizarre, although for the record, I like knitting more, even in this crazy sauna heat!
There’s a concept in the world of Unschooling (which fascinates me even though I’m not sure I’d ever choose it for the girls) which says that when your children have been at school, and you decide to take them out of school and use Unschooling for their learning, you first have to do Deschooling; you have to get the schoolishness out of their system, trusting that the good bits of formalised schooling will stay there, and letting the child find their interests, find their drive and passion for learning again.
I think that might be what’s needed for the start of any maternity leave, particularly for anyone coming out of a high pressure or high profile job; a period of De-working. So that’s what I’m going to try to do this week; de-work.
If it largely looks like taking it easy, doing a lot of sitting and knitting and thinking, well that’s probably what I need; a little time to think about the big things and the little things; to consciously let go of my caseload, to find the rhythm of days at home and to start to think and plan properly for this baby’s arrival, and then next week I can do all the crazy nesting things like cleaning out the car, and spending an entire day with H trying to make our studio useable, and having my sister come and visit and sort baby clothes.
Next week. Just please baby, mind and stay put until then OK?