I’ve had a little more time to think about the good days and bad days, with a little help from the commenters on my previous post, and I got to wondering why I felt the need to explain the bad days away.
The fact is, not working is psychologically tricky.
I don’t miss work one iota. I’d long-since stopped enjoying it, it was a huge source of stress, and in the scheme if things, nothing I did there seemed very important. If I miss anything, it’s the relationships – and not even specific relationships, really (though there are people I’ve lost touch with, and I’m a little sad about that). What I actually miss is the day-to-day interactions. But actually, I get that vicariously from Kevin. He laughs at me, for treating his job like a soap opera, but as long as I get ten minutes a day of update on who’s in trouble with their wife, who’s pregnant, who’s fallen over drunk and damaged themselves, and who’s given the Big Boss an earful over something, I’m fine. A little bit of office drama is all I’m after, and it doesn’t take long to fulfil that need, even second hand.
There is a deeper need, though. You have to work much harder on your opinion of yourself, if it’s not externally validated by a pay-packet. When I was in work, however bad I felt about myself, there was always the reality that I was worth a certain amount of hard cash to someone, and that actually, there were plenty of people who thought I was good at my job, and respected me in it, as a bonus. That didn’t stop me from plunging into deep pits of self-loathing, but it was at least some kind of external anchor.
My decision to give up work altogether is an unusual one, particularly amongst the sorts of women whom I might consider to be my peers. Almost everyone works part time, at least, plenty work full time, and I don’t envy them a scrap. Life shouldn’t be lived at the pace that requires, in my opinion – at least, my life shouldn’t. It would kill me.
Because it’s unusual, and because it has now been accompanied by the even more unusual decision to home educate, I feel a faint, but constant pressure, to prove that it’s not a mistake. To prove that I can cope, that it is, indeed, the best thing for all of us, and that I’m capable of making a success of it. And that’s where it’s going wrong – I shouldn’t have to prove that, and in fact, I don’t have to prove it.
I don’t really believe in mistakes, and I certainly don’t believe in regrets. I make my choices in life to the best of my ability, based in the information I have available at the time. If the information turns out to be flawed, incorrect or incomplete, that’s not my fault. I did the best I could, and that’s fine. Very few decisions are unmitigaged disasters – most of them are about selecting from a range of perfectly reasonable options, and deciding which one to invest your energy into. Most people consider school to be the easier option – that may be true, it may not, but it’s just another option. I can invest my energy in educating my children, or I can invest in getting them up, washed, dressed and out of the house every day, so that someone else can educate them. It’s only different, not better or worse.
The point I’m trying to make, is that my mum stayed at home with her children, until I was nearly ten, I think, but she did so because it was normal, because no alternative ever occurred to her, and consequently, she didn’t spent those ten years justifying the decision, and trying to explain away and justify the bad days – which, as I said in the previous post, everyone has, in every role. It doesn’t make you a failure, it makes you normal. Except I get caught up trying to prove that. Which is a waste of my energy.