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shadows of echoes of memories of songs
Stay there four days
I took Friday and Monday off work with no more concrete plans than "catch up on sleep and chill out a bit". At least, that's what I thought I was doing, but I forgot I already had lots of things in my calendar. So, here's what I did on a "doing nothing" four-day weekend:

* got my 'flu jab (ow! still sore)
* went up to London to see the Queen sing carols
* had Sunday lunch at the Isis Farmhouse with lots of nice people
* made a Christmas pudding
* phoned my parents and my grandma
* fixed two pairs of shoes (with sugru) and a hole in a door (with duct tape)
* went to a School Governors' meeting
* saw Jesus Christ Superstar at the Oxford Playhouse (thanks to addedentry for adding it to Theatricalia so efficiently!)

In between all that stuff I did also manage to get more sleep than usual (apart from this morning when I woke up around 5:30am and didn't manage to get back to sleep until just before the alarm went off for addedentry to get up and go to work), and read a bit (I am still wading through Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow -- yes, I am probably the last person in the Guardian-reading universe who hasn't already read it -- but I only have it in giant trade paperback format, and it's only just started getting good enough that I don't resent carrying the huge heavy book around), and post my blog-post-a-day (sometimes even managing to post it before last thing at night), and eat sensibly (including making a really quite nice kedgeree in the slow cooker on Sunday -- I wish I had the time and forward-planning tuits to do more slow-cooker stuff). So I think overall that's probably a success for 'Operation: Chill'.

Every time I take a couple of days off like this I'm reminded how much easier it would be to keep all the 'life admin' tasks under control if I didn't have to go to work, and how I wouldn't actually get bored because I still do plenty of other stuff (and would be able to commit to doing more). This is either a very good time or a very bad time to be thinking "what would I do if I didn't go to work?" -- on the one hand I am intending to go back to work after maternity leave (and will have to go back for at least 3 months otherwise I'd have to pay back all the maternity pay!), but on the other hand, am I just doing that because I feel I have to? Financially I'd have to do some kind of work, but there's nothing that says I have to spend the next 30 years doing what I'm doing now. I'm not going to go into detail about this now because it's late and I'm tired (and anyway I think it would be foolish to try to make too firm a decision before seeing what it's really like for me spending at least 9 months off work), but it has made me think about the extent to which I'm defining myself by my work (or by the fact that I go to work), and whether I'm doing what I want to do or what I think I ought to do, and it's probably good to be forced to think those things a bit more clearly. Otherwise, you know, I might wake up in 30 years' time and think "is that what I wanted to do with my life?" and by then it'll be a bit too late to change anything.

The subject line of this post, by the way, refers to a game I used to play with my best friend Kerry when we were about 4 or 5. I had a toy farm with lots of different animals (including some things that were from a 'zoo' set, so the 'farm' had elephants and a panda and a walrus and all sorts of other miscellaneous animals), and in our game, the animals would all ESCAPE! Oh noes! So we'd round them up and make them go back into the farm, and then we'd shout "STAY THERE FOR DAYS!" at them to make sure they stayed put. But then they'd ESCAPE again! ... and thus the whole sorry cycle would repeat itself. For hours on end. Would it be cynical of me to try to relate this to the experience of work in some way? Probably.

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From: hsenag Date: November 22nd, 2010 11:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think a three or four day week would make a nice balance. I do other stuff too but I think I'd just get lazy without having some element of focus.
venta From: venta Date: November 23rd, 2010 01:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was chatting last week to a friend who works three days a week (Tues-Thurs) and is a full-time mum the remaining four. She reckons that's an ideal split, as at the end of each work/home period she's looking forward to the next home/work period.
jvvw From: jvvw Date: November 23rd, 2010 03:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Pregnancy got me thinking about all the same sort of things, though also realised that it was a bit premature to start making any actual decisions. Cost of childcare is another added dimension/ complexity too.
julietk From: julietk Date: November 23rd, 2010 07:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Going back to office work after two years of freelancing has made it very clear how much I prefer a) working part-time, and b) being my own boss. This is only temporary, so I can put up with it for another 6months (and in fact I wouldn't have taken it on permanently in the first place), but I am greatly looking forward to June. I've been doing 4 days/wk and keeping up the freelancing on the spare day which is fairly tough; I've just agreed with my boss to go down to 3 day/wk as of December and am incredibly relieved.

Freelancing for me was working out at 2-3 days of "work" per week, after which everything else got happily filled up with all the *other* interesting things I want to do but which aren't necessarily lucrative :) And I still felt more than busy enough.

(Current situation is not helped by the fact that whilst I think my company is great and does awesome stuff, I'm not madly enthused by the job itself, but that is something to elaborate on elsewhere if at all.)
jinty From: jinty Date: November 23rd, 2010 09:57 am (UTC) (Link)

Glad you managed to get some rest in

Never heard of that Sugru stuff before - looks very cool! Thanks for the link.

No, I am the last Guardian-reading person in the universe who hasn't read Miss Smilla - never felt the urge, aka it's too popular and I like genre fiction me.

I'm expecting to go back four days a week; I've been wanting to work a four-day week for years anyway. I have this uncertainty that childcare is gonna turn out to be a bigger hit than we can readily appreciate right now, and R is going to go down to four days a week too so our income will be reduced, but we'll see how it looks on that basis initially.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 23rd, 2010 09:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Glad you managed to get some rest in

Four days a week would be good. I asked our HR person ages ago whether she thought I'd be able to come back part-time & then go back to full-time later, & she said she thought not, because it was really awkward -- so I'd sort of dismissed the idea, but I asked Nice Boss today & he said "gosh yes of course that's quite normal". So maybe Mrs HR and I had crossed wires or something -- I think I need go and have a talk to her.

Childcare is going to be cripplingly expensive. I'm not really sure what the answer is, apart from "Never have any spare money again"...
jinty From: jinty Date: November 24th, 2010 09:02 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Glad you managed to get some rest in

At one point years ago I asked about the possibility of going four days a week unless any project came up that needed me for five days - ie offering them flexibility within a framework of me basically doing four days a week, rather than doing four days at point X and then changing back to five days at point Y. - They said that would be too complicated. Maybe HR lady thought you meant that?
From: scat0324 Date: November 24th, 2010 10:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Glad you managed to get some rest in

HR person is wrong (surprise!). As a parent, you will have the right to request flexible working - including the option to go part time. While the right is a right only to ask, your employer can only reject the request if there are good business reasons to do so. Given Nice Boss supports you, that's case closed, but even if he didn't I'd find it hard to believe that in our sector, and in our type of work, going part time would really break the "business" of our employers.
From: scat0324 Date: November 24th, 2010 10:21 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Glad you managed to get some rest in

j4 From: j4 Date: November 24th, 2010 10:47 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Glad you managed to get some rest in

's what I thought, but thank you for the backup. :-)

Perhaps their worry is that if I go p/t then it will be hard for them to turn this job back into f/t after me, assuming I probably won't stay here for ever (& given jobs are being cut they may not want to lose 1/5 of a post that they then won't be able to re-fill at f/t, if you see what I mean). I dunno, though, I am just guessing. I will sit down & talk to HR/bosses properly when I've got my magic form (MATB1?) from the thingy (goodness knows how one gets one of those, I really should find out).
From: scat0324 Date: November 24th, 2010 10:53 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Glad you managed to get some rest in

Your midwife/GP - the school secretary took a photocopy of Mrs S's, which wasn't good enough for HR at the Council, so I had to bike round the original. This info probably isn't relevant, but is free!

I've been off for a few days DIYing, but I've got those screw removers in my bag - I'll try to drop them to OUCS later.

k425 From: k425 Date: November 23rd, 2010 11:15 am (UTC) (Link)
I still haven't read Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow - I fail at Guardian readership!
camellia_uk From: camellia_uk Date: November 23rd, 2010 05:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
That sugru stuff looks awesome... does it work??

Btw watch out, there's a PANDA on the dutch barn roof! :-p
ceb From: ceb Date: November 23rd, 2010 07:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
It looks so, so shiny...
j4 From: j4 Date: November 23rd, 2010 09:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'll let you know if it works once I've walked on the hopefully-fixed shoes... :-}

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