Last Thursday morning my boss asked how I was. I was exhausted. I’d been up until 3am with a vomiting toddler. The big man had put that toddler into nursery so I could start work early and leave early when the inevitable call came. Putting the little man into nursery was utterly wrong. But I have no cover at work. We can’t afford the big man to have another day off. We have no cover at home. So we dosed him up and sent him off. I was weighed down with exhaustion and overwhelming guilt.
I didn’t say this. I made light of it, but did say that I wasn’t ok. That I’d put a sick child into childcare. That I was hoping to get a few hours work in before having to pick him up.
My boss is a nice man. He has young children that he wants to see more of. He means well. But his work ethics are fucking ridiculous. And damaging: his response, as he went off to an off site leadership day was to ask what my plan for cover was if I had to leave early.
Of course that should have been part of the conversation. I’m committed and professional. But that was the only thing he said. He didn’t thank me for breaking nursery rules. He didn’t ask how I was. He asked me for a plan that he knew I didn’t have. He knew that because his team is chronically under resourced and drowning, and the only solution he can see is to work us harder.
I hadn’t realised how relentlessly difficult working part time with caring responsibilities is. I work for a progressive organisation. My colleagues have weird and wonderful work patterns. We have plenty of role models of working parents doing the school run and passionately talking about work life balance.
But it only takes one crappy manager, one period where you step up to handle an emergency, and never manage to step back down, to undermine all that. I left early that day. But I took the work with me. I logged on in the evening. I worried all weekend.
I’m furious that I’m feeling like this. I’m furious that I’m being told that I should apply for promotion; but there are no jobs that can be worked part time. I’m overworked and I’m angry. The language here matters again. I’m committed to my job; but there’s no acknowledgement of the personal cost of that commitment. I send my team home if I see them working too late. When they’re devastated at having made a mistake I comfort them. I don’t feel I have that support any more. It was all going well; and now it isn’t again. This rollercoaster is exhausting and unnecessary.