Andrea Mara

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Switching off

It’s Good Friday, and I haven’t thought about work once today – I love that. We took the kids to Powerscourt House and Gardens – well OK, the House followed by an “adventure” exploring the trees and grass verges on the way back to the car, via the garden centre.

To be fair, we were willing to pay the price to go into the gardens (€22!) in spite of the fact that it was just two degrees above freezing, and that there are “keep off the grass” signs everywhere which are difficult to explain to a dramatic five year old, a foot-stomping three year old and an enthusiastic, barrelling 15 month old.

But at the last minute, we had the sense to run it by said children, and upon hearing that there is “nothing to play on”, the consensus was to have an adventure in the trees we saw on the way in to the house instead.

We had been to “Tara’s Palace” a lovely museum of dolls’ houses, miniature furniture and antique toys and had had a gorgeous lunch in Avoca, then we bought some seeds and potted flowers, which we came home and planted (albeit inside the house, it really was too cold for actual proper outdoor gardening, it’s only nearly April after all….)

It was a lovely day – not perfect in any kind of schmaltzy idyllic family scene way; we had many moments of sibling squabbling and some tears (them) and inward eye rolling (me), but nevertheless lovely.

Work was really busy all week, but I didn’t think about it once today. I didn’t check e-mail, it never entered my head. I switched off.

I worked …can I say I worked my ass off all week? Not a great turn of phrase but I can’t think of a better way to say it right now.
I spent the week tick, tick, ticking items off my To Do list, skipping lunch, skipping chats, so that by Thursday evening, I could switch off my PC and switch off my work-brain.
When I go back, there will be a fog for the first minute or two as I re-focus on work and what I was doing this week, but then it’s all back, and begins again – tick, tick, tick.

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There was a time when I couldn’t do this – I would spend Saturday morning worrying about a mistake that our team had made the previous week, or a colleague who was difficult to work with or a slightly challenging boss I had at one stage many years ago (for “slightly challenging” read “tear-inducing nightmare boss”). I was never able to fully step away from work at evenings or weekends – I don’t mean that I was the most diligent employee of all time, logging in every night or working at weekends, I mean I couldn’t switch the worry off.

Then something changed – I had my first child. This almost actually happened at work (slight exaggeration but my waters did break in the office) and I was on e-mail to my boss from the maternity hospital that night, trying to hand over some work that wasn’t yet finished as maternity leave was starting earlier than expected.

I stayed in touch with my employer during my leave (which I personally think is a good idea, and makes returning to work easier, but I can see why many people would feel it’s better to disconnect from work). But when I went back, I could feel that it was different.

I could switch on at work, give it 200% every day, but once I walked out the door, none of it mattered – all I wanted to do was collect my daughter from creche and inhale her – I still remember the butterflies of excitement that I had every day leaving work and going to scoop her up and take her home.

Stuff that had seemed reasonably important during the day (and which I had taken very seriously) seemed incredibly unimportant in the context of my new life with this chubby, smiling little person.
And I don’t mean that I didn’t work just as hard once baby came – I think I worked harder, because I wanted to get the work done and to leave the office on time to pick her up.
I knew better how to put things in perspective and still do – no more Saturday mornings worrying about colleagues or bosses. No time for that anyway, when Saturday morning involves being woken at 5am and being given instructions by three small but tyrannical little bosses until bedtime!

So here’s to switching off for working mums – Happy Easter.

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