Dear Viv: Maternity leave is *really* boring

In this week's podcast, Viv discusses whether to leave a job you hate, finding maternity leave boring, a brother borrowing cash and a sister-in-law who takes advantage

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By Viv Groskop on

Dear Viv,

I’m thinking about leaving my job. I’m a secondary school teacher in the London suburbs (I won’t tell you where!) and have recently been head-hunted by a friend. We both studied at uni together, but then while she went off to pursue a career in the city, I decided that route wasn’t for me, and studied to become a teacher. But I’ve been working at this school for four years now, and am finding it really unmanageable. I get in before 8am every day and inevitably don’t leave until 7 or 8 in the evening, usually bringing some marking home with me to do over dinner. I sometimes have to go in to school on weekends just to keep up with everything. I love the kids that I teach, but feel totally unsupported in my job, which is getting in the way of every other part of my life, making me stressed, and it doesn’t even pay that well! The other night I managed to see this friend for a drink and she mentioned they’re looking for new applicants and strongly suggested that I should apply. I feel so torn between a job that I love which isn’t working for me right now, and another path, which would probably be just as stressful, but I would be supported and well remunerated! Which should I choose?

Oh dear I feel like you should be writing to David Cameron instead of me because this is really a letter about the untenable conditions for teachers nowadays. But I suspect he would not be very quick in responding so you will just have to make do with me instead.

I’m struggling to give a good reply here because there isn’t enough information. It does seem to me like a huge leap between a job you love (although you are unsupported and it is a bloody nightmare) and a job you are not that interested in (although you would be supported). Put that way, it’s not a great choice, is it? Also this other job is something your previously considered and rejected. I’m also intrigued by your friend’s role here. Why are they trying to headhunt someone not already working in their sector? Would you be working with or for your friend? That’s not always the most straightforward or advisable thing.

So when you ask “Which should I choose?” I am tempted to answer neither. I think you need to seek advice from teachers who have found jobs that are supported (I can hear the sound of a million teachers pissing themselves). I think you need to do research about this other sector independently of your friend. This might feel like a lifeline at the moment because it sounds like you’ve almost had enough. But it’s also a red herring that’s stopping you from finding a solution that is properly tailored to you. What would that solution look like? It might look like a promotion in your current school or cutting your hours. It might look like moving to a different school or considering doing private tutoring for a while. Or it might mean moving to a completely different industry -- but in your own time and on your own terms, not just because a friend has dangled a possibility in front of you. In short, only you can answer all this. But don’t jump at something you don’t really want just because you don’t want to be where you are right now. You have loads of options. Start writing them down and planning what to do next. I’m sure David Cameron would agree with me.

Dear Viv,

I’m on maternity leave right now after giving birth to our first child two months ago. She’s a lovely, healthy, happy baby, and I love her to pieces, but I’m finding staying at home while my husband goes off to work a lot more challenging than I’d thought, and actually (I’ll whisper this part)... a bit boring. How can I keep my brain alive while on maternity leave?

I don’t know if I will be best-placed to answer this question because I worked all through my non-existent maternity leave and have always been rather envious of people who get paid to look after their own baby. The most important thing to say first is that YOU DON’T NEED TO WHISPER. It’s fine to find babies boring. It’s also completely fine to find them utterly fascinating and mesmerising, so much so that you never want to go back to work. This is the great lie and mystery of motherhood: there is no correct way to feel, behave or react. All reactions are valid and acceptable. And they’re all personal. And -- you’ll notice this soon -- they change really quickly. So how you feel when your baby is born is different to how you feel when they’re six weeks old is different to how you feel when they’re a year old is different to... You get the picture.

So don’t feel bad about being bored. But don’t expect to stay bored either. Babies have a habit of surprising you that way. And in any case your question is intriguing - you mention that staying at home is both “challenging” and “boring”. I think you mean that being bored and being in your own company and not at work is challenging. But that in itself is an interesting thing. And this is an amazing opportunity for you to get to know yourself better, away from work.

How to keep your brain alive? There are a gazillion books on parenting. I don’t want to pretend that I have read every single one ever published. But I have read every single one ever published. Beat my record! There are a gazillion websites, blogs, Instagram feeds, Mormom mommy internet meeting sites (don’t get too caught up in those, you’ll never come out again). There’s baby massage, baby Pilates, mums’ groups, a million ways to meet other people.

And there are totally non-baby things to do too: write a book, start a podcast, update your LinkedIn page to something people might actually enjoy reading, do a correspondence course in something that would benefit you at work. If this is a coded question about missing work then could you think about getting some contact days or having regular phone chats with people at work about what’s going on while you’re not there? And find some other parents who feel the same way as you. I am willing to bet you are not alone. On the other hand, you could just embrace being bored, eat loads of biscuits and watch the entire seven series boxset of The Good Wife. I’m not saying that’s what I would do if I was paid to but...

You can hear the answers to these and the following question on Viv’s podcast, Waving, Not Drowning, above.

Dear Viv,

My brother has decided to start a vaping business, and wants to borrow start-up money from our parents. He’s never had a proper job for longer than 6 months, and is notorious for starting these money-making schemes, which usually end up with him staying on my couch for weeks, if not months, on end. This is the first time he’s got our parents involved, though. They love him, and trust him, and want him to do well, but I can see exactly how this will work - he’ll lose the money and won’t be able to repay them. They’re not rolling in it or anything, and are both retired, so it would be a struggle if he couldn’t pay them back. What can I do?

Dear Viv

My sister in law takes complete advantage of my mother in law. My poor mother in law is used as an after school taxi service and it drives me so mad to watch it happen - especially as my sister in law only works part-time, and has enough money to pay for after-school childcare. I'd like to say something but can't, but it drives me so mad!

Got a question for Viv? Email her at DearViv@thepoolltd.com. The Dear Viv podcast airs fortnightly on The Pool at 5pm on Tuesdays. All letters will be edited for length. Unfortunately Viv cannot reply to your emails personally. 

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