Rollercoaster


Well this has been quite a week. I should point out before we start that I’m an emotional being, and tend to wear my heart on my sleeve so my emotions are often BIG, whatever they are.

Monday was filled with immense joy, because I ADORE my pottery classes and all my mugs came out perfectly for once and it was so wonderful and fun that I came home bouncing around the house trying to sprinkle my flatmate with all my excess pottery joy. (A separate mug post will probably be imminent because I’ve very proud and I love my mugs…)

Tuesday I woke up feeling queasy, then threw up, and then continued to throw up for about 6 hours or so. But by afternoon I was feeling much better, so whatever it was, it arrived fast and left just as quickly. It was a strange and unexpected but thankfully brief interlude of unwellness.

Wednesday I felt fine again. Perfectly normal day all round.

Thursday started off ok, then a sense of impending doom overwhelmed me and I spent the afternoon weeping sporadically while descending into a pretty epic panic spiral, which only I can truly pull off with flair. But my friends and colleagues cheered me up and by the end of the day there was wine and skittles so it was all ok in the end.

Friday has so far been extremely average and now I’m quite tired after an exhausting week of emotional drama, but looking forward to some fun and hanging out with some fab people this weekend and basically not thinking about any of it!

I’ve done a handy chart for your reference:

So why the epic panic spiral?

The thing is, my organisation is going through some really tough times at the moment, and is having to make some really major job cuts, which means a whole big restructure process which is stressful and difficult for everyone.

The thing is, my tendency to overreact (see previous post about possible tropical spider attack while shopping at Lidl) does not always help me. In fact, I suffer from “worst case scenario” syndrome, which essentially means I tend to spiral into complete panic extremely easily over potential (but not actual) disasters (although it’s usually short-lived and mostly happening inside my own head so I can usually hide the crazy from others).

The thing is, I was really unhappy and stressed out in my last job, and went through a difficult period of stress when I applied for loads of other jobs and was desperate to get out, but only really wanted one particular job, which I was eventually lucky enough to get. I needed this particular job for a wealth of reasons including certain benefits, such as maternity leave pay.

The thing is, I waited a while to get the perfect job, that I loved and wanted and would allow me to be stable enough and stay in one place and start my family and become a mother.

The thing is, after all that hard work, I GOT the perfect job, and I love it, and it’s interesting and exciting and let’s me settle at home and try new projects and get ready to be a parent.

And on Thursday it suddenly dawned on me that in the new proposed team structure, my beloved new job/role isn’t there and I will be back to job hunting again far sooner than I would have liked. And to put it bluntly, I lost my shit a little bit.

(I should point out that they released the new restructure proposal on Tuesday, while I was hurling into a bucket, but I wasn’t really panicked because it appears as if my role is in there. It’s very sneaky. It looks like my job, but took me til Thursday to digest enough of the facts to realise that it’s actually not my role at all).

After all of the stress of last year, I couldn’t wait to start this new exciting job. I was committed to it, and have just spent the last 6 months in my new role planning and finalising a 2-year strategy that I’m really excited about, and starting some new exciting projects and generally getting stuck into some really cool stuff. And I realised on Thursday that when the dust settles and the new structure is in place, I could very well be out on my ear, and the strategy will be pointless and need to be completely re-written anyway, as the new team structure will require a totally different strategy and action plan.

So all the work I’ve done in the last 6 months will be meaningless, and that’s very demoralising when you’ve been asked to respond to the final set of comments on the nearly-complete strategy document you’ve been working on for ages.

Then, because you’re me, you peek into the tiny hole you’ve torn in your happy place, and glimpse the massive abyss of despair that was there all along, squatting in the darkness of “what if” waiting to totally freak you out.

You see that you don’t have a role in the new structure, and will probably be made redundant. You see that if that happens, despite nearly 8 years of service, due to loopholes and fixed-term contracts, you will qualify for less than 7 weeks of redundancy pay. You see that you have less than 2 month’s worth of mortgage payments saved up (supposed to be earmarked for your maternity leave anyway), and that you would lose your house / default on your mortgage within about 3-4 months. You see that you couldn’t possibly be placed with a child in those conditions and would lose your chance of having a family.

You see yourself in the space of 3 months becoming an unemployed person living on benefits who will lose her home and her chance of becoming a mother. You see that even if you could find another job in those 3 months, you wouldn’t qualify for any maternity benefits, as most employers need you to have been working for a year before you can get decent benefits.

You feel a sense of overwhelming exhaustion contemplating yet again all the job hunting and applications and interviews barely 6 months since you last did it.

You start searching through job sites and realise almost all of the roles you are qualified for require a LOT more travel (which is what made your current job SO perfect for you) and none of them would be feasible on your quest for motherhood. You realise that any other even halfway feasible jobs are in London, and although commuting to London is not impossible from Oxford, it would be tough to make the journey there and back AND manage wraparound child care beyond the normal school hours for a small child, which wouldn’t be very tenable for very long.

Welcome to my panic spiral of despair.

Cue the tears of sadness and desperation and struggle not to feel demoralised and continue to work on pointless strategies that will never be achieved.

(I should point out these are all hypothetical disasters and have not officially happened yet – panic over possible disaster is my bread and butter).

However, a few friends and colleagues have helped, and I have now a few concrete suggestions and ideas to put forward into the restructure/consultation process which might help. Or not – but I will also need to take a deep breath and start applications for jobs asap. My lovely flatmate also commented that if I moved into my new small 3rd bedroom I could rent out my glorious penthouse bedroom and my larger back bedroom and make enough to nearly cover the mortgage and bills, so if I was creative I could probably be unemployed and not actually default on any payments, just living in a much smaller room and therefore would not need to lose my beloved little house. (She also gave me skittles and wine to cheer me up).

The challenge of being on your own is how small the margins for error are. Most of my colleagues are in couples, so if they are made redundant, they have a partner with an income who can help to support and pick up the slack until they are earning again. It doesn’t make it any easier for them to go through it all, but as someone with no safety net, no other person to catch me, it’s a lot more terrifying to look into that black hole, and I’m not sure many of my friends or family in relationships can really understand how scary it is to be on your own in times like this.

I recently had a discussion with a family member about my fears about struggling with money and childcare costs, something which my social worker has also raised as an issue as I lead up to the adoption panel, and I attempted to float the idea that I might need some additional financial support to help with my maternity leave and possibly childcare costs. This was met with an awkward silence and a shift in conversation about how I could potentially try to be better at managing my money.

I get it. I am not great at managing money. I have got into debt in the past, and will never have a credit card again if I can possibly help it.

But as a homeowner in the least affordable city in the UK, (Oxford was voted more unaffordable than London the last 2 years running as a place to live), earning less than £35,000 a year as a total household income, and trying to pay into a pension and pay off student loans and various other responsible adult things it’s not easy. And I sometimes feel like I’m being compared to lots of other people who also own homes and have mortgages and manage their finances just fine, but most of them have joint incomes worth more than double my income, in many cases those couples are earning closer to £70,000-£100,000. My household bills are roughly the same as theirs, my rent and mortgage are roughly the same and so it’s hard to feel compared to others that cope better than I do financially. (Also I’m aware as I write this that there are MANY couples out there living on a joint income of less than I earn, and managing, so this probably appears like a massive 1st world problem, but I doubt many of those people are homeowners in Oxford without some pretty massive debt….)

Of course I do go on holidays, I do go to festivals, I like to buy new clothes sometimes, and pay for my pottery classes, and buy gifts for my friends and sometimes pay for trains to go and visit them, or go on nights out. I’m human, I’m flawed, and I could cut back on a lot of things I enjoy if I really had to. But I also hardly ever go out these days, and I am becoming increasingly thrifty at food shopping and making bulk batches of soups and meals very cheaply. I often turn down offers to go out for dinner, to the pub, or to the cinema with friends to save money.

I recently went on an expensive holiday because I had been saving for 3 years for it and knew it once I have kids I won’t get to do that kind of thing for a long time. I also spent a lot of my previous savings on my loft conversion, and upgrading to a bigger car so that I can have a family. .

I am going to get thriftier and better at managing things, and I know I will figure out a way to cope, but it’s hard, and it’s scary, and sometimes it’s downright terrifying. Which is when I tend to go straight into panic spiral territory and end up freaking out in a massively unhelpful, unproductive and over-reactive way. Which directly leads to me weeping at my desk and struggling not to hyperventilate.

But the good news is, I bounce back fast (refer to graph A).

My social worker isn’t confident I will qualify for all of the benefits that I think I will, and childcare will be a struggle, as it is for so many parents out there, in couples or not. The benefits calculators I have been using keep giving me different outcomes so it’s hard to gauge what I will actually qualify for until I have to apply for real. So that’s a scary risk I’ll just have to take.

On the job front, I’ve been talking with the Union about my rights, and they think in the worst case scenario, if made redundant, I can definitely fight the redundancy pay loophole and take them to a tribunal if necessary for my full entitlement for 8 years of service, which might buy me a few more month’s pay. However the overall advice is that when it comes to my maternity rights, I am still screwed if I have to leave my employer, there is no way around that, so I was also encouraged to try and apply for any random jobs that come up at my work, even if they have nothing to do with my skills or role. I might hate shifting into an obscure admin role, but it could save my benefits, which are really critical at this point.

Ultimately, although I love my job and find my work hugely rewarding, if I have to give that up to save my house and my family then I will. Of course I will. It’s sad to think that I’d be giving up things that I love (I haven’t signed up for any more pottery classes next term due to the impending adoption and money-saving thriftiness) but ultimately we all make sacrifices and having a family is too important for me to compromise on that now. And I know a lot of people who have stuck it out at jobs they hate for financial or family reasons, so I certainly won’t be alone in that! It will just be a shame because I currently have a job that I love.

So, the massive panic spiral is over.

I have shaken off the fear, (at least for now), and pushed it back down into it’s hole so I can  focus on crafting my counter-proposal with a clear description of why they HAVE to keep my position in the new structure and why I’m completely vital to the department. I will fight for it with all my might, and I will try to keep the fear and panic at bay until the final decisions are made, which won’t be until August when we will know for sure.

So there are lots of positive suggestions which are helping me, and please don’t panic dear friends when you are reading this – I am fine, I don’t need emergency hugs or phone calls, or donations to the “keep Maya off the streets” fund – at least not yet.I should also point out that I have several dear friends and family members who have also kindly offered to jump in and help me if the financial issues get to be too much, and one or two friends and family I could ask for temporary loans from if needed.

Trust me, if and when the real panic sets in, you’ll be the first to know.

This was merely a pre-emptive panic (classic worst-case scenario Maya – have a complete meltdown over something which may very well not happen at all), which I’ve gotten out of the way and can now think more clearly and rationally about the next steps moving forward. I WILL finish my strategy and INSIST that they keep me around to let me implement it goddammit!

There is a chance that the final restructure proposal will in fact have my position back in, in which case everything will be completely fine and this will have been a completely unnecessary panic spiral (frankly, they are all unnecessary and that’s the entire point of having an overreaction. If it was proportional to the situation it would just be a normal response).

So, in summary, it’s been a very up and down week, but I am determined to end it on a high – two of my favourite people are coming for dinner tonight, and tomorrow we barbeque, and will laugh and drink and be merry, and I will insist on not talking about the restructure until Monday morning when I go into battle to fight for my job, my house, and my (almost) family…

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