>Ageism

>Since starting to work part-time, I have been interested to note how it affects people’s attitude towards me at work. Many of my colleagues have asked me how I’m finding it, to which I reply that it’s great, I’m really catching up with my other responsibilities.

Teachers tend to nod vaguely at this – I have the impression that when they are not in work, they don’t spend their free time catching up with chores. (Do they all employ cleaners?) From my experience of retired teachers, it seems that once they are free of school, they concentrate on being irresponsible!

Support staff seem to be rather envious; some will comment that they can’t afford to work part time. Some obviously could afford it, but choose not to, but they are still envious of my “Free” time!

But lately I’ve wondered if some see it as a sign of ageing; of needing to slow down; of not being able to quite cope with a full time job. Or worse still, of not being able to keep up with the technology any more.

If I’m honest, there must be an element of all of the above in my motives, but I am after all only just past 50; I am just as busy as ever, only with other things; and I know technology better than most 30 year old teachers!

A younger person said the other day (to me, about someone else) that when people are too old for the job they should get out and make room for younger ones. I would have liked to pursue the subject: how old is too old? What should these people do (at the age of 55-60)? What a waste of all that experience and knowledge! And what about the young ones who can’t do the job? There are plenty of those too.

Prejudice is the word that springs to mind…

>Me-time or free time?

>This is something I remember from past times when my kids were young and I was at home most of the time: if one is at home, one is thought to be free all the time. When someone wanted an errand run, or company for an outing, I seemed to be the obvious choice. Almost everything around the house and garden automatically became my responsibility: a responsibility that I accepted because I “had the time”, even as I resented the assumption that I would.

To a large extent I continued to shoulder those responsibilities even when I returned to employment. This is part of the reason I felt that going part-time was important to me, as I was struggling to complete my domestic duties in my “free time”. But if I’m not careful the same thing could happen again, and my carefully carved-out “me-time” could be eaten up with window-cleaning, taxi-driving, little shopping trips and shepherding (yes, with real sheep).

My horoscope yesterday said I need to step into the shadows of my own mind in order to reinvent myself and make my work and relationships more relevant. How true!

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This morning my router at home wasn’t talking to my laptop – no network, no email, no internet. So I typed this on the computer in the hope that I’d be able to post a blog later. The router appeared dead, but sprang back to life when I restarted it (with fingers firmly crossed). That would have been bad news for working from home tomorrow.

The same people who bemoaned the fact that I wouldn’t be around so much, now seem unsure how to relate to me. I told them before that I would still be around 3 days a week, that I would still be part of the team whenever I’m needed, and that even though I was going to work from a different office, I would still be in the department every day. But now when I put my head around their door and ask what’s on, I’m met with stony silence. Although they pass my (new) office door several times a day, they don’t pop in to say Hello. And no-one has referred any work to me, although I know they have been under pressure at times.

Well, it‘s early days yet. Perhaps they don’t know how to deal with the situation. Perhaps things will settle down if I continue to try and establish a routine.

Got loads done today. Almost sorry that it’s my day off tomorrow! Me-time – how will I use it?

>Guardian Work-Life Balance

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The following is an email I sent to the Guardian’s Work editor the other day:
“Last Saturday (12th April 2008) in the Work section of the Guardian you printed a request for bloggers to come forward and tell you about their work-life balance. It was with some dismay that I realised that, due to my inadequate juggling skills, I’m still reading Saturday’s Guardian on Wednesday!
As an ICT Technician in a secondary school, a partner in a farm business, and a wife and mother, I have found myself running faster and faster just to stand still (and often falling behind). So after months of soul-searching I approached my line manager at school and asked if it would be OK for me to work part time. She accepted my suggestion readily, which I found rather disconcerting.
So, from now on I only do salaried work for 3 days of the week. It remains to be seen whether my self-employed work and my “domestic engineering” will expand to occupy the rest of my week, or whether I will in fact get my coveted “me-time”. Also, we will see whether my status at school changes, and how people’s attitudes to my decision will differ.
Blogging seems like a good way to explore the changes, for my benefit and for others’, and I would hope my writing skills are up to the Guardian’s high standards. I’d love to take part.
(51 year old part-time geek, Cornish farmer’s wife and mother of 2 students)”

Unfortunately I was too late with my application. Now, wouldn’t I have made a brilliant Guardian blogger?

>Current affairs

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So, no election this year, eh? G Brown has not bowed to pressure from the Tories and the press, and is now taking the flack for his decision.
Tories are criticising Brown mercilessly for his decision, and for delaying his decision so long. There is no reason, of course, for an election – no law that says an election must be called just because the party leader has changed. The delay, no doubt, was political in nature – make the announcement at the most opportune moment, and force the other parties to spend their conferences talking about nothing else but the possibility of an election. Also, maybe, an element of keeping options open until the last possible moment…
Did Brown bottle it? Or did he make a considered decision and announce it at the most opportune moment? We know what the opposition parties say, but, well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? If Brown had called an election no doubt they would have put an equally unflattering spin on it.
4Kool (younger daughter) says she will not vote when she turns 18 because “I don’t want to encourage them…”
“Spanish practices”: synonym for being lazy, doing as little as possible in one’s employment; antonym for Protestant work ethic, productivity, efficiency etc
Such practices are being discussed at length in the papers and on the radio this weekend, in connection with the Post Office strike. Some workers claim that they are overworked and have to do extra hours on a regular basis just to get the day’s work done. Others claim that they can knock off early when they finish their rounds, effectively working 4 hours and being paid for 8.
Personally, I know both sorts, even in my own little job. Although we are (allegedly) a team, and we have the same priorities and objectives, one member of the team gets by with as little effort as possible, hardly ever doing her contracted hours, let alone overtime. Although intelligent, she is often dead weight, and we resent this. Another member of the team works hard all day, always looking for the next thing to do, never checking emails or surfing the web, and often working significant amounts of overtime even though we are not paid to do so. He also likes to play the martyr a bit. Yours truly tries hard to tread the middle line, always on time in the morning, doing a little overtime if it means a job will get finished, but making it clear that the contracted hours are enough, and that my outside hours are precious to me.
Question: could “Spanish practices” be equated with the current trend towards a better work-life balance? I frequently read exhortations to “downsize”; to cut one’s working hours and have more quality time; to retire early and spend the kids’ inheritance; or to go freelance and work hours to suit oneself instead of being at the constant beck and call of an employer. How do such ideas square with the traditional English work ethic? Or is it a more sinister idea, implying that the employer is being cheated, or even robbed?
Inheritance tax: Conservatives say they will raise the threshold to £1m! Ridiculous. What an obvious, rabble-rousing, electioneering claim. This has found great favour with the tabloid press of course, but Patrick Collinson for one (in the Guardian yesterday) takes a more considered view. If a rich old man leaves just short of £1m to his “children” who are maybe in their 50s, how does this benefit society? The “children” will invest the money, probably in property, thus taking property even further out of reach of the younger generation. Perhaps personal inheritance limit (as opposed to death duties on the whole estate) would provide an incentive for people to leave their accumulated wealth to their grandchildren, nephews and nieces, dividing it more equally among the population? But there would be a shortfall in the Government’s income all the same, and no doubt this would have to be made up from somewhere.
Still, the Tories’ exaggerated posturing may have the positive effect of making the government think more carefully about inheritance tax thresholds. Wait and see…