This year (2019) started off slightly strangely at work. I had my annual review and stated unequivocally that last year had totally put me off ever wanting to be a manager. The next day my boss called me in (this was on one of my intermittent trips to the real office) and confidentially told me he was retiring and he was telling me because what I’d said meant the company would need to recruit a manager.
(Note, I’m completely ignoring the fact that I was pregnant at that time too. That’s another story.)
What’s going on?
At first I didn’t think much of it, then it dawned on me. Somewhere between the lines and what he didn’t exactly say was the implication that he had planned for me to manage the group (uh nah, no way, no how). I took the compliment and moved on.
A few months later his retirement date was approaching and his boss started handover meetings with the team (of course no one had been hired to do a proper hand over from our manager). Boss above said he’d heard from my manager that I wasn’t interested and he wanted to check nothing had changed (uh nah, no way, no how). Another very nice compliment.
A few weeks later our manager was gone, enjoying his garden and the sunshine. Another visit to the office and the big big boss happened to be there. He too had a little chat and I held my position: wrong time, young children, don’t want to travel or work evening (California HQ). He was very respectful and, I think, genuinely appreciated my honesty (uh nah, no way, no how).
After the summer break recruitment started properly. New boss had another word or several: I’m doing the job already, I have a strong reputation, everyone’s impressed with me, I have external visibility. I stayed strong though (uh nah, no way, no how).
Then we had “one of those days” (see Mummy guilt) and all that did was serve to enforce my choice.
Here’s the thing. All along there’s been a part of me tempted to say yes. To ask for a pay rise, power, ownership, a chance to pull the team together and do something better. Maybe that’s why the bosses kept coming back? Maybe they sensed that I wasn’t a 100% “no”? Maybe there’s a respect and gender thing going on, they think I can be persuaded through flattery as I’m a weak and feeble female?
But what if I set some terms and they didn’t agree? What if I’m just the easy option? I know they’ve asked at least one other person too. What if their value of me is my knowledge and familiarity rather than my ability?
As usual I’m too scared of the answer to even ask those questions.
So here I am. We’ve interviewed and hopefully hired someone. I clicked with her so I hope she’ll be good. I hope she’ll stick around and make a difference.
But somehow, despite my reluctance and fear and refusals, I feel like I’m missing an opportunity or making the wrong choice.
I’m reasoning with myself that doing nothing is a choice too. My kids don’t deserve a mum who never has time for them. Whose meetings finish after bedtime. My husband doesn’t deserve to live with her either. I don’t deserve to be her – I think it would be hell.
The kids’ perspective
After all that was sorted out, one morning at breakfast small boy piped up “so mum, you have a boss?!” He seemed surprised – perhaps at the idea that anyone would dare tell me what to do. So I explained that I do, that it’s a new boss after my old one retired.
Large boy wondered why I wasn’t the boss, so I was honest and said it had be suggested but I decided I didn’t want to do it because it would have meant more travel and longer days. He asked if it would be more money, I said probably. He thought for a minute and said that he thinks family is more important than nice holidays and money.
In that moment I knew for sure that I’m making the right choice. It’s best for the family and therefore for me too. So my career isn’t about to take another leap upwards but another opportunity will turn up one day. Right now, this is the right balance for us.
And my grandma’s wisdom
My extremely wise grandma (who is 95) says “don’t wish your life away”. Not in time, in money, in things, in career. She is very very wise. I listen to her.