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Newbie - struggling to return to work, 4 mths in

(7 Posts)
frogthistle Mon 15-Sep-08 16:03:33

Hi, I lurk here a great deal but have rarely posted before. I would be grateful for any comments anyone has on my situation as I can't see the wood for the trees right now.

I work part-time, 70% of FT in public sector and have two DDs, one just started school and one 16 mnth old. DH works away more often than not and right now, he is away for a fortnight at a time.

I returned to work in early May and slowly picked up the threads of my work. Much of it was not up to date as the person who was covering my maternity leave was less than enthusiastic towards the end. I am still discovering things which were not up to standard.

I have really struggled to 'get back into' work this time round, mainly due to the increased family commitments with two children & the increased tiredness all round. My concentration is appalling, my boss has left on secondment with no replacement (so there is noone to discuss my work with), the overall manager isn't interested in the work I do (despite him being responsible for it!) and cancels meetings on a regular basis/does not respond to emails or calls. I have a new administrator which I desperately needed but I am not using her effectively as I simply do not have the time to plan my work, let alone hers. I feel deeply guilty about this & I hate doing a cr*p job.

To top this off, I discovered very recently that I am pregnant again (unplanned & a real shock). I feel dreadful with nausea while incredibly exhausted with the needs of my two older children and running everything else single-handedly. Last night, I was woken up on 4 or 5 occasions with the younger one teething and the older one being unwell (this is unusual).

Today, after picking up my older daughter from school (she started last week) and rushing both children to the nursery so I could try and make up some hours at work, I broke down - for no good reason other than tiredness I think.

Work pays well and we could do with the money. It's an interesting job but not one I feel able to do well enough right now with my current circumstances.

Could work sack me for being incapable? Is exhaustion covered under H&S legislation? Does anyone have any thoughts about this?

I feel pathetic for even asking but I really am struggling to see what I should or could do.

Thanks for reading this far, Frogthistle

catweazle Mon 15-Sep-08 16:29:16

Could you get your GP to sign you off sick for 2 weeks or so while you catch up on some sleep and get your head together?

I went back to my job PT in January and increased that back to FT in July, and for the first few weeks both times I really thought I was going to crack up.

Technically you could be disciplined for not being as effective at work as they want, but if your cover was crap presumably he/ she wasn't sacked? It sounds like your manager wouldn't notice anyway.

Do you have a welfare/ counselling service at work? They might be able to help.

flowerybeanbag Mon 15-Sep-08 19:27:20

No one is going to sack you for being incapable. Do you have any other reason to worry about losing your job - are you on any kind of warning or anything?

It is possible to sack someone for this type of thing, but only after a lengthy process of performance management, support and formal warnings, so don't worry about that. And no one with half a brain cell would do that when someone's pregnant anyway.

What you need is an action plan. A week off sick might not be a bad idea. IIRC the complete exhaustion phase will probably disappear after 12 weeks ish, so you probably don't need to view that as a massively long term problem, not at the moment anyway.

Take a week off. Think about all the individual problems you've mentioned and work out what can be done to improve them.

Some thoughts -

Extreme tiredness. SHould be temporary hopefully, but in the meantime cut out anything home related that isn't essential, make sure anyone who could be helping you is, don't be a martyr, don't be a hero, sleep whenever you can. Why are you 'running everything singlehandedly'? Do you have a DP? Is he not helpful? Can you sleep elsewhere a couple of nights so you don't get woken by the children, or is that not feasible in your house? If not, can you make sure you get some uninterrupted good quality sleep at weekends. It's vital.

Boss. You aren't clear whether your boss being on secondment and there being no replacement is having a negative impact on your workload, or just on the fact that you feel unsupported. You need to book in a meeting with the person who is 'managing' you and discuss your situation honestly. You need to be clear about what support you need, either generally or extra at the moment. It's fine to say if you need extra support, particularly if it's partially because you are pregnant. In fact it's important to make your manager aware if you are struggling and needing extra support, you are far less likely to be disciplined for performance issues if you raise problems yourself and flag up what you need. Not that anyone is going to discipline you anyway.

Administrator. Is she any good? Keen? Use her. Get her to plan her own work, and organise both of you. If she knows the overall objectives you are both working to, if she's half decent she ought to be able to at least help plan her own work and identify any tasks which could be partially or totally delegated to her. If you don't feel you are using her well, ask her how she feels she could be better used.

I agree with catweazle, if there is any kind of welfare support where you work, do use it. Is there someone nice in HR you could talk to as well?

frogthistle Mon 15-Sep-08 21:34:34

Thanks so much for your responses. It's really helpful to have an external viewpoint.

There isn't any welfare service at all & I work in a role attached to HR so any discussion I had would be with my colleagues in that area. Honestly, I wouldn't bother with them & they're not that trustworthy. The boss that keeps on cancelling meetings is the DIrector of HR!

Running everything singlehandedly because my DP is working for 3 weeks in Australia at the moment. He will be home next weekend for 3 days and then off to the US again with work for about a fortnight. I am effectively a single mum & at night, it's just me. No relatives for 200 miles and lots of friends but there's a limit to the amount of favours you can ask (and many of them work as well) I think I shall consider taking some time off and perhaps speak to the GP as well.
I 'hear' what you say about the exhaustion being temporary, it won't last for ever, it's true.

No, no problems at work whatsoever, no warnings etc. Absolutely fine & a good track record. The guilt etc is self-created and I#m probably just feeling a bit paranoid!

Flowery, I think you're right, I do feel unsupported in my work & it would be helpful to have someone to discuss my work with (no more, I don't need to be 'managed') but just chat things through now & again. I do feel I am operating in a vacuum. I don't see anyone who would do that though but you're right, I should raise it to protect myself, if nothing else.

Administrator is good but lacks an awareness of the politics of some of the work we do. I'll try your suggestions.

Thanks very much for listening, FT

cthea Mon 15-Sep-08 21:42:02

It will take you a bit to get used to the new schedule - taking your DD to school etc - but you'll get there. Maybe your heart isn't in it just now as you think you'll be off work soon again? IMO you should just put up with it for a few months longer until you go on maternity leave again. Good luck.

flowerybeanbag Mon 15-Sep-08 21:59:57

If you don't have support at home you need to take some time off to rest, definitely.

At work, don't be too proud. There's a difference between being 'managed' and getting the support you need. Everyone needs support from whoever their boss is, and the nature of that support and how much is needed might change due to circumstances. If you're struggling at the moment, physically and mentally, you need support, more than you normally would, and at least need to flag that you are not being supported and try and get that changed.

I could also point out that- from your boss's point of view - if your lack of concentration and focus starts affecting your performance, you certainly will need 'managing'. Although it does sound as though that's not something that's going to figure on anyone's radar any time soon, so not something to worry about.

I don't think it's a case of there not being a person to do it, there is, it's the HR Director. You need support and at least more contact than you are getting, and if he/she feels unable to provide that, they need to come up with an alternative solution. Even if there is no one else obvious who could provide you with what you need, that doesn't mean there isn't anyone. If your HR Director is any good, he/she will be perfectly capable of thinking of alternatives, mentors from elsewhere in the organisation who might be willing to take an 'overlooking' role temporarily for example, if you are not the kind of person who needs a hands-on manager that's actually quite a good solution, just off the top of my head.

Book in a meeting with him/her, the kind of meeting where you don't leave without some action points/some idea of what's going to change to make things better for you.

Believe me when I say I know it's incredibly easy for me to sit here and say these things when I'm not working in the situation you are in, have no knowledge of the culture/politics/personalities involved. It's easy but it's also true, and obviously I have lots of knowledge of all sorts of cultures/politics/personalities so can imagine some of the hurdles they present you with.

But when you're pregnant and suffering as you are, it's not working, something has to give and you need to decide what's important. Time comes when you need to not give a stuff about your over-developed sense of guilt/responsibility at work, think of yourself as much as possible, and do whatever it takes to make the next few months bearable.

Take some time off to get some rest and see how you feel from there.

frogthistle Tue 16-Sep-08 21:40:25

Just to say thanks again. This was really useful - I feel a bit as if a 'work-version' of my mum has sat me down & blasted me with some common sense!

Will force him to a meeting & discuss it from there. He's a bit pants at organising things (don't ask how he got to his current position [hmmm]), couldn't decide on whether or not to replace the manager who has gone on secondment for a year, so didn't... Wish me luck!

I also accept what several of you are saying - work out a way to just get through it for a few more months and perhaps learn to care slightly less so that I look after me a bit more. I'll try, maybe it'll become easier as this pregnancy progresses, just through necessity.

Thanks for the perspective, FT

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