Well, that isn’t strictly true. Wouter’s family came for dinner last night. And I can’t remember eating anyone. Except if cows have names. Then I ate Fillet.
The children are watching “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat”. They love it. Woutertjie can sing some of the songs from start to finish. Carien doesn’t do badly either! Their favourites are Joseph singing “Close every door” and the Pharaoh singing anything. My favourite is Jacob and the brothers singing “Those Canaan days”, where they reminisce about life before the famine hit. (Do you remember those wonderful parties? / The splendor of Canaan’s cuisine / Our extravagant, elegant soirées / the gayest the Bible has seen. / It’s funny but since we lost Joseph / we’ve gone to the other extreme / No one comes to dinner now / we’d only eat them anyhow).
I’ve been thinking a lot lately. Too much, actually.
Thinking about how much different our lives might’ve been if Woutertjie didn’t get sick. I would’ve been working every day and right now I would’ve been worried about the Biochemistry pracs that are starting soon.
Thinking about how differently things may have turned out if Woutertjie was diagnosed a week later. His chances of survival would’ve been even slimmer. And it was pretty anorexic to start with.
Thinking about what I’ve learned during these past months and how it has changed me forever.
And inevitably, I am thinking about the future. Specifically my professional future.
When I’m not on extended unpaid leave, I work at UCT (University of Cape Town) as a scientific officer. I am a biochemist by training and my main duties are preparing and presenting practical classes. This means that when the students are there, I have to be there. I can’t take a day’s leave in term time because I have to stand in front of 120-odd students doing my thing. A less advertised part of the job is the extensive preparation that goes into every single day of pracs. Everything has to be prepped, checked and set up and when you are working with living things (biochemistry after all!) like bacteria you have to factor in the probability that it might not grow as expected, not work like expected or just die.
Now I am faced with a major dilemma.
I am on unpaid leave this year. In order for me to be ready for the first batch of students next year I have to start prepping, well, now! 🙂 Or at latest 2 January. Boeta’s chemo is only finishing middle of February. And after that he will be monitored frequently and he will need to go to Annalize (play therapist / occupational therapist) often to get his skills back. I won’t be able to take any leave because of the student load at that time. In other words, not an option.
I could request another 6 months’ unpaid leave. But that would only be postponing the problem, since his checks and therapy will still continue.
The only other option would be to resign.
Now that is another bag of worms. Until now I’ve been receiving leave payouts and income insurance that covered my salary. Unless Wouter gets a huge, major, magnificent increase we won’t be able to survive on his salary alone. Giving up a permanent position is always a bad move and right now I have a back door open. If I really need to go back to work ASAP, I could.
And then, if I had to be completely honest with myself, I like being able to say that I am a biochemist on leave. I define myself as being a scientist. I don’t see myself as a stay-at-home-mom (house wife / home executive / whatever). I never aspired to being a SAHM. My mom is a SAHM and there is no way that I could ever measure up to her and do as well as she did. It is a lot harder being a SAHM than being a working mom. Maybe because I am an oncomom SAHM, but I don’t think that makes that much of a difference. It is just plain hard work.
Giving up my job would mean that I choose to be a SAHM. Until now I didn’t have a choice and I had to do it. I’ve never made the conscious decision to stop working and now I am faced with the decision.
Putting off resigning for months isn’t an option either. UCT has been too good to me to keep them hanging. And should I resign it will take months for them to replace me. The next person will have to start preparing for pracs too…
A rock and a hard place.
What a place to be.
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