Diary of a busy practitioner, juggling work and family somewhere in England. This week: looking after ourselves
Yesterday I got up 10 minutes late, rushed to get ready early for Deceptively Angelic Looking Child 1’s (DALC1’s) early morning athletics club, took DALC1 to her athletics club, found out DALC1 didn’t have an athletics club, threw her back in the door at home and sped to work. Got to work and had a message from home- Deceptively Angelic Looking Child 2 (DALC2) had gone to school crying for the first time since starting. New secretary has finally arrived but her computer won’t work. I have a moany email from a client because she hasn’t heard from me, copying in the senior partner (of course). I immediately broke my new resolution to spend five minutes with my trainee first thing every morning, and it took until about 3pm for my colleague to have the guts to remind me I was going to help her with some drafting today. It took until 4pm for me to look at my diary and remember I had set aside the day to review some care notes and prepare for an NHS continuing healthcare appeal at the beginning of next week, and needless to say I hadn’t even looked at them. At lunch I check the Law Society Gazette website and notice an anonymous comment I hadn’t noticed before. It says 'No humour, no wit, just an obsession of the author with herself. Neither article nor author has any merit'.
I spent the day making crazy decisions, like going out to buy lunch and then going back out to buy lunch again, forgetting I had already done so. Goodness knows what my dictation was like but, hey, it isn’t getting typed anyway.
This morning I am at home alone. I miss my tiny school girl and the structure to my days at home with her. DALC1’s teacher said something especially kind when I dropped her off and my eyes pricked. I can’t go on Twitter because the news is making my heart hurt. I am supposed to be spending this lovely time to myself - the first time to myself I have ever had- writing, but that is hard when it turns out you have no humour, no wit or any merit.
The way I feel reminds me of the time after DALC2 was born. I have always referred to this as 'that time I felt a bit sh*t', because in my usual style I’ve never been sure I did post-natal depression properly.
I’m going out for a drink with the new reception class mums tonight. A drink which I organised, of course. Go me.
So what am I going to do between now and then? I am going to mend my ways. I am going to tidy one room and sit in it. I am going to turn off all the screens, apart from the telly, watch Bruce Springsteen videos on YouTube, not drink any more coffee, eat a really big sandwich, walk the dog and try to absorb the autumnal dregs of vitamin D. I’m going to get fish and chips for dinner and make them all eat off the paper so there is no washing up. I’m not going to phone work to see if my trainee is OK because deep down I know she is fine and that it is just me putting extra expectations on myself.
Recently I saw a tweet that quoted someone saying they were fed up with all this wellbeing nonsense. If you can’t handle the heat, it said, do something else. My old training principal has a breakdown every few years and I have had many a long conversation in the pub with him about whether he should go and work in a DIY store, or, you know, at the age of 70 actually consider retiring. I absolutely think he should 'do something else'. But for the majority of us, we don’t want to do something else. We are good at our jobs and we enjoy what we do. But that doesn’t make it any less stressful. Self care and wellbeing is important to ensure that after all our training and hard work, we end up doing a job that allows us to have a life, other interests, families, pets; that allows us to laugh, listen to new music, watch films and read books; that gives us the presence in the moment to jump on the trampoline with the kids or camp out overnight in the living room with them, or avoid children at all costs and drink very nice wine. Obviously I try to do the latter. I didn’t work relentlessly hard throughout the whole of my school years, while my friends were drinking in the park, to work relentlessly hard until the day I die.
I often think about a quote that pops up on social media now and again along the lines of 'A happy parent makes a happy home, so look after yourself first'. Well, a healthy, well-rested lawyer certainly makes for happy clients, colleagues, good decisions and better productivity.
As a man famously said, every afternoon for a number of years: look after yourselves, and each other.