Welcome to Reliable Joe's corner of the net. Obviously the internet doesn't have corners and even if it did, Reliable Joe would buck the trend and set up against the curved glass wall. In any case, she hopes you find something entertaining enough in the annals of this blog to help you procrastinate longer.

The rise of the unintentional stay at home mum (USAHM)

We’ve all heard of SAHMs (stay at home mums) and possibly also of WAHMs (work at home mums) but it’s time to get our heads around the rise and rise of the USAHM (unintentional stay at home mum), or, as I’ve also seen it referred to, the ASAHM (accidental stay at home mum).

I’m one of them. And the shocker is that I truly, honestly, never thought it would happen to me.

We’re the naive breed who wanted to take a decent period of time off with our little ones or, perhaps, didn’t want to return to our old jobs for reasons unrelated to our little ones’ arrival, and assumed that when that time came to an end after nine months, a year, eighteen months etc., we’d slip back into some type of paid work without too much hassle.

Don’t get me wrong, as a self-confessed USAHM, I’m not saying I believed it would be easy to find a new job post maternity leave. I was well aware of the existence of and reasons for the gender pay gap (my partner has received a raise in the time I’ve been off work taking our gap from a few thousand pounds per year to several thousand) and never assume that finding meaningful work is easy for anyone (it’s not!). But as I was willing to accept less pay and less responsibility on my initial return to work, I believed it would find something, and simply work my way back up again.

Leaving a job to go on maternity leave is obviously risky. However, there is no guarantee one will have one to return to even if they want to return. I’ve heard of women being made redundant just prior to, during or soon after returning mat leave and also of course, of job’s evolving so much (often when the company chooses to keep one’s maternity cover colleague on whilst having them back) that they feel they don’t want to continue anyhow.

I knew finding a new job post maternity leave would be harder – after all, employers were bound to be suspicious about where my commitments lay. But I was confident that even if it took me longer than before to find work and led to something which was in some ways less satisfactory than before (probably less pay), that I’d nonetheless be doing something and, therefore, not totally falling off the career wagon. But as I languish in my flat applying for jobs and updating this blog, I realise that there were a few things I truly didn’t bet on, mostly, just how ill my children would get at nursery and how ill I would get from them in turn.

Sure, I’d heard from colleagues with kids how annoying it is to have to collect a child with a slightly raised temperature from nursery after getting the dreaded ‘call’ mid meeting at work, and I was prepared for the occasional early pick up. What I didn’t bet on was my children attending nursery for only 50% of the time due to illness one month, (and they only went two days per week)! Nor did I expect to catch every single thing they got and suffer from it five times worse than they did. I have never been as ill as I was in those first few months after my children started nursery, which delayed my job hunt by months, meaning that now I am officially a USAHM looking desperately to return to work… any work!

A year became eighteen months, and now closing in on two years, I’ve decided to change my strategy and start volunteering! I’ll be writing more about that on this blog over the coming months. I’m doing this as a means of retraining in a whole new career. I hope that you’ll share your own stories of getting back on the career ladder post-baby here and follow my journey.

What unexpected bumps in the road have you experienced in your journey back to work? Have you found that employers treat you differently now?

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Six word story

Riding the highway to nowhere fast.

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Six word story

One point of view trumps another.

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Six word story

Some doors are best left closed.

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Six word story

Big mouth. All smoke. No fire.

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Six word story

My ship has sailed. Fuck that.

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Reliable Joe would like to thank…

Well, I blinked and almost missed it! The past seven months have gone by in a flash and as all good things must come to an end (read: all credit cards have a limit) my world tour is, regrettably, entering its final hours. Thank you to all who have followed my journey, whether on the blog or simply via Facebook, and wished me well along the way as I flew thousands of air miles and traversed sixteen countries by bus, boat and burro (OK, not by burro). Special thanks to those I’ve had the great pleasure of travelling with over the past half a year (and the old friends I’ve managed to catch up with along the way) and to the incredibly hospitable locals who have made me feel so welcome in their wonderful countries – it’s been awesome! So, in the order in which I visited them, I say farewell, for now, to …

Singapore

Thailand

Cambodia

Laos

Vietnam

Malaysia

Hong Kong

Mexico

Belize

Guatemala

Honduras

Nicaragua

Costa Rica

Panama

The United States of America

and..,

Canada

The next chapter of my life starts now.

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O Canada: Random highlights from my travels through BC & Alberta

Watching paragliders take off above Golden, British Columbia

Spotting lots of black bears (and one moose!) by the side of the road including this mother bear with one of her three cubs and the bear I now know as ‘Dandelion head’

Staying in gorgeous and cozy log cabins at Beckers Chalets just outside Jasper. You can’t go past a glass of wine in one of these chairs by the river of an evening.

The Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail, Revelstoke

Driving the beautiful Highway 1

Watching dusk settle over Hoodoo Mountain outside Banff

Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies

Hiking the Sundance Canyon trail outside Banff on a brilliant sunny day

Supping amazing wines and generally relaxing in the tranquil Okanagan Valley

The view from Liquidity – which also boasts a fabulous restaurant – in Okanagan Falls. You can’t go past their Pinot Noir.

A stunning view over Skaha Lake from Painted Rock winery, Okanagan Falls

The view across the lake from the wonderful Ruby Blues winery on the Naramata Bench. They do a delicious Gewürztraminer and their signature blends – White and Red Stiletto – give a bit of a kick too!

and, returning to Vancouver just in time to catch the tail end (excuse the pun) of the annual naked bike ride

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Beautiful Lakes of Canada

Bow Lake, Alberta

Emerald Lake

Lake Louise

Moraine Lake

Peyto Lake

Waterfowl Lake

Maligne Lake

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The Icefields Parkway & Athabasca Glacier, Alberta, Canada

Approaching the glacier

One of our capable guides was George, the golden lab. Now seven years old, he has been walking the glacier since he was 5 months old

Trekking up the glacier

Trying to get photos (safely) of a crevasse

RJ on the glacier

Some people can sleep anywhere

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