I’m worried my commitment to Social Work has cost me a family of my own
When I was ten years old, my Aunt took me to one side as my birthday party was drawing to a close and said ‘time will go quicker now’. I remember asking what she possibly meant by such a thing and she went on to explain her belief that, when one turns ten, life begins to pass you by at a faster pace. I thought she was talking poppycock at the time but, as the years have passed, I’ve seen just how correct she was in her assertion.
The rush of hormones hit soon after my birthday and my world began to change from a fixation on books to a fixation on boys. Secondary school began and, pushed on by a studious peer group and aspirational parents, the bustle of demanding school work and extra-curricular activities keep me occupied. I remembered many boring rainy days when I was a child but hardly any when I hit my teenage years. I had a happy adolescence and perhaps the old adage of ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ applied quite well to me in those days.
My path from a bookish and lovelorn teen to becoming a social worker is so passé that it’s barely worth repeating in great detail: sixth form college> psychology degree> two years out travelling and volunteering> support worker> social work post grad. At the time, I thought my ‘social work journey’ was awfully unique and that my calling to ‘help people’ was a special one. Now I realise that my path into social work was a well-trodden one and there wasn’t anything particularly special about me at all.
Once in social work my career has been pretty uneventful too and that’s something I’m grateful for. I’ve had no serious care reviews, no long-term sickness and for the most part the job has served me well because I’ve always gone above and beyond to ensure that everything was done. That’s meant regularly working evenings and weekends, taking on responsibility for my own professional development and travelling all over the country to work in some of the most demanding roles you can get as a locum. I was raised to try my hardest in everything I put my mind to and so social work was no different to me.
There’s no secret to being a good social worker, it’s just hard work
‘Work hard, play hard’ was always my motto. I’d work stupidly long hours to make sure I was on top of everything and then take breaks in between contracts to go on holiday. I used to go away with friends but started travelling alone more often as my closest friends started to settle down one by one. I’ve had a good life and all of this was done on my terms. If I compare myself to most of the children whose social worker I’ve been down the years, I’m really quite lucky.
I turn 35 later this year and even though I’m just as committed to my job as I always have been, I’m starting to wonder what my dedication to this career has given me and what it has cost me in return. I’ve almost paid the mortgage off on a house I hardly ever sleep in, my income has given me the opportunity to see the world, I’ve become a wiser and better person for my experiences as a social worker and I’ve made many friends along the way.
However, as all the friends I’ve grown up with have settled down, gotten married and started families of their own, I’m single and still living the same lifestyle I was when I started out in this job almost a decade ago. I’ve had two long-term boyfriends since I qualified as a social worker and both of those have gone on to marry too. At the time, I blamed the breakdown of each relationship on a failure of my respective boyfriend to commit to my lifestyle and accept my professional commitment. In hindsight, I’m now starting to wonder whether it was I who failed to meet in the middle and give up the ‘work hard, play hard’ lifestyle I’d grown so accustomed to.
The dating scene these days is brutal. Tinder leaves no scope for any romance (at my age I’m apparently either a ‘MILF’ or a ‘cougar’) and I can’t even remember the last time I met a male social worker who was single. I can’t blame social work for the situation I’ve ended up in but I think it is fair to blame the commitment I have shown to my job for the situation I’ve ended up in. It honestly feels like my commitment to social work has potentially cost me the chance to have a family of my own.
With new tax changes on the horizon and my mortgage almost paid off, I might end up getting a part-time job closer to home (if you’re in the Wirral, keep an eye out for me on Tinder with the profile name cougar1982!) and settle down with the man of my dreams. Or I could just as easy not be lucky enough to find that special someone and end up as the proverbial crazy cat lady I often joke with my closest friends I want to be.
Because my passage into social work is passé and my career path nothing special, I wanted to share my story in case there are other people out there just like me whose relationships are suffering because of work. I don’t want people to be as naïve as I was and think that there’s always going to be time left to settle down. Social work is a great career and I don’t regret my choice of profession for a second. However, I do regret committing myself too much and risking my happy every after as a result of being married to the job.
Time is a commodity in life, just as it is in social work, so make sure you spend yours wisely. I chose to spend most of my time at work, maybe you should choose to spend it somewhere else.
Every Sunday I publish a guest blog from a Secret Social Worker who wishes to share their story with the world. If you’d like to write an anonymous guest blog about life as a Social Worker, email me via: firstname.lastname@example.org