It's over 20 years since I worked full-time as an accountant. Essentially I did my 4 years of training, qualified and worked a further year for a local firm - which I very much enjoyed, but then I had a family. I feel that I've been very lucky not to have to work full-time - my husband is a dairy farmer, so I've been able to spend a lot of time with him and my 3 children as they enjoyed a lovely rural childhood.
For a short while I did try and keep my skills up-to-date with training and so on, but really, if you're not using the skills, it's very hard to retain that knowledge. As the children got older I had some spare time, so I became very active in our parish. I'm a school governor, I do a lot with the church and I'm also involved in some charitable events. I found those activities kept me busy and kept my brain ticking over.
Even though my children are teenagers now, I'm still very involved. Because we live in the countryside, I do a lot of ferrying around. Really I'm driving someone somewhere between 6pm and 8pm most evenings. And because my husband is a farmer, if I want to spend time with him I need to be around at breakfast time or lunchtime. Farmers don't get weekends off! I didn't think going back to work was a viable option. Also, to be fair, after all that time you feel a bit out of date - you think perhaps no one would want you - that you're too old.
Then a lovely thing happened. I got an email from an accountant I worked with a very long time ago. I still see him at various community events so he had an idea of what I've been up to. Anyway, he emailed me saying 'I need your help'. He still works for my old firm, and he needed someone to work with him 2 or 3 days a week - not every week, and he was very flexible about what time I started and finished.
Imagine the luck of finding an employer willing to work around my commitments in that way? I thought 'I'm going to go for this', but I also felt nervous.
It was around that time that I came across the caba courses - it was excellent timing for me. Each course was a whole day away from home, which helped prove to me that it was possible. I saw that if I plan ahead, my family can manage without me sometimes, and I can go off and do something. It also proved that I still had the ability to stay focused all day - my brain didn't just give-out at lunch time! Then there was the issue of finding the right clothes to wear. I have a set of smart clothes for some of the more formal aspects of my voluntary roles, so I wore those. I was glad I had, it's all part of getting back into a professional mindset I think.
I was really delighted that caba had courses in my region. I did the introduction to mindfulness course - the title intrigued me as there's been a lot of stuff in the papers about mindfulness and I was keen to know more. It was fascinating - it was all about being self-aware, thinking about why you do things and making sure you have a positive attitude. It's about staying in the moment instead of getting caught up with the past and future.
All the courses showed me that I'm able to have time away from my family without worrying about what was going on at home. It's all about doing what you're doing in that moment well - which was good preparation for work. The emotional intelligence course was good for my confidence too - I realised that I'm good at reading situations. It's made me feel positive about myself.
The courses are in lovely venues with great food and so on. It's a very professional and relaxed atmosphere. It makes you feel valued and respected.
I've done 3 audits since then, and I'm loving it. It's really stretching my brain - both to remember things from my training and to learn new aspects of my role. I was nervous about working on a laptop, but it's actually easier than I thought. I'm particularly enjoying going out to clients, getting to know them and building a good working relationship. And things seem to be working out at home - it's all about balance.
It's nice to be earning, but actually it's just as important to be doing what I was trained to do. I can go out to work as a professional and that feels good.