So far, so not happening.
What I do know is that mothering 24-7 is not the best answer. It can be done, but it’s not ‘mummy’ at my best. And ‘me’ doesn’t get much of a look in either.
I have lost count of the times I’ve wistfully yearned for the focus and unavoidability of a vocation, and for that vocation to be for a job that happened to work brilliantly with family life. Or that it was such a vocation I didn’t care. Or that I’d at least fallen into a career that could be bent to fit with family without significantly compromising my sense of job fulfilment. Or, or, or…
My hypothesis is that the perfect job would mean I could work 2 – 3 days per week, with at least one of those within a school day (9am – 3pm). Of course, it also has to feel fulfilling, challenging, and be financially worthwhile, or at least viable. And therein lies the rub. Does such a job really exist? And is it one I’m qualified to do?
At my 20 years on school reunion recently (gulp), a friend was saying how her career as a doctor was suiting her family life very well. She had reached a stage in her career where she could practise her specialism a couple of days a week, enjoy it, be paid well for it and have plenty of time and energy left for her family of four. Nice. Oh, did I mention she also lives in Perth, Australia– lifestyle capital of the world? I averted my green eyes into my sauvignon blanc.
I, on the other hand, have successfully manoeuvred myself into a position where the jobs I’m attracted to and qualified for are utterly unsuited to balance. They suit a life more like Kate Reddy in ‘I don’t know how she does it’ (though much less high powered). I interviewed for a less unsuitable version in the same field and I felt like I was being shut up in a box. I almost had to run away it sounded so mundane, so within my comfort zone, so far from making any real difference in the world. Do I need to work so desperately I have to accept I can now only do a percentage of what I am actually capable of? Isn’t that the most depressing thing, knowing you could be / do so much more?
I know, of course, I’m choosing to prioritise family over that career fulfilment. But the extent of that giving up of self is something I have found pretty tough. Why, why, WHY is it so hard to be a present mother and supportive partner while fulfilling my potential in my own right, without having to give up things that keep me sane, like exercise, friends and sleep?
How I wish I’d chosen differently all those years ago at university. But would any twenty-something girl with the world to play for listen to someone like me suggesting they think of future family life when choosing a career? Yeah right. And anyway, why should they. Feminists have fought for females to have the education, confidence and opportunity to be what and who they want to be just the same as men. Asking them to close doors up front just doesn’t seem right, even if it means they may well be faced with the depressing realisation that they can’t ‘have it all’ when they have kids in ten years time. People who believe they have it all really mean they have the bits they care about. They’re also probably personality types who don’t wallow and are good at accepting and moving on once a decision is made. Big strike against me then.
One option I’ve mulled over quite a lot is starting some kind of business; becoming a ‘mumpreneur’. Plenty of mums I know are doing it, and it’s fantastic to see them getting out of their comfort zones and going for it. Check out Mrs McIndoe or Little Puggle for two of my favourites.
This option seems by far the most attractive, despite the hard graft and nerves of steel required to get going. I’ve always secretly longed to be good enough at taking risk to put myself out there like that. To be a success story in my own right and feel really proud of what I’ve achieved. I see now that having kids and wanting to be with them, plus having the security of being a second income vs essential one, may well be the push I need. The one snag is what to do. Any ideas, anyone?