Oh the title of this blog post could mean so many things! The conflict I am talking about is the one between Pre and Post Children Career-Me.
I have of late been so appreciative that I work from home and can determine my own schedule, so that I can take time out to focus on family for a couple of months as we work through medical appointments and treatment for my husband.
But this morning, we caught an early ferry into the city. We were thrust into commuter-ville. And I liked it. It was a throwback to when I commuted by ferry in the UK for a short time, 10 years ago, before we had children.
We arrived in the city, everyone was rushing to the office from their cars, the bus or the ferry, grabbing coffee on the way. A feeling of being purposeful, joining a team of people at work, chatting about politics, the footie or whatever is the water-cooler topic of the day. I suddenly missed it. I missed going into work where people know where I fit in, what I do, and what I contribute. These are all known things in an office environment. There’s a hierarchy and a structure, meetings, teams….
Which is a far cry from working at home by and for yourself, redefining what ‘career’ means, changing tack and starting over, ‘flexibly’ juggling work around family life. I suddenly felt that the conflict I often feel at home, where I find it a challenge to switch quickly between mummy-mode and work-mode, where I can often get distracted, would disappear if I went back to a 9-5 job where I could clearly delineate between the two.
Of course, I am looking at it with rose-tinted glasses, thinking the grass is greener back on the other side. Both modes of working/living have their upsides – and their challenges. As I feel a pang of envy for those people who can be part of a bigger organisation, surge their career forward with opportunities presented to them, I also forget the long days (it never is 9-5), the evening phone calls with overseas offices, and then once we had children, the rushing home early for school pick up to try to get that utopian ’balance’ – feeling guilty for leaving the team behind in the office, so then compensating by catching up in the evenings……
It is possible to get the benefits of working for a bigger organisation when working for yourself. There are so many communities (especially for women in business) to connect, share and get advice, co-working days for the camaraderie, business coaches to help you stay focused and on track. And I simply don’t know how I would be coping right now – both physically and mentally – if I had to juggle going to a corporate job on top of running our household and the kids’ schedules, ensuring my husband gets what he needs, and finding time for ‘self-care’ to ensure I don’t topple.
But I felt a keen sense of loss. A loss for the person I was before I had children. I didn’t feel guilty about this. It was just a fleeting feeling that evoked memories and questions. Ultimately it’s a decision I have to make and be happy with.
However it is a conflict that so many women feel today….especially in their 30s and 40s, by which point they have often built careers and had children.
Aren’t we meant to be able to have it all and do it all?
Do we really feel we have the best of both worlds? And if not, why not?
What are the barriers to achieving the balance and what does balance even mean?!
And should we even be chasing this dream, as we’re told to slow down, be in the moment?
Why can’t we be satisfied with our lot?
Over the next few weeks, I am going to explore some of these questions, share further thoughts of mine and others, and provide some ideas on how you can start to find peace with where you’re at. Stay tuned