I’ll be honest. When I’m in the company of mothers who have managed to maintain their careers I feel like a dismal failure. When I switch my brain back into rationale mode, I realize that nobody else is thinking of me that way. I certainly wouldn’t put such a label on other families where the mother has put her personal aspirations to one side. Nonetheless the feeling of inadequacy raises its ugly head. These women have a commitment and determination which I lacked. I could complain until I’m blue in the face about how the corporate world is not family friendly ( a whole other argument) but the truth remains that I simply didn’t have the drive to keep going in my former job in stockbroking. Doubtless it would have been a difficult slog. My husband has a thriving business which brings in considerably more than my solid but unspectacular salary ( Its a myth that everyone in finance is raking in millions). There was no prospect of him doing the stay at home Dad gig. The long hours and deadlines make daycare pick ups and drop offs tricky. The only real solution would have been to hire an au pair which would gobble up almost all of my after tax earnings. What’s the point? Still the irritating little voice in my head says “Excuses, excuses other people make it happen and you didn’t”.
The job I left behind comes across better on paper than it actually was. “Equity Analyst” – sounds smart doesn’t it? I could talk about it socially and people would actually be interested. I got to swan around interviewing company CEOs and hosting investor presentations which was cool. On the downside, there was the lingering sense that you could never really get it right. We were in the business of predicting the future sans a crystal ball. Plus the testosterone fueled argy bargy that went on was utterly tiresome. The fact is I liked my job, I enjoyed the cache it gave me but I was not in love with it.
Five years later to say “I’m looking at a smoking heap of ashes that was once my career” is not an apt description. The embers have long since cooled and blown away. Reigniting the fire is beyond me. I dont have the inclination to go gathering the kindling. Work / family balance is coming down hard on the side of family like see saw with me on one end and an elephant on the other. Still this is not meant to be a post bemoaning society or about “feminism lying that we could have it all”.* The fact is that I had a choice and I willing stepped out of the corporate world. Its a choice that previous generations did not have. My late grandmother had nine kids. Who would choose to spend 81 months (that’s almost 7 years) of your life perpetually pregnant. Nowadays many others have their options taken away by their mortgages. Financially I had the luxury of taking several years out and I lapped it up.
I’m grateful that I’ve had the time to devote to my girls. It hasn’t been all snuggles, smiles and bliss. I had an uncomfortable waltz with PND during P2s early months and I believe 30 IQ points have been discarded along with the dirty nappies. Its easy to get bogged down in the drudgery of the housework and the kids unending demands but then I can walk outside and watch the waves crashing on the rocks at the northern end of the beach. Who in their right mind would swap that view for a Reuters screen?
Nobody has it all but I’ve had so much in my life – just not at the same time. I’ve had a reasonable career life, I’ve paid my own mortgage, and I’ve experienced a string of relationships. Now I’m blessed beyond measure to experience raising a family. Our choices are not always easy but those of us who have them are fortunate indeed.
* I don’t believe that feminism claimed we could have it all – Hollywood can be blamed for that myth.
I’m not in any way trying to argue the employers shouldn’t be more open to flexible working arrangements.