It’s Choice Sis


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.

Oh no – not another blog about work/life balance!

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.

photo credit: ynnejdrofdarb via photopin cc

25 thoughts on “It’s Choice Sis

  1. It’s not always choice, not the way you propose it anyway. I did choose to go back to work (after 4months) but it was a necessity or I’d be on the breadline. If I had my choice I’d not work for the time being, my heart breaks when I think of the lost years when I was editing a newspaper and my daughter was being cared for (by my mum, daycare, and her dad), it was an ok arrangement and I love what I do but I still crave her baby years back. I believe child raising is the most important job and the more time you’ve got to do it the better. Enjoy it, don’t despair over others’ who are maintaining their careers, just blog or call a mate when u need that mental stimulation, cos that’s probably what you’re missing.

    • I do understand that for many people their financial situation means that they don’t have a choice but to return to work. I’m extremely grateful to have the choice that has been denied to so many others for many different reasons. I hope this post wasn’t misconstrued in any way. I really admire you for all that you do and all that you’ve achieved.
      Love Brenda

  2. Everything has its price. I learnt that this week. I love my job and I have to work but on occasion, the personal toll far outweighs the financial gain. See my last post. X

  3. I was rearranging my ‘office’ today (see: desk that holds lap top plus toys, hairbands, specially drawn pictures and the occasional remnant of food) and I was pondering what to do with my degree certificates. Do I display them to prove to the world that I have been something other than a SAHM? Or just to remind myself if/when I need a self esteem boost? Or do I shove them in the cupboard because they no longer represent what I do with my time? It’s funny to think of your ‘old life’ when compared to the new. Putting aside all the politics of who/why/how we juggle work and motherhood, it is quite amazing how much things can change in a few short years!

  4. What a coincidence, we posted opposite ends of the working mum discussion today!
    I think everyone is different and no way is right or wrong. I think for me it comes down to the fact that I had a single stay at home mum who could never really afford much. I’m not saying I was deprived, just that I want to be able to give my children things I couldn’t have, and I didn’t marry a real estate investor, so I need to work. I guess it helps that I love it. Am I making sense? I need some sleep!

  5. I spent ten years as a SAHM – six of which I ran a very small business from home – it was very tough financially. At the time they were difficult years and I thought I would never get my life back again. I wish I had realised at the time that life is a series of chapters and that was just one chapter and you turn a page and move on to another in time. I’ve been back at work for six years now, I didn’t think I would ever want to work from home again, but find myself thinking more and more about it now. I really miss the flexibility. Also, someone once told me your kids need you even more as teenagers than they did as babies and now with a 15 year old and a 12 year old I’m thinking that could be true. I’m struggling to find the time to be “present” and ready to listen when they are ready to talk (not when I can fit it into my schedule). Parenting is one big juggling/compromising/trying to make it work gig!

  6. I am fortunate that I won’t have to return to work, we have made many sacrifices though leading up to this. Hubby has worked really hard for the last 3 years, basically working 2 full time jobs, his normal job and the hours he spends at home programming. I have been more then a full time mum, taking on many of his roles aswell, just so we can have this one shot (he is an app developer)

    So I don’t feel stongly one way or another, yet respect that everyone has their own reasons and situations that sometimes can’t be changed.

    (I’m one of your FYBF neighbours)

  7. I have worked full time with 1, 4 days with 2 and then at home with 3. All have pros, all have cons. I too feel like a loser for not having a job, even tho it was my choice and I still feel it is a luxury for the mother (I think the kids are fine no matter how you work it). I wouldn’t change it for anything, except for that moment when you meet people and have to tell them you don’t have a job…

  8. It really is such a tricky balance. Even after being a SAHM for as long as I have I still struggle with it. Not that I even had a career before children it is just now I know I never will. Which I don’t really mind but I just worry about the example I set for my girls, I want them to know that they can be much more than a mum not that there is anything wrong with being a mum just I would like them to go and experience a lot first

  9. I never understand why ‘having it all’ means working. If I ‘had it all’ I’d never work a day in my life again!! Great post.

  10. Great post. I love your ‘glass half full’ outlook on things. You’re absolutely right – we wouldn’t think of another mum in that way, and yet we’re so hard on ourselves. I’ve only been ‘unworking’ for two months, and yet I feel hopelessly inadequate in any dinner party conversation. I need to change my mindset of where my ‘value’ lies. It’s not so much about income – but about a contribution in a sphere outside the personal into the public. I’m not gonna get all Foucault on your arse, (have not had nearly enough caffeine and little A had a lot of questions to ask about the meaning of life at 3 this morning), but that’s where it’s at for me.
    Not taking any old sucky job though! I’ll switch the conversation back to wine and Lady Gaga’s dress sense if they get too stuffy on me at the dinner table.

  11. Amen!! We make our own way. Loving it big time. 🙂 xx

  12. I’m still undecided about my career… I might go back to it (although I’m sure I’d have to take a big step back after such a long absence – 3 years and counting!). Id rather be at home with the girls and ‘working’ on my ‘writing career’ but family finances might force my hand…

  13. I kissed the corporate world goodbye 3 years ago. And while I want to go back to “something”, I’m not quite sure what that actually is. There’s no rush for me to go back which at least makes it a lot easier to give myself time to figure out it is I want to do.
    I couldn’t agree with you more on this whole SAHM gig, though. While it hasn’t all been a bed of roses, I wouldn’t trade this time for anything.

  14. The line between personal contentment and pursuing personal growth is a fine one. I feel we need both and thus live in this constant tension. But, I see career pursuits as being about myself; the need for mental stimulation, adult social interaction, etc. Being a mother is about me too, but it is forever coupled with the responsibility for little lives and that adds a dimension of needing to often prioritise others’ needs over ours. Don’t get me wrong; I relish being a mother. It’s changed me a lot and still is, in ways my career hasn’t, can’t and won’t. This is just how I’ve come to understand what I feel.

    • “Constant tension” is a great description of the way many of us feel. Whatever we decide to do has a downside and there’s no such thing as the perfect balance. Still I celebrate the fact that many of us (admittedly not all) have choices that our grandmothers could never have imaged.

  15. I really enjoyed reading your perspective on that ‘work/life’ balance thing. We’re all finding our own way 🙂 Had a giggle at the IQ points being thrown out with the nappies too LOL

  16. The more I think about it, the more I think career-schmeer. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing if we are getting satisfaction and a sense of belonging. Motherhood can bring everything we need and it takes a really healthy IQ to raise good kids, if you ask me! It’s up to each individual to decide what is right for them. x

  17. Heard of that saying “the grass is always greener”. For all the reasons you outlined, it would not have been a “greener” choice. You have much to be grateful for, you have your arms full of beautiful children and the time to love and nurture them. Yeah for you! Thanks for Flashing 🙂

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