When I talk about my old (pre-kids) career I feel as pathetic as Al Bundy. You may recall catch cry “I played High School football!”
Like Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront, I too could have been a “contender”.
I was an equity analyst. I used to interview CEO’s, chair investor presentations and pump stock valuations out of my
wazoo spread sheets on a daily basis. Sure I wasn’t in the orbit of say Gail Kelly or even the chick who headed up resources research at Merrill Lynch. Nevertheless it was the peak of the economic boom and I had an opportunity that many an ambitious graduate would kill for.
So what did I do with this gift? I listened to my aging ovaries, had a sprog and tossed the whole career thing away. Then I got married and had a second (surprise) sprog, in that order.
At the time of my resignation an older, wiser colleague suggested that I should keep my options open. However the company was only offering 12 months maternity leave and I simply did not think I had the energy levels to perform on the stock market and look after a toddler. Having it all means doing it all. I didn’t believe I could do it all. I bypassed the maternity leave option and quit. At that stage my CV wasn’t looking too shabby and I reasoned I could slot back into the corporate world when the time was right.
That was eight years ago. My plan of slotting back into paid work hasn’t worked out so well. The time has not yet magically come “right”.
Many working mothers speak about “mummy guilt”. I guess I am fortunate that its not a cross I’ve had to bear. My guilt is perhaps a lessor one – the guilt of not contributing financially to the household and of letting team feminism down. Feminism is struggling to give women an equal footing in the work place and I willingly trashed a my career path because I couldn’t handle the pace.
I have a thousand sniveling excuses. The finance industry is not family friendly and the stock market doesn’t care if you have to leave early to collect a sick child from kindy. My husband was earning orders of magnitude more than I and it made no sense for him to step back. He had a serious business to run. Dadabs taking up the caring role was NOT an option.Nor was using my parents as unpaid childminding serfs. The cost of a nanny was unjustifiable.
Still where there’s a will, there’s a way. Thousands of women are doing it all without much support. In my particular case the will was notably lacking.
Now my youngest has started school I am on a crusade for the holy grail of work/life balance. This means either finding a part time role which is flexible enough for school pick ups or working from home. In reality these opportunities are as rare as hens teeth. The serious jobs are still overwhelmingly full time. The part time positions are in areas where I have little experience. Breaking into freelancing is like piercing the deep, Antarctic ice sheet. You have to invest in some heavy duty equipment.
I don’t regret spending time with my girls when they were small. I hasten to add that I am exceedingly grateful that I had the option of being a stay at home mum. Many people simply don’t have that choice. However I’m starting to doubt the wisdom of the decision I made eight years ago. Perhaps I should have listened to my former colleague and kept my options open. That way there would be more paid work in my work/life balance. And I wouldn’t have to feel like I’ve dropped the baton for Team Feminism.
Have you found your work/life balance Holy Grail?
How did you cope returning to work after maternity leave?
Did you find it tough to get back into the workforce after some time out?
Why am I bothering anyway?
Its not like I’m completely idle. I work as a bookkeeper/admin support withDadab’s business but its hard to get a suntan when you’re living in your spouse’s shadow. Just ask George Clooney.