On Balance


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!”

Al bundy 2

Like Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront, I too could have been a “contender”.

I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.

I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.

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.

meme med

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.

An attempt to break into freelance writing.

An attempt to break into freelance writing.

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.

33 thoughts on “On Balance

  1. Mumabs, I fucking love this post. Don’t feel like you have dropped the Team Feminism baton. Not any single one of us is responsible for the entire movement and we are all doing the best we can to make our way through a society that is set up with the considerations of the other gender as its priority. I chose for many of the same reasons to become a stay-at-home (and a few others, like being made redundant when I was 32 weeks pregnant). I’m a feminist and I make non-feminist choices sometimes. That’s OK. None of us live in some utopia of perfect choices. I’ve been chipping away as a freelancer as well. The money is not as good, I have fuck all super and I still have to be the one who makes career choices around the family. It sucks in many ways, but it also benefits us in others. I don’t know what the answer to this one is. It’s too big.

    • Ok – the money may not stellar but at least you are creating a portfolio of work that will back you up when/if you decide to tackle the corporate world again. I don’t have a great super either – if Dadabs wises up and leaves me for one of the smarter younger models in the office I’m royally screwed.

  2. I hear you, I am 55 have raised my children done meanial work while the kids were growing up and nursed ill relatives and now have done Tafe course. What now nothing there is nothing out there for me.

    • Please don’t give up. You sound like a wonderful person with much to offer. Be proud of yourself for completing the TAFE course. Let everyone know what kind of work you are looking for and eventually some one will know of someone…. I wish you all the very best of luck in finding a fresh direction for yourself.

  3. Quitting work makes you poor, childcare makes you poor. And we are ALL bloody exhausted!

    Free universal childcare might be the answer to giving us women some breathing space to make informed choices. It should be Team Feminists battle cry.


  4. Ermergaahd! I’m going through this at the moment… Have been on maternity leave for 9 months, planning on applying for another 12 months, but totally confused as to what to do after that. And not bringing in the bacon, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Definitely a constant struggle between wanting to be a strong feminist figure for my daughter, against wanting to be THERE form my daughter. One day at a time, and I’ll just keep assessing what is best for my family. Thanks for sharing x

    • Sounds like you are going to have to play this on a day by day basis. I don’t know what kind of work you do but if you’re out for several years its a bitch to get back in. Perhaps you could work around it by working from home or starting your business?

  5. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. I work part time but ready (actually finally need to) work more as my kids are getting older and costing me a fortune. Women’s Lib is all about making choices for ourselves… I say go out and buy tatts ticket and win (of course) and that should give you more time to think about it.

  6. I’m a walking cliche tonight but Rome wasn’t built in a day. You have to give yourself time with this writing career. Slow and steady and you’ll rack up some great bylines and then you can go from there. Patience is key.. and determination, and you’re a mum AND a wife you have plenty of these characteristics!

  7. I was lucky in the respect I taught drama from a home studio for pretty much the whole time my 5 were growing up. They were part of my 3.00 to 6.00pm job. I suppose many would say it wasn’t a real job but it kept my creative juices flowing. I dunno. I would have missed mine too much to go to work when they were preschoolers. You have plenty of time and talent to do whatever you want in the world Mumabs x

  8. This is a fanstastic post that articulates the different dilemmas we face. I feel I’ve been on career downhill since I was in my mid thirties. Infertility, IVF and then the long adoption process really robbed me of any ability to have a career track and after waiting so long for kids I really wanted to spend time with them. Our financial circumstances mean I have to work and have been able to do consultancy stuff, starting really low hours and building when our first was small and then mixing a combo of some full-time work, a year off when we lived in Canada and then back part-time (4 days a week, including one from home) for the last couple of years, with our youngest starting Prep last week. You are so right that all the good jobs really are full-time and you get pencilled as the ‘experienced part-time Mum’ – not so bad but not setting the world alight! I think we just have to have faith in our own choices and because we make them in an imperfect world for the best of reasons and sometimes they are mad for us.

  9. My situation has been the opposite but I still sit in the same position as you right now. I returned to work part time after having both of my daughters. I have to say I never experienced the mummy guilt as others often report. After many years, and with my youngest about to start school, I was offered to step up into a full time position – I took it mainly because it felt like there was an expectation on me to start ramping up my career now that both my kids were in school. But then everything fell apart on the home front and after 12 months I resigned from my job to spend some much needed time with my young family. It has been the best decision I have ever made! It was the catalyst for me to start my blog, try to pick up some freelance writing work … plus I’m now pregnant with baby #3. Sometimes I wonder if I have gone about everything a little backwards, but I believe things happen for a reason. You need to go with what your heart tells you, not just because of what other think you should be doing with your life.

  10. Jinx! This is pretty much exactly what my post is about today. I’m currently banging my head against the wall. Wanna join me?

  11. Argh. I guess I have a work/life balance of sorts at the moment, but it is in a job I’m not overly enjoying. I want more. I want to follow my dreams. I want it all. Things haven’t been the same since I first went on maternity leave. I’m not the same person. I want different things career wise and I’m grappling with that at the moment. To leave my permanent govt position would be a mistake for us financially. There just aren’t any part time jobs in the field I want available. Just give yourself time with this freelancing gig. Things will pick up and before you know it you will be fighting off opportunities. It’s amazing what you can do with drive. Plus, you’re an incredibly talented writer.

    • On the positive for you – its easier to get a job if you already have one ;-). Otherwise heed my experience and hang in there with the job you have at least until you have a very clear sense of direction.

  12. Feminism is about equality- not beating yourself up because you can’t do the jobs of two or three people on a full time basis! Feminism is wanting a CHOICE to work, as much as it is about giving men a CHOICE to be the primary carer. Never think you’ve let the F team down for doing what is right for your family 🙂

  13. I love this post for so many reasons and I can so relate. Being a plumber doesn’t work well raising little bubs and kids. So in the last year I focused on my blog and got sponsored posts and then just recently I was able to get some freelance writing work. It takes time to build the writing work up. For me it’s hard juggling bubs and doing the work that I’ve been given but it’s only early weeks and I’m hoping I will be able to find so e sort of routine with it all. I hope you are able to find writing work but more importantly writing that you enjoy doing. Xx

  14. Work/family balance is a paradox many women don’t every really surmount because – and I’m generalising here – women bear the brunt of domesticity, despite any number of nannies, cleaners etc.. And it’s so much harder for women in the corporate sphere.

    I did both with my 4: stay-at-home and work part-time teaching. It’s a challenge though and whatever you decide re returning to work, liberate yourself from any guilt. It’s okay to be a mother, in fact some say it’s the most important career choice of all.

    I think I’ve just shot my feminist self in the foot! 🙂

  15. There’s no written rules for feminism. Feminism is about having choices and opportunities. I’d love to be able to stay home for a couple of years, but it’s not viable for us financially.
    Feminism is struggling here, but not because of you or other women that opt to stay home- that’s a choice within a partnership. It’s the top dick Minister for Women who has sat back while the wage gap widened, while women are grossly under represented in cabinet and while women die due to DV and 1 in 5 experience sexual violence. The only thing he offered women was paid may leave but that’s off the table because, you know, labor or something. Don’t feel you’ve dropped the baton- feminists can stay home too! Women are amazing multitaskers!

    • I am not saying the way I feel is rational. I know that feminism is not pointing a finger at me screaming “loser”. AT the same time, options were made available to me and I didn’t take them. I can’t blame the patriarchy because its a tough road back to the workforce. Meanwhile yes – the LNP need to get with the program. The de-funding of women’s refuges is in particular a disgrace.

  16. I hear you on so many levels – but I’m only going to offer what Rainn Wilson said (do you like how I say that as if he said it to me, and I have fabulously funny famous friends?) Anyway, he missed out on a part in a series, and then he made a pilot that got dropped but that meant he was free for The Office. So all the little things add up to the next step – you have to miss out and fail to be doing the right thing at the right time….He of course said it better. But I can’t be expected to remember everything ever said….sheesh!

  17. I think feminism is more about choices than about whether a woman works outside the home or not. Standing up for the freedom to choose what we believe is best for us and our families, and that will be different for everyone.
    Personally, I worked outside the home out of necessity while my kids were growing up, and now that they are adults and have left home I wish I had been less focussed on work and more on them. Time with your kids is priceless. xx

  18. Ugghh don’t give team feminism a second thought – just one more bunch of people putting expectations on you about what you SHOULD do! One thing I’ve learnt from motherhood is that things rarely go to plan – I never expected to be a working mother but that’s what I ended up doing. There are pro’s and cons to both and the main thing is that you are running your own race. And those of us who want to create opportunities for themselves will work hard and put in the effort and REFUSE to give up until they get them. And my dear Brenda you are more than equal to that task xx

  19. Feminism to me means that you can make the choice you did, knowing it was right for you! The version of feminism with expectations aren’t feminism to me.

  20. Great post! I worked as a policy analyst before I had my bub. I lost my job when I had her, maybe its a blessing in disguise. Its not what I want to do anymore, and its given me the opportunity to find out what I want to do. I think I can be both a mother and have a career but right now Im jut enjoying being a new mum!

  21. We’re right there in the same boat. I honestly didn’t think that part time work was out there for mums. And like the finance industry, sales roles are demanding and in no way forgiving to school pickups and drop offs. This new job was a complete fluke. Sometimes I wonder if it’s too good to be true. In the meantime, I’m just going to run with it and see how far I go!
    You’ll do great in the freelance stuff. In fact, you already are. Keep picking through that ice x

  22. Oh, I was nodding right along with this one. I have a law degree, an IT degree and had a sparkling career utilising both. I really thought that kids would just put my career trajectory on hold – but going back to work full time when my eldest was two was so hard on our family and I had to take a step back career wise. I now face the challenge of working for myself and might have to invest in some of that heavy artillery you are talking about. I don’t think you let team feminism down, I think team feminism still has some bloody hard work ahead of it to make workplaces mother friendly.

  23. I totally get the guilts I’m not contributing being “just” a SAHM. I just reached my dream job then boom! Fell in love, moved to the farm, got married and had kids. If I had asked my former feminist 20 something yr old self where do you see yourself I would have been all career! Haha! You’re totally right, school hours jobs ARE rare as hens teeth and also being older, you get fussy as to what you want to do as well. We’ll crack the code one day! Watch this space 😄

  24. I’m also a military wife which means I’ve not been in one place or job long enough to acquire maternity leave which totally sucks. Just as I start to creep close to that magic amount of time to be eligible for leave – we move. I’d love to set up a company that employs only mums and provides awesome flexibility – we could rule the world!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s