A few weeks ago, I got out of the shower and noticed by 9-year-old son looking at something in my room.
“What’s this Mum?”
“It’s my 20 years of service award from my company Charlie”
“But you work at home for Dad, Mum”
“Mmmm yes Charlie, but I’ve been working with the same organisation since 1998 so 20 years doing all sorts of roles.”
“But you don’t do what Dad does Mum, you work at home and you can take time off.”
“Yes Charlie, that’s right” (gob smacked)
And off he went, whilst I stood there with my towel around me and my mouth hanging open, with the realization that my kid doesn’t know anything about the me, before him, and the career I had before he was born. He doesn’t know about the decisions I made when I left school, how I followed one path to become a teacher when I knew that all I wanted to do was travel. Nor does he know anything of my decision to leave teaching and finally pursue my dream to work in travel. How I finally got the job of my dreams and then worked like a dog for the next few years whilst I built my business striving for promotion after promotion until I could open by own Agency, and then finally step up into a senior leadership role. He isn’t aware of the thousands of people I’ve trained and mentored to grow their own businesses and work on their personal development, so that they could become more self-aware and chase their own dreams. He will never know about the young people, single mothers, refugee’s and those at risk that I mentored and supported to stay in work when I became an independent contractor for a job network agency. There is so much about my career, my 20’s and 30’s that will never be on his radar.
And why should it?
To him, I’m Mum. I’m here all the time, at the school gate, after school, because I wanted to be home, to take him to kinder, to pick him up from school and be available in the school holidays. I didn’t want him spending his summer holidays at vacation care like I did, so I chose to take a step back from the leadership roles and go back to the role I had when I first started out in travel, and one that I can do from home with flexibility. Don’t get me wrong you can’t put a price on flexibility. Right now, I’m sitting here with my Ugg boots on, working away with the dog at my feet and Spotify going in the background. It’s a cold day here so this is a great environment to be in today. Never mind the fact that I love the work that I do and the path it is taking me on.
So why does it matter to me that he won’t know these things about me? Then it hits be like a lead balloon. I don’t care that he doesn’t know, but somewhere in there I miss that part of myself. The part that gets to be out in the world building a career, attending conferences, learning and growing, challenging myself, being surrounded by all kinds of people daily. The part that gets recognized for a job well done and gets a performance review and praise when it’s due. That get’s a promotion or sets a goal with a team to achieve.
But would I change it? Do I really want to do the daily commute and be a part of an organisation again? Showing up at a set time and being there everyday no matter what is going on at home with my family or my health. I have close people in my life who are doing this on a full-time basis with a young family at home and I see the toll the stress is having on their lives. One good friend said to me the other day when I told her I was toying with the idea of going into fulltime work,
“I dream of your work life.”
It really has got me pondering this question and that feeling we all get from time to time that the grass is always greener somewhere else. Or is this really a question about identity and how I value myself as a woman, a business person and a mother. If I choose to go back into a full-time career position, there are all sorts of restrictions on my flexibility and desire to create something for myself. I won’t be taking school holidays off and the reality of fulltime vacation care becomes a part of my son’s life. Our family life suddenly becomes more stressful and then pressures mount. However, it gives me the opportunity for reward and recognition and a sense of contribution. If I continue working for myself, at home for now, the flexibility is there even though it is a huge juggle at times, especially during school holidays, but a different kind of juggle to my friends who work in an outside workplace. With that flexibility, comes a sense of isolation and the need for more interaction with others. Is it surprising that I want a little of that when I feel like it, but not so much when I don’t?
Am I asking for too much?
What is the perfect balance, a word I despise because I don’t feel it exists. Never has my life been in perfect balance because life cannot be controlled. Just when you think one part of your life is in sync then something happens beyond your control and another part is out of sync. So, for me I believe seeking and chasing the perfect balance will be an endless task.
Maybe I’m just a chronic over thinker and this is about asking myself the big questions. I’m moving into another phase of life. I can feel it happening daily. My son still needs me, but not like he needed me at 5 or even 7. He is becoming more independent by the day and whilst I struggle with that at times there is part of me that gets excited as a whole new world starts to open up. There is more time but not necessarily the freedom to use that time, as I still want to be here when he comes home from school. I almost feel like the parenting skills I have put in place over the last few years need to shift as I am parenting a child on the edge of change himself. Life is shifting. I want different things from my business. I want to follow more of my own path, my own interests. Develop travel that fits with my values and desire to help others learn about themselves as they travel the world. I want to write and create some time in my day for my own self-development which has been feeling stagnant lately. Whilst I feel this need to grow I also feel a need to slow down and become more grounded and this is where I think I feel the disconnect. How do you grow and slow at the same time? How do you let go of your old identity whilst creating a new one? How do you get connection and yet work from home? How do you let go as a parent and at the same time be there?
There is such a push pull in this, and for me the only thing I can hear my inner voice saying is just step into it.
See what happens, watch and learn, observe and grow.