Recently I’ve been pondering many things. One of them is much of our generation’s need to feel as though we as women need to really make something of ourselves and also provide support to our family on a financial level. ‘There won’t be any relying on an man!’ I have heard many women say. I have to put my hand up and say that I am, and have been conditioned by the women before me to feel this way too. I have always had a need to be able to stand on my own two feet financially, emotionally and not to depend on anyone else for a thing.
This has in the past driven me strongly towards growing my business to a point where I was working around the clock, employing two other staff, plus having a nanny for my children. I was the bread-winner of the family. I didn’t gloat or rub this in to my husband, I just got on with it and did it as I felt that this was what made me a successful mum and wife. The current me is often in disbelief at the younger me. Wondering why being so career driven and financially independent was just so important to me during a time I was just dipping my toes into motherhood too.
This was a time where I had babies in my home. Before my family came, I so desperately wanted my babies to love and play with. To help them grow into amazing humans and to be an amazingly, loving mum. From a young girl, this was all I wanted in my life. It was to be a mum. Somewhere along the way I got lost… or maybe it was fear kicking in once they arrived, maybe I just freaked out as I put so much emphasis on being a mum. I’m not really sure. Perhaps I felt I needed to work more in order to support my babies, incase anything were to happen. After all my mum was a single mum for much of our childhood. Could this happen to me? I really thought I could just have it all. I thought I could be a great mum, run a successful business and be financially independent. After all wasn’t this what all women wanted these days? Wasn’t this the dream?
I have been questioning this concept recently. I feel that it is far from my dream any more. Don’t get me wrong, I love pursuing my passions and some of my passions just happen to be paid work, however my priorities have changed. It’s kind of like I have finally accepted and realised that I am a mum and that I really do have some important things to do. Becoming a stay at home mum and wife really isn’t that scary and it’s fun to live life as though I’m in a Jane Austen novel; taking care of my family being my priority. Work is way down the list now as I have seen the emotional hurt, the scars, the separation, division and ultimately the toll that my “need” to have it all, has done. It makes me sad that I felt this was important at the time. Was it really important? I can’t say I have no regrets right now. I think I’m aware and I’m healing. I’m trying to be at peace with the decisions from my past. I know that without that part of the journey I probably wouldn’t be the mother I am today. This journey has taught me about what is important and I hope that my children can forgive me for that.
Just last night I felt like snuggling up in bed and watching a movie on Netflix. Something warming and romantic. Romance is really quite comforting and lovely isn’t it? and sometimes it’s nice to feel all of those lovely feelings. So I put on Sense & Sensibility. This movie was made in 1995 and based on a novel of the same title written by Jane Austen herself. She wrote it based on life around her in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Back when women were not permitted to work. Girls were bought up in the home and spent their time learning how to be a good wife, mother and outstanding citizen. They learnt to read poetry, play musical instruments, sing, cook, wash and keep house in order to be a great “catch” to a potential suitor. They had to catch a husband after all and this was what their life either being a contented one, or a poorly one depended on.
Back then the family’s wealth was passed onto the son’s and the women had to depend on their husband for financial security. It was a little harsh, cruel and something I couldn’t dream up if I tried these days, however it WAS real and it has made the penny drop in relation to my journey and that of my sisterhood… Genetic conditioning and our need to rebel against the societal norm! Yes, that is it!!
Fast forward over 200 years later and oh how times have changed since then. A complete back flip actually. Women now have equal rights (Yay!) and yes, we are certainly making the most of it! We are having careers, having babies, having hobbies, passions, friendships, we can drive, we can vote and we can own property. You name it. We can do it! This has all been made possible for us and all by the sisters before us. We have childcare and schools to take care of our children from just 6 weeks of age, so that we can go out and chase that career! They tell us this is what we need to do these days. That tough love is the way of the future. I used to try, but now I now beg to differ. I have seen it fail our family and many others too…
I can remember when my son (our first born) was just two weeks of age, my employer at the time rang me and asked me to come into work as he was going on holiday and needed me to keep things ticking over whilst he was gone. I had only just started my maternity leave upon going into labour two weeks earlier. Albeit, he said I could bring my baby with me, however now I look back, it was a slightly crazy request on his part. We had not had such a great transition into parenthood, with our slightly ‘premmy’ bub requiring tube feeds and an extended stay of a week in hospital. I was running on minimal sleep and yet I couldn’t say no to my employer. This was my introduction to motherhood and the juggling act I tried to maintain for many years, because I felt that this was what was expected when you were a mum with a career. I felt societies pressure to have it all and I was going to try to live the “perfect” life.
After two months I was working part-time, just two or three days per week, however that time away from my baby whom really needed me was hard and my heart ached constantly… I should have listened to my heart, except I was told it was normal to feel this way and that I would just get used to the feeling. The pangs of needing to be with my child were always there. When our second baby was born I finished up work three months early and just loved the time I got to spend with our first born whom was then almost two years old. He was a joy and I loved, loved, loved being his mumma.
It didn’t stay this way for long. When our second baby was just eight weeks old I received a text from work telling me that my position had been made redundant and I was not required to come back. The fear and guilt set it. I felt that I had let my employer down because I had put my family first this time and had now lost my job of eight years. It hurt deeply and I cried a lot. I felt like a failure. However I did see a light at the end of the tunnel and started doing what I knew best, bookkeeping and as a freelance agent. I could fit it in around my babies and it would work. Long story short a few years later, I still couldn’t say no to new clients requests and grew the business big, thus burying my head in the sand to other things going on in our lives. It become a vicious circle.
I eventually burnt out, broke down and spent a couple of years making some drastic changes, but not without a few stumbles along the way (see my last blog post for this journey) which brings me to where I am today. Career-less, doing a little bookkeeping here and there (mostly at home too), some wholefood cooking classes (my soul food) and working on my passions if and when it works for us on a very casual basis without a deadline in sight.
Life as a mum is a real balancing act. Some days I think I have it. We have delicious meals on the table, we have clean clothes to wear, the house is clean, the dogs are washed, I’ve done some great things with the kids and had lots of quality time with them, plus deep, meaningful conversations with my husband (the Jane Austen lifestyle you see, hehe). Then I’ve also manged to fit in some work (this part is the Millennial lifestyle) and I feel fulfilled, complete (and maybe a little exhausted too). Other days can be more of a dogs breakfast though. It’s a fine line to balance it all out sometimes.
Women seem to have had the biggest of changes throughout each generation. We get no more hours in the day, yet try to fit everything we are absolutely entitled too in to the 24 we have. I feel very blessed to have all of these opportunities, but now know that even though they are all there, I don’t need to be drawn in to each and every one. Simplicity and my very own and unique way, is what works for me.
Please note, this blog post does not attempt to survey the way that anyone else is living or what they are doing in their lives. I don’t profess to understand or know what the right thing is for each family, nor judge others on their decisions. This is merely my judgement of my own decisions I have made in my life and for my family. Much love – Michelle