5 years ago I was working as a full-time teacher. Early morning starts where I had to prise my eyes open, juggling of childcare, and the late nights were all worth it because I loved my job. Yes, it was relentless and yes we really didn’t have that much to show for it. I worked hard, Mr C worked hard but we were still dealing with the hangover of the recession so most of our money was swallowed by bills and debts.
Now we are in a different position. We have swapped the cold, beautiful wild moors of Yorkshire for the warm, sunny beaches of Jersey. We took a massive gamble by moving to Jersey. We said goodbye to family and friends and moved away to this very small island because it promised us a better life for our family. It hasn’t failed to deliver on that front. I walked away from my teaching career and became a stay-at-home mum. Mr C took on his new role and as a result had a better work life balance. Gone was the long daily commute on the packed train, gone were the evenings spent catching-up on his work, and all replaced with a job that he thoroughly enjoys. A job that means he can finish work on time, and is only a short drive away. Evenings spent on the computer working are now replaced by evenings spent on the beach.
It’s Not Quite Picture Perfect
Yet, despite this supposedly rosy picture of family tranquillity, something niggled at me. I felt that I had let the family down. My decision to walk away from the career, my decision to be at home with the family has meant that we are now struggling to get on the property ladder. This all came to a head last week when I questioned whether we had made the right decision, whether me kissing goodbye to my career had been the right decision to make for the long-term. I do earn a wage, I am on a regular freelance contract and my wage isn’t massive but it could make a difference on the mortgage application if the bank accepted my work. A huge question mark hung over our application because of the fact I am technically self-employed. I felt that it was my wage that was holding us back and, for the first time, I regretted the decision I had taken to walk away from my career.
Returning To Teaching?
At first I had assumed that my walking away from teaching would be a temporary one. That by the time my youngest was in pre-school, I would have returned to teaching. However, that time rolled around, far quicker than I had anticipated, and I found myself reluctant to leave them. No matter how difficult and tedious my days have felt at times, I was and still am so grateful for the fact that I can now be there for them. That I am the one that they run out of the classroom door to, that my hand is the one they hold as we walk out of the playground, that I am the one who makes them hot chocolate with squirty cream as they tell me what funny things happened in the classroom. Those moments make everything worthwhile. So why do I feel like I’ve failed my family too?
Having It All
It’s drilled into us that we can have it all. The family and the high-flying career. In my experience that isn’t true. Something always has to give, whether it be your career, your family or your sanity. Is that just my experience? Was I not doing something right? Nope, my problem was that I wanted to do it all and to the best of my ability; I hated the fact that I felt like that wasn’t possible. I was lucky that an opportunity came along that allowed me to put my family first. I still wonder if this is me setting the best example for my family. I think the girls struggle with the fact I work from home. They often struggle to comprehend that I work and that it is important I meet my deadlines, even if I don’t wear a suit and sit in a boardroom.
What Do I Really Do?
I walked away from a well-paid career, a career that I had spent years training at university for. I swapped that for a career that allows me to work from home in my PJs and doesn’t pay as much as my previous job. A career that would possibly make any bank lender nervous. A career that on paper doesn’t mean much. Say you are a freelance writer and you are met with confused looks from the person who asked you what you do for a living, “But what does that really mean?” Explain to the school that you would love to help out in the classroom every week but you can’t commit to helping out on a regular basis because you have deadlines you have to meet and you are met with a confused stare.
No one really gets freelance work. It’s assumed that it’s all chocolate biscuits, mugs of coffee and the occasional typing from your settee, and don’t get me wrong, there is a settee, many mugs of coffee and biscuits. However, there are also the times that you take on too much work because you are a little scared that your freelance contract might suddenly end, and so you top it up with other work and then find yourself working far too many hours in one week because you were too scared to say no. Which is okay, but freelance writing isn’t the best paid of jobs because how do you put a value on words? What is my ability to form a sentence, to construct a paragraph, really worth? It’s not like I’m saving lives. So you work all of those additional hours and then spend the same amount of hours chasing your invoices before you realise it’s not worth it because that hourly rate is now even more shocking. You vow not to do it again (you always do though) because life is too short.
Writing For A Living
You are writing for a living because you love it. Nope, it’s not well paid but it’s what you have always wanted to do and, best of all, you can fit in around your family life. It allows you to be there for your family. It is practically perfect until it comes to the point when we have to apply for a mortgage and I find myself suddenly wishing that I could have it all, the well paid career and being there for my children. But that’s life and there always has to be some sacrifice. So it was last week that I found myself questioning if I had made the right sacrifice. Wondering if we would be ever be able to buy, my mum reminded me of something:
“I’m proud of you. You set up your own business that allowed you to work from home and, because of that, you are there for the girls. Be proud of what you have achieved”
My mum is a wise woman and deep down I know that she’s right. Yes, I might not be raking in the big money and we certainly couldn’t survive on my wage alone, but I am almost having it all. I’ve made a career that suits me and my family.
Here’s to almost having it all and feeling proud of it.