My friend recently quit her stressful full-time job to stay at home. She’d been fantasising about this every day for the last 10 years.
Finally allowing herself the time to piece together the missing chunks of her children’s lives, at last having the freedom to arrange every minute of the day to fit her own agenda. She couldn’t wait to indulge her passion for cooking exotic recipes, join a running group and catch up with friends who’d been lurking at the bottom of her to-do list for years
Two weeks later and she’s as miserable and stressed as when she was working.”I can’t seem to enjoy it,” she says. “I think I need to go back to work.”
Every minute must count
Another friend, about to take some well-deserved time off after years of spreading herself thinly on all fronts for years, has drawn up a list of planned activities that will make any senior company executive break out in a cold sweat:
Refurbish the house, landscape the garden, do a painting course, volunteer for a charity, Pilates sessions every day. The list is endless and is rattled off to everyone she encounters – daring anyone to doubt that every minute of every day at home will be spent productively.
As with every other negative parenting phenomenon, I am bang on trend. My decision to realign my life with the things I care about and enjoy – my family and my writing, is a secret rebellion against an army of inner voices telling me that without a regular pay cheque, my self-esteem will be punched full of holes by every working mum I meet.
Even if we can afford it financially, and I’m very conscious that not everyone can, mums of my generation seem to be terrified of losing their grip – even just for a moment – on the slippery corporate ladder for fear that one misstep will send them sliding down into the doldrums of depression where their minds will rot away never to spark again.
Empty diary panic
Why does an empty page in the diary fill us with panic? Why do we feel the need to justify – even to strangers – a perfectly reasonable decision to take time out from the relentless and often unsatisfactory grind of being a working mum?
We are almost ashamed of the desire to spend precious hours with our children or just have a bit of time to ourselves, doing things that might not earn money, but could pay off handsomely in brownie points with our children and in self-fulfilment.
So where is this going?
Take my writing for example – I finally got myself as far as signing up for the creative writing course I always wanted to do – (my inner voice is still not talking to me) and I love it! But the niggling voice is there every time I leave the class – So, are you actually going to publish a book? This is all good and well, but where are you going with this? Are you going to make money (highly unlikely) or get famous (even more unlikely)?
I’ve never been driven by money – a new handbag or pair of shoes turn me on as much as the next woman – however, can I live without them – absolutely.
The real problem, I suspect, is that my sense of self is so entangled with my to-do list, that the thought of having a day without a plan or an activity without a concrete outcome – is like stepping off a cliff.
On the rare occasion that I manage to shake off those fears and anxieties, take deep yoga breaths, eat lots of chocolate and focus on enjoying what I’m doing in that moment – sitting on the carpet playing with my son or getting lost in my writing in a coffee shop – I feel like I am the person and mother I was meant to be.
And if I can build more of those moments into my life – who knows where that will lead?(See there I go again – why does it have to lead somewhere? It’s fun, I enjoy it – it’s good for my children and me. Is that not good enough?)
Does this sound familiar to anyone? Am I having a midlife crisis? Am I on my own out here? Anyone?by
You are not on your own. I gave up a stressful job after 26 years to concentrate on writing. There are days when I wonder what the hell I’ve done, but mostly I’m enjoying it and have plans to publish an e-book at some point!! Good luck x
It’s so hard to commit to writing isn’t it – I love it, but it’s a constant battle with myself – allowing myself the freedom to do something that is not obviously and immediately ‘productive’.
Sound familiar? You stole my words! (ok, you said all much better).
Have you read French Women Don’t Get Fat ..her most recent one is for Biz women (Savoir Faire). About doing things that only delight you …and that can apply to eating, working and all that. It really got me thinking about any moment can be a happy moment….
I don’t think it is a midlife crisis per se- either I am in denial or it is a fact that only at certain age (40s?) one would have accumulated enough in life to have that kind of ntrospection.
I have a similar post called “Do you play?”….http://simmeringgoodness.com/2013/03/29/do-you-play/
….. one of those parental moments when I realized it can be very hard to play like a kid, and yet it is sooo important.
Hi! I haven’t read either of the books – but they are on my to-do list – haha!
I will check out your play post – I do find ‘playing’ like a child so hard and could definitely do with some inspiration.
I was thinking about a similar concept this morning. I was lying in bed trying to get my daughter to sleep. I started to go through a mental list of all the things I “should” be doing and had to stop myself. I have recently given myself permission to have a nap during the day, if the opportunity should arise. I count spending time with my bubs or reading as important tasks – i.e. more important than cleaning the bath or making scones. I think it’s a mind shift or something – really thinking about what matters. When you look back on your life, what will it be that you want to remember?
I couldn’t agree more. It’s really about “allowing” yourself to enjoy those moments eg. with the kids rather than being so worried or stressed about the other things you think you ‘have’ to do but which are really not that important.
I am absolutely and utterly with you on all of this. I am so fearful of being a full-time Mum and ‘missing out’ on the business side of things that I seem to find myself doing anything and everything to get some affirmation and justify my existence both in the parenting and business world. I am hoping that my move to Somerset will slow my life down a bit and that I will be able to start working from home – thus making life at least a little bit easier! Thank for you for linking to PoCoLo with such a great post x
I’m freelancing from home at moment but still find it hard to switch off and just enjoy what I”m doing, work or otherwise. Still rushing and chasing my own tail. Somerset will definitely help in your case but you’ll have to give yourself permission to slow down too.
I watched a group of teenagers having fun in a swimming pool today and I wished I had enjoyed my kids more instead of slaving away at my job and my to do lists and trying to cope with life. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Scale down, cut down and sit down even if you if you have to do without a few luxuries or steps on the corporate ladder.
It’s hard to do – I have to remind myself every day. It’s like you have to practise spending time in the moment and making the best of the time with your children isn’t it? Thanks for stopping by.