Hey Mum – Be Who You Are, Not Who You Were!

Until last week I had a job 2 days per week as a digital content writer, working one day per week in the office and one day from home. I am a mum with 2 primary school aged kids. I have a colourful, successful career background. My job didn’t pay well but it was enough to make a difference for my little family, kept my hand in and I was enjoying the writing.

A few changes went down at work and suddenly (through no fault of my own), I was told that I could no longer work from home and it wasn’t really negotiable. As much as I wanted to keep my job it had become financially nonviable. Once I’d paid for extra childcare and petrol, my small wage hardly seemed worth the effort. Such an old and common story. How sad.

I am by no means alone. I am shocked and appalled at the talent that I see sitting at home - other mums who would love to work but just can’t seem to make it happen – and I’m talking truly talented women who had shining, bright careers before they had kids. I keep waiting for this amazing flexible work culture to show up but it never does – at least not where I live. Where are the smart employers who are clever enough to take advantage of this incredible pool of talent? Only 59% of women participate in the work force in Australia but I’ll bet more of them would if they could find work flexible enough. It’s kind of a choice we make – stay in the male dominated corporate world where you have to make major sacrifices in terms of family or get off that merry-go-round and become unemployable. The small business world is full of women like me who have had no other choice but to create work on their own terms. Party plan or network selling is all the rage – a kind of strange inter-connected support network of women selling products to other women because they can do so in the hours that suit them – mostly. I’m just not passionate enough about any of the products that sell that way to seriously consider that as an option.

I had a go at consulting – halfheartedly I admit and I take my hat off to anyone who makes a real success of it. It’s hard yakka and it tends to infiltrate all the ‘spare’ moments of your days. Years ago when I was still single I did some visioning work and in the last year or so I have realised that my vision all those years ago has come true. I finally met Mr Right in my mid-30s and had my little family in my early 40s. We now live in my dream-come-true, cute, old fashioned and ramshackle house with a pool in the backyard, the lake and the beach a walk away. How lucky am I? All my dreams came true. How many people can say that? The only thing missing in my life is meaningful work for which I would earn an income. Boo-hoo, poor me – suck it up sunshine!

There’s always a lesson to learn though. I worked so hard at creating my family and home that by the time I took a breath I realised that I had lost my sense of self. Common for mums. We moved a lot and my industry changed significantly. And I got older. Suddenly the jobs weren’t falling in my lap anymore. I read something today that struck a major chord. Be who you are, not who you were. So hard to do. Letting go of who I was is super hard for my ego. Anyone who has been proud of their career and was lucky enough to love their job like I used to do, would know that it becomes such a major part of your self-identity. Who am I without that work? Who am I now if I’m not who I was?

I know I’m not prepared to work full time and leave my kids in child-care – that won’t work for me or mine. I have no issues with anyone who manages that – in fact I think anyone who copes well with that is amazing and I am in awe of them. I would be always rushed and always feeling guilty. For various reasons my kids need a bit more of me this year and now I have all the time I need to help them. No more excuses not to be involved in their lives or to help them with their stuff. I’ve changed my Facebook status to Domestic Goddess and I might even blog about my progress.

Be who you are, not who you were…………..I wonder what the year will bring? I guess if I’m patient enough I’ll find out soon. Maybe I’ll let you know.

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