Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Is there anybody out there?

Hello and welcome to the first post on my blog. 

Today, after years of reading what other people are doing, saying and thinking, I finally decided to hit the buttons and create my own blog. What will I be blogging about? The things that feature most in my life at this time - how to combine work and family life, how to decide what to do with the rest of my life, how to stop the house looking like a dump - you know the type of thing.

How did I get here? Well I'm not one of those people with a grand 'life plan'. Oh no, not me. I'm more of the 'one day at a time' brigade. So at the age of late forty-something, I find myself with a husband, daughters and a very small business which I run from my dining room. 

I grew up in the Midlands, not far from Worcester, did well at school and went to university at eighteen. And that's where I think things started to go adrift. It was the early 1980's and things weren't good in the economy. Coming from a working class family, the really important thing was to have work and be employable, so I ended up studying a subject that was guaranteed to make be employable. Great logic, but as it now turns out, many years later, not the way to ensure you enjoy and thrive in what you do.

Let me explain. When I went to university, I gave up all the things I was actually good at doing. I stopped painting and drawing - obviously they were never going to be economically 'useful' because everyone knows how few artists make a living - or so we all thought then. I stopped studying history - actually my most favourite thing. I stopped playing my 'cello - maybe no great loss to the world of music, but it had been a part of me for nine years by that time.

Instead I learned how to manage business. I learned marketing, accounting, production management and all kinds of stuff that was important to business in the 1980's. Was I any good? I was clever enough to do reasonably well, but I never found any passion for it. For the next twenty years, I worked in marketing for a variety of companies. I was self supporting, bought my own home, had a good quality of life as a wage slave, but also experienced the trauma of redundancy three times.

And then, along came the man of my dreams and off we went into the journey that is marriage and parenthood. And suddenly my role changed. From being a career woman, I became a working mother, juggling home, baby and work. Of course I kept on working, I'd no idea what else to do, and anyway I was from that era when you thought you knew so much better than your parent's generation how to combine everything - we really could 'have it all'. 

But then I came to realise that in fact I couldn't have it all after all. Leaving my daughter everyday was tearing me apart. Now the passionless job became more and more unbearable. Finally, when I became pregnant for the second time, I decided it was time to call it quits and become a housewife.

At that time I was so relieved to get out of the corporate environment and stop wrenching myself in two every time I left my little girl that it felt great. But when daughter number two was still quite small, I realised that the need to do something other than the purely domestic was getting stronger. I wanted to do something to keep my brain alive. I felt I was disappearing.

Another mum in a similar position came up with a small business idea, and we set up our own 'work from home' business in 2003. And that's what we've been doing ever since. 

So you see, for several years now I've been combining work and home in a very practical way. When we started our company, we were pretty much in the minority amongst the women we knew. But now there are more women out there, doing the same thing. For a while we felt as if we were just playing, but gradually, I've realised that we were at the forefront of a movement, where experienced, intelligent, aspirational women, were re-defining what home and work could look like. We knew that we couldn't combine the nine-to-five mentality with bringing up our children and still feel content. But we also knew that we didn't want to give up our skills and experience - we wanted to change the balance.

The last two or three years have been tough. In 2007 my dad died, and just nine months later my mum was diagnosed with cancer. She had to come and live with us, which was both a privilege and difficult by turns. She died in 2009.

Also over those years, a business development we'd tried went pear shaped and I found myself with significantly less regular work than I'd had before.

Over the last year, since mum died, I've been reassessing what I'm doing with my life. I'm on a journey that I was never prepared for, but which I find many, many other women are also experiencing. This blog is the place where I'll be thinking out loud about the issues that face us on this journey.

Please feel free to come along with me.


  1. Wow! That was some read, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I feel the pain, the courage and the will to carry on and turn this situation around and I wish it all for you 100%.
    Thanks for participating in Make A Friend Friday, I hope it brings some readers in and who knows? Maybe some new friends too.
    Maybe you'd like to pop in to tomorrow's MAFF? :)

  2. Mari thank you so much for your comments - it means so much and is enormously encouraging. I'll definitely be spending time reading around on MAFF. Ann