“She must find a boat and sail in it. No guarantee of shore. Only a conviction that what she wanted could exist, if she dared to find it’ – Jeanette Winterson
Sometimes you stumble across a quote that rings so glaringly appropriate that it’s hard not to feel like its originator hadn’t discovered your life situation and summoned their artistic declaration especially for your circumstances. Especially if you’re looking for some validation on a big decision…
I discovered the above quote buried in the pages of my ‘I got this’ notebook and it stirred within me all the hopes and fears that I have for the next transitional period of my life. It’s a step that I imagine is familiar to a lot of women in particular, and one that feels huge to me. So I felt compelled to write about it (admittedly at 5am, after being woken up by a child and unable to get back to sleep – that magical hour when all your worries seep out of the cracks to haunt your sleeping hours). So, if you’re interested, here’s where I’m at as one era ends and I embark on a new path.
The End of an era
I’ve spent the past four years doing a job that felt like it was created just for me, a dream role bigging-up Bristol by writing blogs covering every subject imaginable for Visit Bristol (because there is a TON to say about the city – I’m not sure I’ll ever run out!) Surrounded by a great team, with lots of perks (including flying in a hot air balloon and venturing into the abutments of Clifton Suspension Bridge) and doing what I love to do (blog!), I thought I’d stay at the company for years to come. Yes, working part-time with two kids and ferrying them across the city via various modes of transport, within strict time frames was tricky, but it was doable and worth it for the job. Plus, as much as I love my children, my three days a week sitting quietly at a desk with a hot cuppa were often a welcome sanity break!
I naively thought it would get easier when my youngest started school – my initial thought was yay free childcare! Until it dawned on me that school hours (8.50-3.15) and 10 weeks of holiday a year (plus inset days and a little one at nursery) were going to make my working life infinitely harder.
A new beginning
So what is the solution? No, really, please someone tell me! Yes there are after-school clubs and a ton of school holiday options, but we’ve tried some of these and our sensitive kiddo was miserable at them. As an extremely nervous kiddo myself (I’d be sick whenever I got scared!) I couldn’t find it in me to make her go. With no family nearby to fall back on for regular childcare, a husband whose work is based in Somerset and my, shall we say, ‘moderate’ wage, the complicated logistics of before/after-school care, plus nursery pick-ups and a school holiday Vs annual leave deficit of about five weeks, it started looking like something had to give. And as that had already been my health, I needed another plan.
And don’t worry, I’m under no illusion that I’m the only one struggling with the work/family/school pick up logistics/life balance. It seems crazy to me in this age of the internet that the 1950s office job working model still mainly revolves around 9-5 at a desk in a physical office. My hero, Mother Pukka, is leading the charge on a new era of flexible working for all, so that those who want to work can do just that, but in a way that fits their timetable, to the benefit of both the individual AND the company. She wants companies to look beyond the 9-5 and focus on what people are doing, not where they are sitting and this mindset has spurred me on. Every single person I know with school age children has had to cut their hours, rope in the relatives, wangle some other way to make it work, or go freelance.
And that is what I’ve decided to do. Go freelance, take care of the kiddos in the holidays while they’re little, step out into the unknown, away from my financial security and in some ways, my professional sense of identity, with a hearty sense of conviction that I have the skillset, work ethic and motivation to make another way of life work. It’s hugely terrifying to be stepping out into the freelance world and gut-wrenchingly sad to be leaving Visit Bristol (I will be wearing sunglasses all day on my final day to hide my tears!), but the thought of having a slightly less stressful life, more flexibility and becoming my own boss are propelling me forward.
Those who’ve been in the same position (which is almost every mama I know) sympathise wholeheartedly. Some people look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them I’m leaving my job, and maybe I am, but I had to take the risk to see what could happen. Ever since I handed my notice in, opportunities have been popping up here and there, giving me hope that my hard work on this blog and in my day job is starting to pay off. That and perhaps a little bit of universe conspiring with me…
I’m not going too far away mind, I’m still going to be working in the Bristol tourism stratosphere – for Go Bath Bristol (go check it out!), but I’ll be working from home, with hours tailored around my life, making things a lot more manageable. I’m holding onto the mindset that I’m trying to do the right thing for my little family, daring to dream and hoping that harnessing my superpowers is going to take me where I want to go in life. Wow this has taken a hippy turn! Either way, I’m excited to see what’s around the corner.
Are you a parent in the same situation, or somebody just looking for more job flexibility? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below!