Last week was kind of rubbish. I have been feeling so frozen. So stuck in the headlights of the future. I have so much that needs doing but nothing driving me forward because I don't know which way to go, and thus I'm stuck in procrastination and pottering and I hate it. So I just thought: I'll write it here. You readers tell me what to do. Please.
The dilemma is my career. Or the lack of it, and the need for it. I'm sorry but this may end up being a long post! Stay with me if you can. I'll try to be concise (says one of the least concise people ever) but I need to set the scene (bonus material: you're kind of going to get my adult life story)...
Seventeen years ago I had my first born. I sat my A-levels while half-way through being pregnant with him. I turned down my place at Cambridge and decided to focus on being the best mother I could be, despite being young and single. I spent two years just mothering him and they were two of the best years of my life. I found myself and who I wanted to be. And I really loved being a mum.
Then, belatedly, I went to university to do the Geography degree, two years later than planned. The eldest and I lived with my parents, he went to the nursery where my mum worked and I commuted into town and what was, luckily, one of the best universities in the country. I loved my degree. I have always loved learning (I'm a bit of a swot). I worked really hard and got a First.
I had planned to stay on and do a Masters then a PhD and finally become a lecture. But some work I did in my final year got me a job offer and, with a child to support and no means of getting our own home otherwise, I had to do the right thing and accept it. I figured the Masters bridge was burned.
I worked for five years in town, in a variety of transport/sustainability/streetscene type jobs. I was pretty good at it and I enjoyed it enough (though not all the time), but it was never what I really wanted to do with my life. During this time I met and married my husband, a northerner, and we realised we'd need to move north at some point to be nearer his mother. The move would mean we could just about get by on his public sector income while I looked after our future children.
That's what we did: seven years ago we moved to the Peaks, I gave up working, and we had our second and third child. Being a stay-at-home mum was a very conscious decision, something I did for them as well as me. I have loved it. But the youngest has just gone to school, our finances are pretty dire, and I have to go back to work. I want to work. But I want to still have as much time with the children as possible.
I have worked a bit in the meantime. In the early days up here I did some part-time admin work for a year or so. For about six months between the second and third boys I was a childminder - I love working with children, but being pregnant and looking after three under-two's was tough. And this last year I've sewn curtains, cushions and blinds half time. You know me: you know I love to sew (and discovered sewing before our last boy was born).
So here are my choices (in current order of preference). Or yours, since you're choosing for me...
1. Perhaps that Masters-PhD-lecturer career path wasn't burnt down all those years ago? I would really love to do this, but there are the finances to consider, I'd need to do some admin work (ideally at the university) part-time, and there would be an impact on the children as I'd need to commute into (probably) Manchester to do it. How would I pay for it? How would I earn at the same time? My husband is usually home from work by 4pm (he starts at 7am) so they wouldn't need too much childcare but I'd have essays and reading to do most evenings. But I think this option is what my heart, soul and brain most yearn for.
2. Teaching. This has always been my back-up option. I know I would love to teach and would be really good at it. But I also know it feels a little like settling. And, most importantly of all, it's a highly time-intensive and stressful career. I want time with my children but the typical teacher does a 70 hour week for the first few years. I would hardly see them. Teaching gives you the school holidays but day-to-day it really isn't a parenting-friendly career any more.
3. Stick with the sewing. This was certainly the plan a year ago. I love it. I could work from home and fit my hours in around the children, so it's certainly the best option for them time-wise. But it's never going to bring in much money, certainly not enough for the eldest starting university, the mortgage, blah blah. It's increasingly looking unviable for these reasons. And my academic brain is pretty dormant.
4. Just find a regular admin type job that fits in with school hours, brings in extra money, and maybe the boys have to do a few days in after-school clubs. The first 3 options involve bringing work home with me but this would not, and that's a benefit to them. But I really, really want to be able to do a job I love for once. And this really wouldn't be it.
5. Go back to the transport world. I'd earn much more than option 4, though I'd be working full time and that would impact on the children. I'm experienced though out-of-touch, so I'd probably have to start on a much lower level than when I left seven years ago. And when I left I was so relieved! I really never wanted to go back to it. But maybe needs must?
What do you think? When I say decide for me, obviously I won't just do what you say, but your opinions and votes will, I hope, help me decide.
I am a planner, and this is the first time in my life that I can remember being so stuck on a major life decision. I always need to know where I am and where I'm going and I just don't know what to do here. What's best for everyone, not just now but five years down the line when the kids are all older. And while I thought I could do the groundwork on several options at once, running them concurrently for much of this year and then deciding, it turns out that the lack of a plan instills a horrid, self-defeating inertia in me. So I think I really need to decide on one, and maybe keep another one or two as back-up options. You should know, also, that the list in 'order of preference' is a new thing: a week ago, I wouldn't have been able to rank them at all I was so stuck.
PS Option 1 and 2, and maybe 5, could seriously impact on my time to blog and read blogs. Does that matter? I love to write and I love this online world that's just for me. But perhaps the writing element of those three career paths would satisfy my writing needs anyway?
Right. Go! Answers on a postcard (or, for convenience, below in the comments section please!)...