“How long are you going to be on your phone?” is a common question fired my way in our house. I get it. Its anti-social. We don’t spend enough time together as it is. And if I’m faced with the back of a screen when I want some attention then I can be a bit of an arsehole.
The thing is, without social media I wouldn’t even have considered the world of opportunity beyond my maternity leave and I wouldn’t be in a position to be writing this right now. Using Instagram to explore the world of work outside of my teaching career has been invaluable and, despite the side glances when I double tap, I couldn’t have asked for more support at home.
When my partner and I decided to have a family I couldn’t envisage enjoying the prospect of a full-time or even a part-time job alongside looking after a child (I say enjoying, maybe ‘dealing with’ are better words to use). I knew that I was likely to go back to school in my job as a teacher but I wasn’t sure if I would have the same motivation. As it turned out, I didn’t miss work at all when I was on maternity leave, in fact, I barely thought about it.
I’m grateful that we live in the age where staying in a job for life is increasingly the exception to the rule.
As the months approached in the lead up to my return, I was already starting to consider what else I could do. I love teaching and I get so much joy from seeing my students succeed, but it’s not the 8am-4pm job that you might think. It’s a year-round physical and emotional investment which only lets up for a few weeks in the middle of the summer holidays. I still care greatly about my subject and about inspiring children to learn about how they can change the world, but after 10 years in teaching, I felt that was enough of my life dedicated to other people’s children now that I had my own. So, with relief and excitement, I handed in my notice.
Taking the time to consider my options before I went back to work was one of my smartest decisions. It allowed me to see things clearly, without the fog of being a working parent looming low throughout my chemically-changed-forever brain (pregnancy and sleep deprivation is the best). I knew I had a ton of transferable skills but I hadn’t ever sat down and thought about what else I could do, and what else mattered to me.
What I have increasingly come to realise is that nothing is permanent. On the one hand, resigning is scary because it’s a stable job that I’m bloody good at. On the other hand, it doesn’t make me as happy anymore and I don’t want to continue a career that I can see myself becoming resentful about. My current business ideas really excite me and if they don’t work out, well, it doesn’t matter. I’m not scared of failure. We do have a pre-Brexit mortgage to pay though which obviously isn’t paying itself (even with fewer nappies entering the bin these days) but living on just one wage for the few months at the end of my maternity leave has given us some practice at reducing our outgoings. And my partner has been so supportive of me wanting and needing change that I know that whatever comes next, it doesn’t matter if it’s only temporary.
I’m well aware that freelancing or running your own business in any capacity is hard, but it feels like the right choice for me at this stage of my life, and that’s all I can really go on.
I’m grateful that we live in the age where staying in a job for life is increasingly the exception to the rule. I start my Digital Mums course in a few weeks and the thought of being in charge of my own hours and choosing when and where I can work is a dream. I’m well aware that freelancing or running your own business in any capacity is hard, but it feels like the right choice for me at this stage of my life, and that’s all I can really go on.
Having access to the inspiring work that other parents, particularly mothers, are doing via social media has given me the confidence to go for it, give it my all and see what happens. The juggle of the freelancer is very real; I’m hoping it’s just a slightly better balance for me right now.
After all, nothing is permanent.
Photograph by Claudette Anderson.