As I embarked on my maternity leave from my 9-5 job people asked; “So when will you be back?” To which I tentatively said, “Ummm, I don’t know. Maybe 6 months, maybe a year…”
Really, I just didn’t know. I had no idea the impact motherhood would have on me, whether I’d be knocking at their door after 3 months begging them to let me back in to the daily grind in order to regain my sanity, or if I would never see that place again. When one (male) boss described me as ‘leaving’ I blew my top, “I’m not leaving, I’m going on maternity leave — there’s a difference”, I huffed. And there is a difference (but that’s a whole other battle!)
As it turned out, that particular colleague was right. When the time came to go back I just couldn’t do it. Even though I love the travel industry, I couldn’t bear the idea of returning to a job that was one millionth less fulfilling than motherhood, of missing bedtime, of having to plead for the day off for my child’s school plays, sickness or just because.
So I quit.
I couldn’t bear the idea of returning to a job that was one millionth less fulfilling than motherhood.
I do know I am in an extremely fortunate position that that was even an option for me. But don’t get me wrong, as a family we are not filthy rich. Not even close. I guess it’s just that we’d gotten so used to living off my statutory maternity pay that there wasn’t really a great loss in me not returning to work immediately. Long-term however to ease the pressure on my husband and to maintain the lifestyle we want, I needed to work. So I set about thinking what to do next.
My husband is self-employed. He has been this way for so long that he never seems to understand the freedom that it brings. I’d always envied the flexibility that he has but as a parent it really does bring new meaning — being home for dinnertime or starting work an hour late if we’ve had a bad night is just priceless — and I knew I wanted to start my own business. I also believed that the sense of ownership in building up my own business is the only thing that could potentially bring me even a smidgen of the fulfilment in my working life that parenthood already has.
As a mum to a 19-month-old girl who is smart, strong-willed and a bundle of fun (but who also frequently only wants mummy and is an atrocious sleeper who will only nap in my arms or in a moving buggy!) it feels slightly foolish to even be thinking of starting my own business right now. Add in to the mix that at some point soon I would like to create more babies and I begin to wonder what the hell I’m doing.
But sometimes logic goes out the window and I know in my heart that if I didn’t do this now that I would get sucked back in to the 9-5 world and stay there. It’s cheesy as hell but I always have in my mind this quote by Mark Twain; “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” So I’ve taken the plunge and am about to launch my own business as a self-employed travel consultant. Yikes!
In reality, much like before you give birth, I have no idea what’s around the corner.
Despite how off my timing may seem to most there are some positives to doing this now. For instance, when I spoke to other people who had begun to, or wanted to work for themselves, one of their main concerns was financial — quitting a full-time job and giving up a salary to go self-employed is a truly scary thing, particularly with small people to look after. I however, am currently earning nothing so the pressure is off to match my previous full-time salary or to become hugely successful quickly.
I made the decision to do all this less than 3 months ago and I open for business today. In all honesty I don’t know how I feel about it. It has sort of snuck up on me. I had grand plans of convincing my girl to sleep independently before I launched. In reality, I’m writing this as she sleeps in my arms…
I think I’m excited. I might be a little bit in denial. I am slightly apprehensive. I carry stress easily and already feel like I do a terrible job of balancing being a mother and a wife and a friend without throwing business owner in to the mix!
In reality, much like before you give birth, I have no idea what’s around the corner. I may well be back here in a few weeks, months, years writing about what I’ve done and how I had no idea what lay ahead. But throughout it all I have one clear vision in mind that keeps me going. It is that I am creating the life for myself that I truly want. A life where I am in charge, where my family comes first and I get to pick my girl up from nursery or school every day. One where I am always there for my kids but perhaps also inspiring them a little too.
Photograph by Kelly Pike.