Introducing the speakers at St Albans Abbey in my volunteer role as a Director of St Albans Literary Festival
This is something puzzling me a lot at the moment. The realisation that three kids means that one of us adults has to make a sacrifice in terms of their career has both plunged me to the depths of despair and doom and risen me to the heights of the possibilities of reading, craft and general busying myself. But lets face it; either you love being at home and its your ambition to retire as soon as you possibly can, or you want to work, enjoy the challenge of working with others and seeing interesting things. In both scenarios you can view your contribution as valuable and worthwhile, however it does depend very much on your personality as to which one you think is the most valuable way to spend your finite life.
I think from the moment I was born I had a burning ambition to succeed in life and to make something of myself either financially or academically. I worked tirelessly to achieve these goals and through what I would argue was hard work, rather than luck I achieved some great roles at work very early on in my career. Then I stalled, I made the mistake of staying in a job longer than I should have because it was comfortable and, lets be honest, quite an easy life.
As regular readers will know, redundancy hit me harder than I thought it would as I didn’t realise quite how much I was dependent on my particular job for my interest and general mental well being. Being at home has been hard, yes there have been times when its been financially challenging (this month), but for me, its the lack of interaction with others who have similar interests and also the lack of ability to have a hands on approach to what I’m interested in which is the killer.
I do think there is a real danger that women can find that they have wasted an awful lot of time at home (depending on what your opinions are as to what is a waste of time). Its easy to spend a few days cleaning and tidying, reading trashy novels and binge viewing television programmes. I have to admit, I don’t have a lot of interest in any of these really, I especially despise cooking which seems completely and pointless- you make something, eat it (or complain about it) there is nothing to show for the entire day you spent slaving away.
I’m trying to take a positive spin on my time at home and make sure that I don’t look back on it and wonder however I managed to waste the prime years of my life. I’ve come up with some suggestions and a handy crib sheet for myself on things you can do which won’t feel like such a waste of time as dusting:
Enrol on a course: These can be fairly expensive and this is a barrier to many. Recently I discovered some great online courses from world renowned universities which are free! You can even get marked by the lecturers and work towards a certificate which a bonus for your CV. Have a look at the Open University and Coursera which do some fab courses. If you’re feeling a bit more ambitions consider whether or not this might be the opportunity to do that post graduate degree you’ve been sidelining.
Earn some money at home: I’m not brilliant at this and it isn’t easy, but you can make money copy-writing or doing Social Media for companies. It might be easier to see if the neighbours want their lawns mowed, ironing done or something similar to that. I know of mums who take their babies on cleaning jobs with them. Another option is to consider becoming a childminder. It doesn’t sound much and probably nothing like what you did before, but sometimes earning a bit of cash for yourself can be very empowering in lots of ways.
Read quality books: We all love a bit of Chick-Lit but I’d argue that its a good idea to take note of what you are reading and inject a few classics or modern day classics in there which might add some value or meaning to your life either now or later on.
Get a pet: I really mean this, the addition of a cat to our household has really helped my mental frame of mind. Not only is there a bit of company but it feels very worthwhile to provide a home to an animal in need and the personal benefits far outweigh anything else. For the first time I can see why people at home might have a dog.
Volunteer: Ironically in my line of work it would make better financial sense for me to volunteer in school hours than it does for me to be paid and pay the childcare. Volunteering can really bring an enormous sense of self worth and value. It can also boost your CV, help you gain new skills and develop areas of interest into future careers. I enjoyed being the Director of St Albans Literary Festival and I know several people for whom volunteering has helped them step into work, particularly in the creative fields.
Network: Networking doesn’t have to begin and end at the school gates, if like me you are an introvert this is probably the last place that it can happen for you. However, i’ve made some really valuable connections via Twitter, gained lots of worthwhile career advice and linked into a community of people who have similar interests. This way I can keep up to date with the latest developments in my field meaning that I don’t become out of touch.
Write a book: You won’t earn any money writing a book but it can be enormously fulfilling personally. A book doesn’t have to be a huge thick novel. Think about things which you are interested in, are you great at craft, entertaining children or have an ability to enthuse people about a particular interest. These days you don’t even have to go to a publisher CreateSpace enables you to get things online and on sale with Amazon from the comfort of your home.
The key to all of this is that its about what makes you happy and if, like me you are one of life’s do-ers when you need to make your (enforced) time at home as worthwhile as possible. That way, the children will benefit from a fulfilled mum rather than a frazzled mum.
These are all the ideas I could think of, I’d love to hear any that you might have and if you have any tips which might inspire me to find inner happiness in being a domestic goddess then I’d appreciate those too.