Thursday, 30 August 2012

When I grow up...

Can you believe I started writing this post over a month ago and couldn't get any further than an opening sentence? This is a difficult piece for me to write because it means accepting some uncomfortable truths about myself and how I feel about my life. Quite how you start writing something that says "I don't know what meaning my life has" is beyond me.

About 3 weeks ago, I went to a photo shoot session that I'd been lucky enough to win (that is something else I want to blog about because it was a phenomenal experience). As we were unwinding post-shoot, I asked Andrea, the photographer, how she got into the industry, fully expecting her to tell me how it had been a lifelong passion and something she'd pursued for most of her life. Her story was remarkable and more along the lines that a pivotal event in her mid-30s made her suddenly reevaluate everything she was doing and ask herself what it had all meant, what would her legacy be. When she couldn't answer that, she decided on a total career overhaul, to send herself back to college and start doing something she enjoyed. That path took her to photography and now she produces some astonishingly beautiful art. I walked away from the conversation asking myself the same questions. If my life suddenly ended now and I had to reflect on what I have achieved and what it has all meant, what could I really say I've done?

Recently, I reflected on my role as a mother and homemaker, and somewhat defiantly asserted that I am perfectly satisfied and fulfilled with this as my occupation and that it is no problem for me to have put any thoughts of a professional career on the back burner until my children are all in school. I stand by that, but chatting with the photographer last month really started me thinking about WHAT I will do when my youngest child starts school and my days are my own again. 

When I was a youngster, I had dozens of ideas about what profession I would undertake when I grew up. When I was 9, I wanted to be a vet (until thoughts of having to put animals to sleep deterred me). When I was 12 I wanted to be a journalist, much to my grandmother's horror! At 15, I wanted to go into law and actually spent a week's work experience in a solicitors office. Realising that I'm not ruthless enough to be a good lawyer put paid to that ambition, and from there I cycled through archaeology, anthropology, teaching, nursing, midwifery - actually, I've lost track of all the career possibilities that have fluttered in and out of my What I Want To Do When I Grow Up spectrum. So here I am, 28 years old, wife and mother, and absolutely naff all idea of what I want to do When I Grow Up. 

I know that I want it to be meaningful. I've always said I wanted a "career", not a "job". I want to make a difference to other people's lives, and set an example to my children that nothing is beyond your reach if you work hard enough. But do I have the courage to see this through? I have friends and family who do Important Jobs, and have Offices and Letters After Their Names. I confess to being more than a little intimidated by listening to my family chat about this, that or the other development with their workplaces. Will I ever be able to contribute to that sort of conversation? 

How do you measure "success"? If my children are happy, well adjusted individuals with a loving, secure family background, can I realistically ask for anything more? Without wanting to get into an existential conundrum (to which I am exceptionally prone), why does it matter in the grand scheme of things if I live my life quietly, without a high-flying career? My childhood best friend and I used to dream of all the wonderful things we would achieve, and while she is indeed off being Important now, my life is much more subdued and domestic. Nobody beyond my immediate family will remember me after I'm gone. My name will never be in history books. That doesn't bother me but it also doesn't help this lingering feeling that I ought to have SOME idea of what I'm going to do When I Grow Up. 

Perhaps this is a common feeling amongst stay at home parents. I'd certainly welcome any feedback from others in this position, and especially any tips on how to deal with it. I have a couple of friends who've recently returned to work after taking time out to care for small children and I'm dying to pick their brains about how they found it. 


  1. I know I'm not a mother Sam but I hope that you know that you are such a lovely, kind, enigmatic person with the world at her feet. I think it's brilliant that you devot your time to your family, and from what I can see for the powers of Facebook stalking (haha) you are doing a wonderful job at it. I often dream about the 'domestic life' that you talk about I can't wait until I have children right now I have no idea what I want out of life, I have just decided to live life day to day. You really are talented woman I was always engrossed in listening to your thoughts in Lectures so what ever you decide to be when you grow up I think you will do a grand job!

    Callie x

    1. Thank you, Callie, that means ever such a lot! Perhaps we could do a lifestyle swap for a week sometime? Your job sounds brilliant (and I'm dying to holiday in Barbados ;-) ) x