The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

Occupation what?

on September 12, 2013

Not so long ago I asked my friend Mrs Steamer who had just started maternity leave whether I could say I was still on maternity leave too. After all #3 was just 10 months old. She said No. Oh.

It’s been exactly five years since I got my P45. Half a decade of maternity leave? Apparently not. Unemployment? But I haven’t been seeking gainful employment. Career break? Career change?Formerly I was a Major Gifts Fundraising Manager, Individual Relationships, for Cancer Research UK, the last job title on my now outdated CV. You may have no idea what that means but it is more of a conversation opener than if I said my ‘job’ is Housewife/ Homemaker/ Mother of three children.

In my opinion, it doesn’t matter whether you choose to work full time, part time or not at all, it’s not something you should have to justify and you should do whatever makes you happy. There are pros and cons to either side and it is not worth my while to even begin opening up a discussion in this area. It falls in the Politics and Religion category. Suffice to say, happy you, happy home.

If Husband never got this job in Singapore then I wouldn’t be recognising this P45 Anniversary. I’m guessing I would have worked up until a few weeks before due date and taken at least nine months, possibly a year at most, maternity leave and headed back to work with #1 in nursery and so begin the juggle of managing work, home life, finances, childcare and everything else. So I’m very grateful that fate took us in a different direction.

However, those first few months without a job title took some getting used to. I felt guilty. Guilty for seemingly having it easy instead of joining the masses doing something useful. I felt embarrassed too, like I was suddenly sponging off someone else doing something useful whilst I went out and lunched and watched crap TV or whatever none working people are perceived to do. Then there’s the stigma of the none working female. Moving to a new country with lots of forms to fill in did nothing to help me adapt to my new none working status.

Occupation. Housewife.

I can still feel my heckles rising when confronted with this new label. I DID NOT WANT TO BE KNOWN AS A HOUSEWIFE. Where’s the Girl Power in that? There’s definitely no zig in that sentence. I had been earning my own money since I was 11, peeling the shells off king prawns and skinning onions in our family takeaway for £3 a weekend. Plus it’s highly misogynistic, my next door neighbour is a none working Dad and I bet he doesn’t have to fill in any forms declaring he is a Househusband, though perhaps he gets asked if he’s a Homemaker instead which I have noticed appearing on a lot more forms these days.

Five years later, I don’t get as incensed by this question as much because as I adapted to my new role as parent to #1, I got over any feelings of inadequacy I had placed upon myself. What also helped is that living in an expat environment, I was surrounded by women in the same situation and there’s always safety in numbers. It enabled me to enjoy my new found status as new parent with less guilt but as the years go by, this group of women has gradually diminished and about 70% are working either full or part time. Most will confess to feelings of guilt over not having enough time for one thing or another, especially where the children are concerned, but that’s all part of living. Is it guilt or love that is all around us?

I still can’t say that I’m a Housewife and I won’t say I’m a full time Mum either because anyone who has children, whether they work or not, are always full time Mums and Dads. I clearly remember saying at one of the very first Mother and Baby Group meet ups that I struggled with being ‘just a Mum’, this had nothing to do with my feelings for #1. I had no problems forming a bond there at all but the responsibility and the overwhelming change becoming a new parent brings combined with sleep deprivation made me momentarily forget just how multi faceted we are.

The need and desire to return to paid employment is calling but having enjoyed so much time with #1 and 2, I want to be there for #3 as well. So the quest to find my own personal employment Holy Grail begins.

At this point I really, really wish I had a useful skill. If I could teach a musical instrument like my other neighbour, or a language, I could set myself up as a home tutor. Or if I could use my two and a half year old sewing machine properly then I could be designing my own children’s clothing range like Sewing Bee friend who has an adorable line of children’s wear that can be found at https://www.facebook.com/oscarevie, delivery worldwide I should add.

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I can bake a cake but there’s always going to be someone better like my Great Singapore Bake Off friend who also has her own homegrown business going at https://www.facebook.com/pages/My-cakes/165934673561576, delivery not worldwide.

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Then there’s the very talented artist friend who started her small business in Singapore, moved it to New York City and has now settled in South Africa and is so successful that she can give up all her former professional job titles to solely concentrate on expanding her business at http://littleprintswilliam.com.

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In another five years time, I’ll definitely be in full time gainful employment to help our family flourish. Maybe I’ll have a lead up to it of part time gainful employment as I redefine my career path and whilst the children are still young. Truth be told though, I have loved this unexpected, unplanned opportunity of spending time with #1, 2 and 3 so perhaps next time I get asked Occupation what? I may just be gracious enough to say “I’m collecting loyalty points, mind your own business”.

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2 responses to “Occupation what?

  1. Sally says:

    I’m finding that it’s not as much justifying to other people, it’s trying to justify it to myself. I’ve been thinking of giving up even the three days that I work now and becoming a ‘housewife’ but that word fills me with dread. I’m proud to call myself an engineer – it’s giving up that pride when I fill in forms (shallow?), the years that I’ve worked to get where I am (scared), even money to call my own (silly). Muddled thoughts. I’m still thinking and very fearful of making a decision.

    Like

    • I don’t think it’s a decision you need to make just yet and certainly not after the arrival of a new baby. Whilst it never crossed my mind to go back to work just after #2 arrived, there were moments when I fully understood why a return to work is good for the soul. The age gap between the eldest two is quite narrow and during the early months I felt my days were filled with feeding and changing nappies on rotation. Then there were times I felt I had nothing worthy to contribute to a conversation either but gradually I realised that these early years pass by so quickly and you only get one chance to capture it all so if you can then why not. Although you may not be actively working, I bet you’ll still be keeping up with all that is current in your profession and you’ll still have all your experience when you go back. I’ve also seen your other creative skills and I think you’ll do a canny business from that too which will fit in with your new lifestyle. You have many options you know. I wish I had some of your creativity.

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