Can you achieve a balance?
Can a woman raise a child, run a home and work full time in a high up corporate position?Is it a job or career? I was once asked this in an interview. The same interview where I was also advised I was unlikely to make Manager as the project we worked on were predominately in the Middle East. I had a passion for what I was taking on, it allowed me to work with the law, but it was not what I saw myself doing for the rest of my working career! So what is a job and what is a career? Was I going to be able to achieve a balance?
My trade for the last ten years has been contracts management in industries such as oil and gas, renewables and power. I entered into this industry with a six-year-old daughter as a single parent. For me however it was a job, it was something to do until I could get my foot in a law firm to train and qualify as a solicitor. I worked full time, ran a house, did the DIY and car mechanics. I put my job second after my daughter, but more often than not I ended up putting it first to make sure I kept it. This did mean missing birthdays, plays, assemblies and many more key milestones in a child life and academic career. I used to have to send delegates to act as me when I could, usually a grandparent. I turned this job into a career and climbed quickly through the ranks with each move I made. By 33 years old I was earning six figures but still trying to dig myself out of debt.
I did meet a gentleman, whom shall remain unnamed and took on him full time and his son part-time in a two bedroomed terraced house. A man who continuously got made redundant in that time but who did help with the cooking and the cleaning and car mechanics were delegated to a family member. I remained working full time and was doing an LLM at the time. I found it all very stressful. I felt I was compromising but no-one else was. It was not a happy time. It was even more stressful when I got back together with my Daughter’s Father. I compromised to the point I forgot who I was. I found it family life was going well, then work life was going down the drain and vice a versa. I never managed the fabled work-life balance. By 33 years old I was yet again single, raising a child on my own. Mind you when I did have partners, they were never very helpful with the raising a child part.
Me. One thing that suffered throughout the last ten years was me. I neglected myself. I felt guilty for not being a stay at home mum and being around for my daughter. I felt guilty that all my hard earned money was going on trying to clear debt (from my relationships and my own), run a house and live from month to month (I was one of the unfortunate ones that belonged to a certain bank in late 2000s, whose answer to everything was to lend you more money). I would ensure I would go without so my daughter was provided for and had what she needed and often what she wanted. I spoiled her to make up for what I thought was my lack of parenting. I gained weight, my blood pressure went up, I got ill, I suffered from chronic anxiety and lethargy. Putting one foot in front of another was hard. My driver was my Daughter.
I am 36 years old now and my Daughter is 16. I have taken a step-back in a career I fell into and dropped 30k in salary, work fewer hours than I ever have and do not have a work phone, so no longer working 24/7. My Daughter is well adjusted and I am looking after me. I do not have a partner but we do have a crazy male cockapoo. I do have a life now though and I am the happiest I have ever been. We are comfortable financially, as with anyone some months things do not go well financially and they are tight, other months we are fine. I can’t afford a cleaner, gardener or a cook, which I am sure would give me more free time. However, for once I am enjoying life again, I am learning to love me again, I am less stressed and I am even learning what the concept of relaxation is. I am getting closer to achieving a balance. For now, I take a deep breath each morning, go to work, come home, cook dinner, clean, write blogs, work on my own business ideas or study and repeat.