The title of this blog post is from Shakespeare's The Taming of The Shrew. It is not meant as a 'woe is me', hand wringing comment but is stated as a simple fact that I have been wrangling with and am now proactively addressing. Chatting to friends, I have noticed that many of us are actively pursuing life changes, both personally and professionally. Two of my friends are moving to live by the sea, not because they are anywhere near retirement but because they want a better life, a slower life and one that affords some of the pleasures of retirement which my generation and those to come can probably only dream of as we work longer for less and have no pension to speak of when we finally get there. Several others are choosing to focus precious time on their families and spend less time working, although that choice in itself clearly impacts on earning potential. Although I am sure that there are many men out there who face similar tricky decisions around what to do regarding the whole work/life balance thing, for my particular circle of friends (and that is a very particular part of the circle incorporating families with children now of school age) it is very clearly the women who are deciding to take a step back from their careers and re-evaluate what was once important and try to recapture that.
For me - being completely honest with myself - it has been a struggle trying to combine working full time with part time study and full time single parenting. I've tried for two years and while freely admitting that compared to many, many people, my life is a breeze and I enjoy privileges that many do not simply by living in this country and having the ability to enjoy all the opportunities that this carries with it, it is not a situation that I was happy with or that could continue ad infinitum. I think beginning to lose my mother to Lewy body disease (which is essentially a nightmare combination of dementia, Parkinson's and schizophrenia) in her mid-fifties has made me acutely conscious of the swift passing of time and the need to do something, anything, purposeful with what you have when you have it. Alongside this, I am always aware of trying to be 'in the moment' and recognise good things when they are happening so that when sad times approach (as they always will), there is something of the gladness and grace of living a good life to remember and rejoice in. Therefore, continuing to be in a place where happiness was being compromised just to earn more money than we needed simply seemed madness.
This September, I am freed from having to pay nursery fees for the first time in seven years and this has enabled me to do something reckless (well, reckless for me, I'm not really a leap-in-without-thinking kind of girl) and hand in my notice on a perfectly good full time job for... nothing. Deep breath time! At least it was nothing but then within a week I was offered a new teaching job for one day per week plus supply teaching elsewhere and this should lead to something more permanent during the following academic year. The situation really did seem to be one of being rewarded for taking a huge leap of faith and allowing a (scary) space to open up which could then be filled with exciting, new opportunities. As a result, I can now do what I promised my daughter, which was to be able to drop her off and pick her up from school during her foundation year, be a real part of both children's educations and demonstrate to them that their school years are important to me because I will be there to look at their work on the classroom wall and hang out in the playground afterwards so that they can play with their friends without being whisked off to after school club because I am still at work. I will feel like a decent mother! In addition, I will have more time for my studying which will lead to it actually being enjoyable and useful and hopefully also open up teaching opportunities in the next few years. I will also have the time to explore other writing jobs and generally just have a little more head-space in order to combine motherhood with furthering my skills in other areas and feeling satisfaction in a job well done.
So, back to that Shakespeare quote. It's on a fridge magnet; something I bought on a theatre trip way back when a day given over to travelling to the RSC in Stratford or the NT in London wasn't impossible because of the unnecessary relationship straining expectations it places on friends to have the children as it is too expensive to pay somebody to have them all day. This fridge magnet? I thought I knew where it was (okay, wise guy, no it hasn't been on the fridge in a while) but when I went to look for it, I couldn't find it. I think the fact that I remember it keeps me in touch with the old me but the realisation that I hadn't noticed that it hadn't been around in a very long time shows that the new me is more than happy with where I am now and the new challenges which present themselves this year. And as for missing live theatre? I feel as though NTLive on the cinema screen was created just for me!!
Thank you for reading.