pregnancy

'I imagined my future differently'. Renee felt a 'sense of loss' when she became a mum.

Renee* is a happily married busy mum of two school age children with two part-time jobs.

Before having children, Renee studied law at university and was working as a solicitor in Melbourne for a charitable organisation.

Things People Who Don’t Want Kids Always Hear. Post continues after video. 

“My partner Carl* and I were hopeful of one day having children but we didn’t expect to fall pregnant at that particular stage of our lives,” Renee tells Mamamia.

“It was a happy surprise and as a feminist with career plans, I had many conversations with Carl about how and when I would return to work after giving up breastfeeding.

“We imagined sharing the care and raising our first child and any future children in an equal household, where we both planned to work part-time.

“Our baby would fit into our lives and we could carry on ‘as normal’.

“I realise now just how idealistic we were – no one warned me how immersive and all-encompassing parenting can be.”

In those first few sleep deprived months, Renee remembers struggling to get out of the house to meet a friend for coffee and could not imagine ever feeling emotionally or logistically ready to return to work.

“It wasn’t that Carl wasn’t supportive of me and my ambitions, it was that some days leaving the house with a baby – who always seemed to have a poo explosion or vomit all down my front as I was about to get in car – forced me to reflect on what I wanted.

“If getting out of the house was that hard, how could I return to work with a tiny baby who needed me?

“I kept putting the thought of my career to one side, thinking, I’ll wait until he gets to this or that milestone and then I’ll consider it. The milestones kept coming and I never felt ready enough.”

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During the first year of their baby’s life, Renee and Carl moved from Melbourne to a town in regional NSW before falling pregnant quickly with baby number two.

As work was scarce and money was tight, Carl took on two jobs to support his growing family while Renee looked after the children.

“People talk about individual choices when it comes to returning to work, but I feel like I had no choice but to stay home. How could I do anything else?

“Not only was it a primal instinct to be near my children, but I was also exhausted due to sleep deprivation, breastfeeding and doing everything around the house while Carl worked 13-hour days.

The Out Loud team discuss why more and more women in the public eye are leaning out of their careers and into their families. Post continues after audio.

“At one point, when my youngest was just six months old, a friend in the legal industry called me to ask if I wanted a job. I literally cried down the phone; there was no way I could have managed it.

“Legal jobs are so hard to come by in regional areas that I knew I would have to give up on my career aspirations. It felt like I had to mourn the person I used to be and thought I would become.

“I have had to re-imagine my future quite differently and while I adore my children, it has been a process of realising that my original dreams can no longer be.

“Many women I know have had to change and re-create who they are after they have children. My dreams must now involve my whole family – we are a collective and what I do, impacts them greatly.”

Renee may be emotional about what might have been for her career wise, but her feelings of frustration are not directed at her partner Carl, who she feels is also missing out.

“I might have missed out on work opportunities in order to give my children the childhood I believe they deserve, but Carl has also missed so much. He works hard for long hours each day and has missed many magical moments in our children’s lives.

“We both feel that sense of loss and in an ideal society we would choose to work and parent equally – but in today’s Australia, it is sadly not yet possible.”

*While Renee and Carl are known to Mamamia, names have been changed for privacy reasons.

Did you feel as if you had a choice to return to work? Did you want to go back or were you happy to stay home with the children? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.

Tags: career , features , kids , pregnancy
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