by EMMA GREY
Catapulting out of uni, when my brain stopped spinning from readings and essays and tutes, it came to rest not on the career I’d prepped for, but on marriage and babies. My parents had me late-ish, and I wanted my kids to know them. Motherhood – warts and all – felt right. So, at twenty-four, I plunged purposefully into the slow lane, career-wise.
My job paid for electricity and meat and Clarks First Walkers and Gymbaroo and had promotional opportunities and flexibility and sparked about as much creativity as did lying on the couch having a kip. It was safe. I could do it with my eyes shut and focus on other things. Important things… or so I told myself, several years into it, having dredged from somewhere yet another morning’s bucket-load of fake enthusiasm for the kids’ sake.
‘Have a great day at school! Mummy’s off to work!’ (Yawn… sigh… bleuch – childish dramatics in the face of interminable clock-watching.)
My plan to tread water was well-intended. I was up for low-stress, medium-level responsibility and work-life balance. But, at the end of the day, the extra energy that I’d hoped to plug into motherhood had already been sapped by the effort it took to be Bored Senseless during working hours – a situation more challenging than it sounds, that spreads virally into your private life if you let it.
I’d crawl home, exhausted from another day of cruising in a direction that didn’t interest me – eight hours closer to my next holiday, which was never close enough. I’d tell myself ‘I’m in my comfort zone, and that’s ideal as a working mum…’
Every so often, I’d catch a glimpse of the magic that lies beyond that zone – i.e. the cool stuff that other people do. Bold people, who – even with kids – have grass stains on their knees from all the times they’ve fallen over, giving a career they’re wildly passionate about a red-hot go.
My knees were pristine, and the longer I clung to the status quo, the less comfortable it became in the fortress I’d built to stay secure and protected. From what? Exposure? Mistakes? Failure? Eventually it dawned that, in my effort to be conservative and sensible and ‘family friendly’ – I wasn’t being me.
The ‘Am I good enough?’ mantra that had blasted through my internal PR system for years was soon drowned by a new question: ‘Is this good enough?’ This life ‘half lived’? These opportunities shelved…