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"I didn’t have an impressive career or kids and I felt lost." How I found myself after 40.

As a young woman, and particularly when I was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, I believed I could either be a career woman with shoulder pads and a ritzy flat in London, or an earthy motherly type with a brood of kids and a big kitchen.

I wanted to work in 'The Media' because not only did it sound impressive and look interesting, but I figured the wardrobe would be insane when I got my dream job as a magazine editor. (A ritzy flat in London was also super appealing.)

I continued on the path to my dream career by majoring in media studies at university and becoming involved in student radio.

Watch: Do career women make bad mothers? Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

But post-graduation, the media career trajectory I had imagined for myself ground to a halt.

I briefly worked in London as a television production runner and aside from once literally tripping over Simon Le Bon (the lead singer of Duran Duran), I absolutely hated the job and being a coffee slave for rude old men. 

Instead, I saved my money to go travelling to Australia, where I met a boy, quickly got married, and ditched my plans to study for a master's degree in radio journalism. 

As a young married couple, we settled in the regional city of Newcastle, where I felt content to have a good job in marketing, a man I loved by my side and a comfortable lifestyle. But my mid-twenties spent in beachy Newcastle were far from what I had imagined as an idealistic teen. And there were certainly no power suits.

Laura and Jules on their wedding day in 2003. Image: Supplied. 


While I still looked up to many female journalists and wondered what my glamorous media career could have been, I have to acknowledge that I simply wasn’t that driven in my mid-twenties. I was young, happy, and in love. 

At the time, I also lacked confidence. Whenever I dared to dream bigger, I thought that women 'like me' didn’t have big careers. 

In my mind, I wasn’t smart enough or young enough (I got married at 24 and felt 'too old' to start a career).

And the older I got, the more my dreams adapted and changed. I had some good jobs in different areas of PR and marketing that I enjoyed, but none of them ever felt quite right or quite like me.

And it wasn’t just my career where I had feelings of ambivalence. 

As I approached the age of 30, my husband Jules and I discussed starting a family. He was very keen for a big brood of kids, while I wasn’t particularly maternal or 'ready' for kids. I saw friends with babies and did not know what to do with them. They were cute, but also needy, wriggly and loud. 

I loved Jules though and thought that even if I wasn’t into babies, I quite liked older kids. I hoped that maybe once I had a family of my own, I would feel a true sense of purpose.

Back then, I didn't have an impressive career, and I didn't want kids. I just felt a bit lost.

I hoped that becoming a mum would be the making of me. I would pop out my baby and have a personality transplant, going from someone who was rubbish in the kitchen to a master baker and nurturer. My concerns about having a slightly lacklustre career would no longer matter because I would find my purpose in matrescence!

Listen: Claire Murphy chats to guests about motherhood ambivalence on Mamamia's daily news podcast The Quicky. Post continues below.


It turns out that motherhood was the making of me, but not in the way I hoped. 

I struggled as a new mum, and I didn’t really understand why. I was sleep deprived and anxious, and baby Toby and I both cried a lot. I wish I had asked for more support. 

Things got better emotionally for me as Toby got older, but then we had a succession of challenges that included multiple miscarriages, two international moves, and a serious health crisis for Jules. 

Life stopped then stuttered along in a way that I recognise now as just normal life and I know we were still lucky.

Awful things, much worse than what we went through, happen to people every day and a career trajectory or smooth sailing 'life plan' is a luxury for the very few.

I love and adore my two boys with an innate fervour that would see me fight to the death if I thought they were in danger. But the day-to-day aspects of parenting? Well, I struggled with all of that from the outset. So many chores and responsibilities that felt all consuming, boring, and overwhelming.

New motherhood got me asking a lot more questions than ever before. Who am I now I am a mum? What do I want to do with the rest of my life? Is this... it?

As I wrestled with not becoming an instant maternal goddess and feeling somewhat judged for it, I looked around for other women like me.

I would talk to good friends and eventually began writing and pitching articles about the challenges of parenting to magazines, blogs, and websites. 

The more I wrote truthfully about parenting, the more I felt like myself.

I built up relationships with different editors and kept writing and pitching about the aspects of motherhood that interested me - including the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

In 2019, as my youngest son Leo turned two, I started a podcast with a friend that felt like a return to my student radio days and I began tutoring first-year students at university.

In 2021, I saw an 'Encoreship' contract role advertised at Mamamia and I went for it. 

I was 42, and it was the first job I had applied for and desperately wanted... ever. 

My enthusiasm obviously came across in the interview because I was very lucky to be successful and I now have a permanent job as a parenting writer on the Mamamia editorial team. My dream job!


I pinch myself regularly that I get to interview and write about interesting people or issues for parents as my paid work. I love the creativity of my role and I feel like I have truly come back to myself and my childhood dreams. Even if it was 20-odd years later than originally planned.

Sometimes you need to go on a journey to figure out what it is you actually want. In my case it was a career, but it might equally be a family, a tree change, an overseas adventure, or a new and exciting hobby.

We often worry about ticking boxes and life goals at certain phases of our lives and yet here I am, having just turned 43, starting what I hope will be a long career while also being a mum.

Will I still get the ritzy flat in London? 

I guess anything is possible - and for the first time in forever, I am excited to see what I can do next and I am so glad that my boys get to be part of it.

Did you know we have a whole family focussed community you can join on Facebook for more discussions like this? Join the Mamamia Parents Facebook group and follow Mamamia Parents on  Instagram and tell us what #parentinglookslike for you!

Feature Image: Canva/Instagram @lauracjackel 

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