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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. 

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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.

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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!

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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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