Swapping careers for nappies …or can we have it all?
It is often so stereotyped — like it plays out in the movies and TV shows — a couple decide to have children, their life gets turned upside down, one of them gives up their career in order to care for the little one, they then become stressed and detached from their old self and often find themselves in a place of resentment, turmoil and anxiety — their purpose in life seems to have faded.
Now I am pleased to say that the hubby and I are NOT in this place however, sat here whilst in the early stages of an exciting new adventure in my working career, it got me thinking about the sacrifices so many stay-at-home parents make in order to have children.
Sacrifice = give up (something valued) for the sake of other considerations.
This definition is much less dramatic than other interpretations of the word (why do hundreds of weird horror films pop into my head?) and, it is a perfect reflection of what I am referring to. For so many it has to come down to a choice. They want children and, although they love their job or work, something has to give. Children need 24/7 care and so it makes a lot of sense that the role of parenthood becomes your new job.
It’s a difficult journey. Not only do you have to learn the ropes of how to care for this new little human, you are also sleep deprived, your brain functions at a much lower capacity often forgetting the smallest of things and eating becomes something you occasionally remember to do. You swap your smart trousers and top for stretched leggings and baggy t-shirts. Make-up, what’s make-up? Your world at the early stages becomes — feed the baby, change the baby, rock the baby, try and sleep when the baby does!
Maternity leave is so important, not just to have the time to bond with your little one but because you honestly don’t know your up from your down, your left from your right. Your world becomes a swirly cycle that revolves around that little bundle of joy, not knowing what day it is or the month for that matter. I make it sound chaotic, and maybe for some it isn’t, but for me, looking back it was.
At the time I was running a property management company and also offering marketing services to a property training academy. So on around day 3 of returning home, when my friend Jamie popped in for a cuppa to see how we all were, he ended up staying for 4 hours whilst I finished a website I was building for the company — funny how this actually ties in to my new adventure.
I don’t know how I did it. I almost had to completely shut down for those 4 hours and forget I was now a mum who had other responsibilities. My friend Jamie is fab with kids having been delighted with a nephew a year or so before, so he helped to feed Louis in the middle of my creative rampage and the rest of the time Louis pretty much slept but still, I realised that dividing time and attention between parenting and work was going to be almost impossible.
But then as the weeks go by and you ease into your role as a parent a bit more, that’s when the other emotional pressures hit you like a brick wall. Bang!
“I have lost my purpose”
“I don’t see anyone”
“I feel disconnected with the outside world”
“I am so lonely”
“No one will understand”
“Am I being selfish?”
“Why do I feel like this?”
Since writing my blog and connecting with so many readers of it, I now realise that I was never alone in these feelings.
So many stay at home parents have gone through the same emotional rollercoaster. My work pre-Louis put me in rooms full of people, delivering training and seminars. I had regular meetings with teams of people. In the property management business we were dealing with agents, tenants and landlords. Everywhere there were people. And what’s more, I may sound a bit needy to admit it, but I got attention. People in the property world knew of the hubby James Burtt and I. I guess in a small way it tapped into my love of entertaining people, getting to stand in front and talk, run events, offer advice and knowledge were all things I loved.
But shut away in my flat, with a baby to look after, all this disappeared. We stopped working with marketing clients, they had offered James and I a more senior role in taking over the running of heir business, but with Louis coming along — and some ethical differences should we say — we decided it wasn’t for us. Instead we would focus on the property management company. James would take over the more physical side; property checks, meeting agents and landlords and tenants viewings. I would stay on top of all the paperwork; the admin of tenancies, organising viewings and the business accounts and info.
Around 6 months after Louis was born we took on a large portfolio of properties to manage for another investment company. The owner was off travelling for 8 months and wanted a trusted company to manage the business whilst they were away and potentially on-going. 13 houses across SE and SW London and 70 tenants. So at this point we had 20 houses and 99 tenants we were looking after. Although we should have been pleased with how well we were growing the business in the HMO management market place, it weirdly just became pressure. James would find himself out doing viewings for tenants most evenings and weekends and the financial rewards in return for all the hard work just seemed minimal.
I tried to work around Louis’ nap times and my Mum and Dad helped out one day a week, so I could get on top of my tasks. Admittedly, although I was only dipping my toe in the working world, it felt nice to have these chunks of time to use my brain on something other then Louis. But 8 months later after completing the first term of the contract for the partnering company, we decided that Property Management was not a business that provided the lifestyle we wanted as a family. We could have outsourced, but with all the property legislation changing at the time, we dug deep into our souls and realised this was not a business we felt passionate enough about to scale it even more. At this point James had just founded Champions of Mind, now one of the UK’s leading business coaching companies, so we made the decision to shut down the property company — we sourced all our properties to other clients — and I became a full time stay-at-home mum. No work. No pressure. I knew I was lucky to be in this position and so I took the opportunity with open arms.
You may think I am waffling but this brief overview highlights some of the turmoil I felt. You have a child, which is what you wanted. Then you either give up work, which brings on its own set of emotions of loneliness, or you try to do both, which again although can bring benefits, it can also come with a huge amount of negatives — maybe the hours don’t work, or you can’t focus properly.
I see the struggles all around me with friends and family who have opted for the career and baby path. Now I should say here that of course not everyone gets the option. I know I was lucky that for the past year of Louis life I have been able to just focus on him, with James being out at work. But some people need to go back to work for financial reasons.
But the hardship is so evident. Some have negotiated with their employees to allow them to work from home one day a week, but that can result in them catching up with tasks in the evenings once the little ones are asleep. Some do shift work to work around the other halves schedules. It means they can both share the responsibilities between them, but so often they will be like ships that pass on the night. I know of people that have had twins, and the cost of childcare outweighed what they would actually earn if they returned to the workplace. The good old trusty grandparents are then heavily relied on to pick up the slack, maybe having the kids for full days, or helping with the nursery/school drop-offs and pick-ups.
My blog was my way of getting a sense of purpose back in the world. When I started it in January 2019 — after procrastinating for over a year — suddenly I felt like a part of me, that I hadn’t realised had been lost, came back. Like a spark had been ignited in me again. I preach about how much I love writing and I do; feeling connected to so many people is amazing. Knowing that I have made people realise that they are not alone is so rewarding.
But now, with Louis at nursery, my entrepreneurial itch is back. Having launched and grown multiple-million pound brands for high profile artists, run my own property management company, organised entrepreneurial events, become a certified coach and offered design and marketing services to market leading companies, I knew I wanted a new project to get my teeth stuck into.
Is it to justify to myself that I still have what it takes; the drive and the passion?
Is it because deep down I still have an embedded need to provide financially for my family?
Is it an ego trip to see what I can achieve?
Or is it because I have so much knowledge of businesses and the desire to build them that it is simply something I must do!
Yeah, I like the 4th option.
It is quite funny that I have come full circle and my career path has lead me back into the designing world which is something I stopped when Louis was born. But now with the necessary time on my hands, I know that it is the perfect avenue for me to hone in on and grow.
I am surrounded by successful people; just my friendship group alone are an extremely inspiring bunch — many of my friends are at the top of their game whether it be owning their own profitable businesses, working for international corporations or being entrepreneurs in their own right.
I want, or should I say NEED, my own piece of the pie. Not sure what the pie is, but just to clarify my favourite would be beef and ale — yummy!
My blog Family Unfiltered connects me on a real life level, which I love. It’s my outlet to share with you all about my family life, the joys and the struggles. It’s a creative outlet for my mind. An organic journey. I never wanted it to be about making money or overthinking how to make it something bigger then it needs to be.
My new venture, offering website design services to small business and entrepreneurs, will fulfil me on my passion to grow and build a business. What’s even better is that all I need is my laptop and my phone. I can be flexible, work to my own time scale and most importantly around Louis.
Orange Lamb is the name, inspired by Louis whose initials spell LAMB and the simple idea that an orange lamb in a field would truly stand out. Like the websites I build, they are smart, simple and striking. I am very grateful to say that pre-launch of my website www.orangelamb.co.uk I had secured 3 clients and since the launch, have secured a contract working with a media company as their ‘in-house’ designer. Not a bad to start.
So in conclusion, I hope that this blog gives reassurance to anyone currently sat in the phase of ‘what is my purpose’? You may feel like the world around you is shrinking, but be patient, concentrate on the main task at hand and you never know, like me, when your subconscious gives you a little nudge, you will realise you are ready and new ventures, jobs or careers may start popping back into place. It may be a tweaked or adapted version of what you used to do, hey it might even be something entirely different.
But we can have it all.
We just need to give it time.
Take the jigsaw puzzle of life apart and then slowly piece it all back together.