Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Happiness


First, a warning. This is a whingey, hysterical, poor me post. Yesterday I received the above in the post (the real post) from the ever lovely Jen (thank you x). Ironic that it should arrive on a day when happiness seemed elusive. I read the beginning and was mildly irritated by the fact that the writer seemed to have everything she could possibly want, as far as I could tell she just didn't appreciate it. I felt that she was rather lucky just to have the time to try to be happy, or happier, with what she's got. And call me a naughty cynical sausage but I'm sure that when she started her project she already had the book deal in the bag. Bah. I read on a bit further and her project nonetheless seems charmingly down to earth in its execution so I shall continue with an open mind.

So to my own quest for happiness (and the book's introductory discussion of what happiness is was interesting). I agree with the writer that it is a question of perspective, a state of mind but it is a state of mind shaped 50% by external factors, which are roughly the same for all of us: relationships, personal development, job, money. I feel I have a lot to be happy for, and I am happy for. I don't need a happiness project to make me appreciate the things in my life that are good. That's a bit of a lie isn't is?? Isn't my blog exactly that? However, there is one area of my life that makes me deeply unhappy, and worries me to death and that is my job. I don't want or need a career but I do want to work when my kids go to school. I don't need to earn a fortune but I need to earn enough (for what? If I have to put it in one word: travel, for the whole family... that's 5 words). I also need to feel that my job is worthwhile. I don't need to be changing the world but I would like to believe I am making it better in some small way.

So, yesterday, as part of the New Year's plan I began my hunt for gainful employment (both mini-beasts were dispatched to the grandspoilers). Now it was only a day but by the end of it I felt fairly low. What had seemed the least likely option (becoming a published writer) began to look like the most possible! Despite my little handfull of academic qualifications, I am qualified to do strictly nothing. I do not think there is one single job that would fulfil my above criteria that I could start tomorrow. And that's looking in France and England. I am considering teaching, clawing my way back into theatre (both of which require new qualifications in France) but what I really want to do is train to be some kind of counsellor, which requires a qualification wherever I do it. It also requires time, which is fine, and a lot of money, which isn't. Right now I feel totally lost. I don't know what to do. I want to be an example to my children, I want to be fulfilled myself. I need to find a way back to work that is both feasible and satisfying. You might think that after only one day my reaction is over the top but the question of a job has been on my mind since I got pregnant with Matilda and decided to be a stay at home mum.

Like Simon (see his post here) I wonder if I did the right thing taking parental leave but I have not just missed an opportunity, I have ceased to be employable full stop. But, as I said to him, even when there are times I feel I have buried myself in a hole by being a stay at home mum I know I will never regret it. I think even if I end up stacking shelves just to earn a few pennies I will always have the memories of rolling around on the floor with my mini-beasts and they are memories that will stay with me until I die. It would be nice to have a good job and make the most of your children but, as I think is now generally recognised, you can't have it all. Actually, while I'm in rant mode, I have increasingly been thinking that you can't even have the bit of the all you've chosen. Talking over Christmas with Katie, she said that friends of hers with young kids that work cannot pursue their careers in the same way as those without both because of their own commitments and priorities and because of the way they are viewed in the work place. And as a stay at home mum I am horrified by the amount of time I spend doing cooking, cleaning, shopping, general faffing, time that I was meant to be spending doing silly things with my kids.

It's not easy this whole life thing, and then you go and introduce new lives, just to complicate everything a bit more.

But I have just looked at Owen and he has given me the most enormous beaming smile. And halfway through this post Matilda came and hugged my leg, asked me to give her some broccoli and to sit and do a jigsaw with her (all of which I did). Last night, describing my day of self-indulgent misery to Fanf he told me not to worry, something will turn up and then suggested I just keep writing more books, even if they don't get published, because that's what I enjoy doing. And indeed this afternoon's naptime activity will be starting to read my Writers' and Artists' Yearbook.

So as always, I finish my miserable, woe is me post with the ever reassuring knowledge that I have the most wonderful family. I feel much better for splurging. And to you, that have had the courage and kindness to follow this splurge to its not so bitter end, well done. You are the best.


[Thank you to dad for the photograph]

7 comments:

  1. my lovely friend-
    a few points i wish to make:
    -life is FLOW. Things change. They evolve. They grow. They morphe. They disappear... that's my little yoga philosophy.
    -things you should be happy about: your family, your loving Fanf, your Monster, your Wrigglesworth, your faithful friends, your education, your travels.
    -it's quite amazing how much you have achieved in the last three years: you moved to France with your amoureux, you bought a house, you gave birth to two healthy & beautiful children. Wow!
    -your daughter loves broccoli and chocolate. now that's something to be proud of!
    -you're on the right track: slowly starting to look for employment; getting your book out there. It's the perfect time for you to be starting this quest.
    -like Fanf, i urge you to WRITE! you love it, it brings you great joy, and you're terrific at it. you might as well do something that brings you enjoyment and that has an everlasting life.
    xox

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  2. My lovely friend - thank you! I hope I was clear that I am well aware of what I have to be happy about. Although I hadn't thought about Matilda liking broccoli and chocolate ;) And I like your yoga philosophy. The mini-beasts had a nice long kip this pm so I got loads of reading done in my WAYbook which was rather inspiring. Then we went to the park with Anne and the boys, then I came home and did my exercise routine, then the Matilda and I watched The Gruffalo. A GOOD DAY :) xxx

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  3. Actually you have a very employable skill: you're fluently bilingual. May not be such a big thing in France but may be very useful in England (I find lots of Brits only speak English). You'd be even more of a rock star in Canada!

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  4. Yes, totally agree with Jen and Simon and would add that I have a good salary and a cool job title but hate my so-called career and hardly see Marina. It's almost as hard to quit a job as to find one. Grass is always greener and all that. Fancy swapping?!! (Just lifestyles; swapping anything else could get a bit weird).

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  5. Give yourself the luxury of some time Bex. The kids are still so little. It takes a while to adjust to your new shape once your life changes so dramatically. Still quite a while yet till they go to school....unless you're planning some kind of crazy hothouse action. In which case you will be too busy with flash cards and dunce hats to work anyway.

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  6. Thank you for the comments, and for the chuckles. I do appreciate what I have. I'm just thinking ahead. And Rachael you're right, no real reason to freak out just yet. But your collective advice is most useful. I shall move to Canada, with Bryn and Marina (Ju, I'll package up and send my three over to you or rather, on second thoughts, I'll send you a one-way ticket to Beziers), and once established in Ottawa I shall be teaching Marina to create a computer program that can find a cure for the common cold.

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  7. Hi, It's Jen's friend Trish here. I'm back at work part time now that the boys are older and I'm a bit in awe of how things are working out - I've a good job that uses my skills and I'd never have taken the chance to try this new career direction if I'd stayed working.

    Motherhood has definitely changed what I'm looking for in a job too - a boss that understands the importance of D's school nativity play is more critical than my path to international success. But it does seem like things work out in ways that I never expected.

    And if I can suggest some advice - keep an open mind, volunteer for things, be useful - those are my three pillars of job hunting.

    Send me an email if you'd like to chat more,

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Many thank yous if you're taking the time to leave a comment. You are most lovely in my sight.