Meet Sally Osborn. Sally spent ten years working as an uber mum before making a triumphant return to the workforce. This is her story...
Introduce yourself: I grew up in the regional country town of Taree and fled as soon as possible due to my view at the time that it was the most boring and provincial place on earth. Twenty five years of living in capital cities and more than a little growing up has opened my eyes to the fact that country living is pretty good for the soul. I moved back a few years back after turning forty with my (second) husband and youngest two children.
Introduce your family: My eldest son Jordan is a gorgeous 21 year old young man who lives in Perth with his father. The rest of my family are in Taree with me...husband number two and our two children, Jesse (12) and Annabel (8).
How long did you stay at home with your children?: I had Jordan when I was 23, and I stayed home until he turned four. During this time I worked from home for Animal Liberation WA first as their office coordinator, and later as President. Jordan had a rather unusual upbringing that included featuring on the front page of the Sunday newspaper at a protest about the use of animals in circuses. I went back to work when Jordie was four and he absolutely hated spending time at day-care twice a week. This influenced my decision after having Jesse eight years later, to stay home until he was at school. When he was in kindy I had Annabel and ended up out of the workforce for ten years.
What were the benefits of staying at home?: The benefits of staying home were that I felt I was doing the absolute best for my children. The early years are so important in terms of attachment between mother and child, and each of my kids are now confident young human beings which I believe in part is due to the bond we forged during these years. On a more selfish note, now that I have a very busy and stressful full time job which involves regular travel, I feel no "mummy guilt" as I know I have given the kids 100% when they were younger, and it's Dad's turn to step up now :)
What were the challenges?: There were no challenges to speak of with the younger two kids. I enjoyed the gentle pace of life during the first of nine years, which I like to refer to as the "long domestic sleep". I kind of switched my brain off during those years & enjoyed the zen-like focus on the basic rhythms of life - buy stuff, prepare stuff, clean stuff, do it all again...and repeat. The last of those ten years I had ants in my pants and was definitely ready for a new challenge in the big outside world! Staying at home with Jordan was very challenging for the first couple of years however. I was young and immature and had recently moved to the other side of the country. Post-natal depression and a lack of social support is not a healthy mix. I didn't really start to enjoy being at home until I started exercising again and involving myself with the Animal Rights movement which caused the depression to start to lift.
How did you make this time meaningful?: While I was at home I enjoyed having the time to live according to my ethics. We chose to have one car due to the environmental impact of being a two car family, so I walked the kids to school or we rode bikes. I went through a stage of trying to grow my own vegetables - the inordinate amount of time and money I poured into this project resulted in inedible broccoflowers that resembled large prehistoric plants! I rode my bicycle to the organic markets every week and my family ate 100% organic, additive free food. I tried out new recipes every week and baked all our own biscuits and snack food. When I got quite bored in year number ten I had a stint as an Avon lady which was quite fun for a girl who enjoys pretty and nice smelling things :) There is no time for this kind of stuff when you work and study - pizza is ordered regularly, nutrition tends to go out the window and near enough is good enough!
What prompted you to return to work / study?: When I was at home with the kids I enjoyed it so much I hoped I would never have to go back to work. Gentle questions from my husband about what kind of work I might like to do when Annabel went to school filled me with dread. After I reconciled myself to the fact that it was only fair that I did eventually get a part-time job after there were no littluns at home during the day, I spent a couple of years doing some serious soul searching about what I wanted to do with my energy and talents. I knew too many women who settled for part time jobs that did not really interest them but which fitted in around the family's needs. That path was not for me - I felt that if I was going to work, then I had just as much right as my husband to study or whatever was required in order for me to have a fulfilling career.
What was it like to re-enter the workforce - the good, the bad, the ugly?: The hardest thing about re-entering the workforce was that having spent so many years at home, I had totally lost sight of myself as a worker who had something valuable to contribute to an organisation. I worried that my career gap would put potential employers off, and thought my sister had rocks in her head when she assured me that I would have no problems at all getting a job. Once I did in fact get a job I absolutely loved being back at work. My first job was as coordinator of a volunteer recruitment and referral centre and even though I was terrified a lot of the time that I didn't really know what I was doing at first, I found my capacity and confidence grew enormously as I just got in there and did my best. Returning to study was similar - I fretted that at 41 I was too old for study and wondered if my brain even worked any more. I've since completed a Certificate IV in Community Services, a Diploma in Community Welfare, and I'm currently finishing my Bachelor of Social Science (Welfare) with an eye on postgraduate study after that. The world has changed, and it is perfectly possible for a middle-aged woman to reinvent herself these days and guess what? Our brains don't actually rust out during pregnancy and child raising, they are just having a little rest! Blow the cobwebs off and give them a work-out and they are a good as new, likely better.
Now that you are working and studying how do you maintain a balance between work, family and self?: Balance - what's that? I have no balance. During uni semesters I feel like I am a machine! Work, study, wine, work, study, wine - and repeat. I'm pretty good at recognising when I feel overloaded though and taking a little time out for something simple like booking in for a pedicure. Another thing that helps is getting regular support & supervision from a clinical psychologist. As far as the family goes, I am always available to chat & keep up with what's happening in their lives such as the travails kids have with friendships etc, however the day to day stuff I delegate to my husband during uni semesters which I think is actually a good thing for his relationship with the kids. It's not a bad thing for children to see their mother committed to her work and education and putting in the hard yards, even if that does mean they have to pack their own lunches :)
What is a lesson you have learnt that you can share with other working mothers or mothers contemplating a return to work?: A lesson? I would say to enjoy the time at home with your babies because it is gone in the blink of an eye. After that, search your soul and figure out what really motivates you. Don't settle for an unsatisfying "McJob" that fits in around everybody else's schedules. Each of us has unique talents and gifts and we only have one life, so why not develop your potential to the fullest and do something that really matters. You're valuable and you're worth it!
Thank you Sally
Labels: Mother Profiles