Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Daily dilemma

Things have been a bit unsettled lately at the bank where Yummy Mummy works and I need to make a few decisions. For starters, my boss is no longer going to be my boss and I will be reporting into someone who I don't know that well, already has a close knit team and, by her own admission, doesn't really know what I do. The job itself will be changing, but nobody seems to know what it will morph into (I am angling for a cute puppy but I suspect it will morph into something altogether less fun). I also have had a couple of other interesting opportunities land on my plate, all of which have got me thinking.

So, earlier this week I had a chat with my mentor. As a result of the leadership fast track thingy I am on at the bank, I get a mentor and mine is the head of our Hong Kong business. She is an amazing woman, straightforward, caring and brilliant at her job. We talked about possible career directions for me, what my aims were and the usual blurb. And then she told me that I would need to think seriously about what I was giving up with Eve before making my next move. This surprised me somewhat, surely she should be persuading me to follow the fast track and make the bank lots of money.

She has two children and so I asked her advice and how she handled it. She then, quite honestly, told me of some of the regrets she has about not being able to spend more time with her children, of not making all the school events, of them being in bed before she got home. She told me of an incident when her son, aged 10, had asked her why she was never there to teach him to bake cakes like his aunty was with his cousins. Her son is now 18 and, by her own admission, it is too late for her to get the time back now.

Her advice to me was thus: if I decide to pursue a career (and she thinks I have a very promising one at the bank, which is nice of her to say), then I need to realise what I will be giving up with Eve, accept this as the necessary compromise I will be making and make sure I will not regret it. If I do that and make an active and considered choice, and remind myself of this choice if I miss a sports day or bath time because I am travelling, then it is possible to be a working Mum.

This was possibly the single most useful advice anyone has ever given me, and has got me thinking hard about what I want my future to be.

More to follow.


Grande Poobah said...

sounds like a wise woman. glad you have some one like that to advise you on your choices!

magicman said...

Could you stop working if you wanted?

If so, you have tough choices but at least it is a quality problem.

Some people have no choice in the matter and both parents have to work.

Sabina said...

Al - if I know you well enough (and from all the time in the boat together at Sons, plus pre and post marriage to the Boy, and various ups and downs, I think I do) the question is not, as Magicman says, whether you 'could' stop working (we all know the answer to that already), more whether you would 'want' to stop working.
Your mentor is spot on: choosing to work because we enjoy the stimulus, the challenges and the opportunity to expand our own careers becomes more difficult once children come into the equation. It can be seen as selfish.
We are fortunate to have supporting husbands/partners, and we are also smart enough to make conscious decisions about priorities. Family always ALWAYS comes before business, no matter what anyone says. If you cannot deal with this logic, then yes, you will always have an issue with being a working mother.
But ask yourself this: how would you feel in 20 years' time if Eve turned to you, just as she's off for a job interview, and said "Mummy, why do you not work?"

Mummy said...

Thanks for the comments everyone.

Magicman - Financially I know I am in a very lucky situation that I could not work. I watch my sister, who desperately wanted to stay at home but is the main breadwinner and so can't, and feel lucky I have the choice. Whether I could, intellectually, not work is another question.

Sabina - you know me very well and that I love my job. I would like to think that seeing Mummy work creates a positive role model for Eve (as my Mum did for me) but I can't help wondering what I will miss out on.

I was talking to a good friend today and saying that what I lack is women of our mothers' generation who were doing what we are - high powered jobs and raising a family - so I could ask their children how they feel about it now. But there doesn't seem to be anyone.

Conversely, people send their children to boarding school and I am pretty sure that having a working Mum who is around, albeit in the evenings and weekends only, is better than never seeing either parent during term time.

magicman said...

For what it's worth, my sister has been massively, massively successful in the classic big company, corporate sort of way.

I believe a (small) contributor to her success is that her life was arranged in a classic, high powered, businessperson way. By this I mean she has a house husband and thus the sort of home support for her career that men usually get. Bills were paid, food was in the fridge when she arrived back from business trips at 11pm, cars got serviced etc etc.

& no she doesn’t have children. But she didn’t see her husband much either, due to the long hours and the travel.

One of my worst parenting moments to date (apart from my daughter falling off the end of a travel cot in a hotel in Japan, thump…………Waaaaaaa) was missing the start of Fathers Day family hour at my son’s preschool. I had left on time but got stuck in traffic in Central. I don’t know how not turning up to stuff like this will affect your relationship with your kids in the long term, but I want to be involved in the life of my children, to see them grow up. You never get that time back.

Don’t forget that there are other sorts of work than the “big corporate” type and I am sure a woman of your drive and intelligence could start her own company, work sensible (and flexible) hours, satisfy her intellectual cravings, see a lot of Eve and still provide a good role model of a working mum to her.

magicman said...

By which I mean "Where there is a will, there's a way"

LottieP said...

I would say this, wouldn't I... I think surely most women need to work: to be able to continue to be individuals and to maintain their self-worth. Surely for all children a happy, confident and fulfilled mother is better than a down-trodden, unhappy one who feels she's missing out? It doesn't matter how you achieve that: it has to be in a way that works for you.

Emily V said...

Tough decision. There is no right and no wrong decision either.

Just wondering if you have thought of other types of career which might have more flexibility? If you don't have to work, would a bout of more studying be of interest? With my two boys, I decided to postpone re-entering the job market and am doing a part-time PhD. I won't lie to you, it is pretty gruesome at times when all I do is childcare and study - social life went out the window a while ago. But because I can do it when I have time, it doesn't matter if one of the kids is sick or there is an emergency which means I have to down books. Because the PhD is in something that I find fascinating and challenging I get the interesting mental stimulation that I really really need after a days toddler activities.

What happens next, I have no idea - hopefully using it to get a job in academia, which seems pretty flexible to me, or some freelance consultancy type role which would allow some element of flexibility.

My 2 are at nursery 3 afternoons a week, vital for my sanity. Crucially however, they both really really enjoy their nursery time. There there are people whose sole job is dedicated to playing with them, organising fun things to do and who are hugely creative as well as very well trained. It is much more fun than being at home all the time as Mummy tries to get the house clean or cook supper. They also get a huge amount out of playing with other children their own age.

I wouldn't want them in nursery full time as I'd feel that I would miss out a lot. But, by having some time when I am not a mummy but am me recharges the batteries. I think the boys get a much better time with me when I haven't had them full time that week.

Good luck with your decisions. Its all about balance in the end, and you can only do what is right for you, the Boy and Eve. Different people would make different decisions, there are no right or wrong answers.

Mummy said...

Thanks for all the thoughts and, of course, I have had them.

Magicman - I set up and ran a business when I first got to Hong Kong. I didn't have a holiday in 18 months. My problem is I do anything I commit to 100%, and if I ran a business that would be working more rather than less hours than I do now.

Emily - this is what my Mum did when I was in my teens (she has been a lifelong good role model) and I have given in some thought. However, one of the main things I value about my job is the financial independence and security that it gives me and I am too scared (of what, I am unsure) to give that up. Ironically I think if HK was a daycare type culture where it is acceptable to get in at 9 and leave at 5 so you can pick up your children then I think it would be easier in some respects. The fact that most people can afford full time nannies here means employers are less flexible.

I suppose I need to make some decisions.

However, as I sit here pondering yet another week when the Boy comes home after bath and bed time when Eve is already asleep (when I have usually struggled to get out at 6 and normally pissed someone off to do so) and, even better this week, he is working on the public holiday I wonder why, with the exception of magicman's sister, it is usually the mother and not the father who makes all these decisions.

Sabina said...

Al - you know the answer to that last question!!

P.S. Did you know Annabel is pregnant and so is Rosie? We could have a 'mother and daughter' eight (providing theirs are girls too) in a few years' time....