It is eleven weeks today since I walked out of my office for what still might prove to be the last time.
It is eight weeks today since I moved here. To a big house, with a big garden. With three lovely children and a lifetime ahead of helping them grow into lovely people.
So how is it for me? How is it, after all those agonies and doubts, that uncertainty about "throwing away" my life, to be a stay at home mum with a sideline in law and a dabbling in millinery?
You know the funny thing? I haven't thought about it. As a lovely friend wrote to me recently:
I hope that this is because your doubts vanished into the mist when you crossed the border
and to a certain extent she is right, they did. I certainly haven' t agonised about it all in the way I did when making the decision, when still living the life I have left behind.
I think that part of that is because that is just who I am. I'm notoriously bad at making decisions, but once they're made I'm quite good at living with them. Having made this decision, here I am.
Part of it, too, must be because I have changed my whole life. How much harder, surely, to be in the same place, seeing the same people, but with your own life entirely different. It's like when B's away with work: it always feels that I miss him more than he does me. I'm not saying I love him more than he does me (and given that he's doing the ironing while I play on the internet, he must love me quite a bit), but that it's easier when you're doing different and interesting things not to worry about the niggles. Here, in a community where many, if not most, of the women I meet are stay at home mums, where I am away from the drive and dynamism of London, perhaps the definition of "success" is a little different. Perhaps I don't need to push myself, to question myself, in quite the same way I did. Perhaps I don't feel so pushed and questioned from outside.
My parents were here this week, as were my brother and sister-in-law. Talking to my brother, it's clear that he has many of the same worries I did about achieving, and reaching a nebulous idea of "success", and it's also clear that this because our parents expect it of us. But somehow, I feel as thought I have managed to put that behind me and that what my parents think no longer bothers me.
My same friend, who is really very wise, put it like this
Our parents expectations were set when we were academically able tiddlers. But the rules were different then. We participated in a straightforward game; work hard, use your noggin and see how far you can get. We've succeeded in that competition and no doubt we could carry on succeeding if we wanted to. But - genuinely - having proved that we can succeed, what use is further success? Just entering the competition (jeez, I hadn't intended to torture the metaphor quite so thoroughly, but in for a penny...) these days comes at a great cost. Post-babies the challenge is less one of intellect and more one of stamina. Are we fulfilled by rushing around like lunatics trying to please everyone? Is it really a waste of a good education not to persevere in this daily grind?
I'm not yet sure that I am fulfilled, but I am definitely no longer rushing around like a lunatic. And I have seen, this week, that I am, in a different way, still pleasing my parents. It might not be as impressive to talk about over the bridge table, but (I think) they get it. They have certainly accepted it.
And it helps, too, that I read The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella*. It's not a new book to me, in fact my mother bought it for me a while back (maybe she was subconsciously trying to tell herself something?!), but the lovely Supersinglemum sent it to me as my Secret Post Club gift, and so I re-read it**.
You see it's about a lawyer, who, through a series of extremely unlikely events, becomes a housekeeper. It's not going to ruin a not entirely unpredictable book if I tell you that she ends up getting offered her old job back on a plate, and turns it down to "clean loos". Now clearly, I'm not a housekeeper. Or at least, I'm not paid to be a housekeeper, and Samantha doesn't have three small children to look after (now, if she'd been a nanny....) and I can't honestly say I ever worked as hard at being a lawyer as she does, but nonetheless, it struck a chord.
Because I feel liberated. Liberated from the tyranny of recording my time in six minute units. (If you're not a lawyer you won't get that one, but I cannot tell you how much more I enjoy my consultancy work with no little clock ticking away in the top corner of my screen.) Liberated from the pressure to prove myself. Liberated from the weight of others' expectations.
Of course, it's not as simple as that. I'm sure, once the novelty wears off, Samantha will start questioning herself. She will set herself targets (get higher up the Tots 100, get nominated for the MADs, get a millinery business up and running, get through the day without saying "because I said so"), at which she will probably fail. She will beat herself up. She will redefine success, and start kicking herself towards that new definition. Because that's the sort of person that she is.
But for the moment she's allowing herself, with occasional blips, to be content.
*which has reminded me I never blogged about the book I read before that: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon. I did though, touch on it here, if you're at all interested in what I thought.
** which means I have two copies. Any takers? It's not going to win any literary prizes, but it made me smile and I enjoyed it. Let me know and I'll pop it in the post. Would be a good one for the beach - not least because you're not going to get confused if you have to put it down every five minutes to wipe noses, buy ice creams and remove your toddler from the edge of the swimming pool.
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