It was only when we tapped our destination into the TomTom that we realised we had made a slight miscalculation. Two days and over 700 miles later our journey ended at the very beautiful Cessenon sur Orb in the south of France. I refused to think about the return journey, but instead luxuriated in the fabulous sunshine, beautiful landscape and that relaxed holiday state of mind.
Which got me thinking about life and the journey everyone takes from beginning to end, some of which can be successfully calculated or, like our journey to Cessenon, not fully thought through.
Take me for instance, and I’m quietly confident there are quite a few examples of me out there; I worked hard making my way up the corporate ladder, without much in the way of qualifications other than O and A Levels, I proved I was up to the job with enthusiasm and commitment, never imagining I would be anything other than what I wanted to be.
Until I came to a major road junction, you know the one, where there’s a huge neon flashing sign telling you a left turn will mean life as you’ve known it will no longer exist and looking to the left, you see there’s a blind bend within yards, leaving you in no doubt that what lies ahead is completely unknown. Or you can continue on the same road that stretches for miles and miles with a few minor bumps and gentle bends.
I am of course talking about motherhood.
But with my high mileage, slightly worn interior and the fuel gauge heading towards empty, I take a left, change down a gear before reaching the blind bend.
The optimum age for childbearing is 20-35
Fertility declines from 30 dropping steeply from 35
Women are putting off childbirth to go to university or pursue their career
Fifteen years down the road, it has not only been an endless succession of hairpin bends, but the smooth tarmac became a dirt track and the sudden banks of fog that appear from nowhere and engulf me have left me feeling worn out and demoralised.
Because I have been out of the conventional workforce since giving birth to my first son, because I pursued my career and left having babies until quite late, because my freelance copywriting work is sporadic at best, because I stupidly gave up a lucrative part time job to follow my dream of becoming a full-time writer, because I wanted to be a major part of my sons’ young lives.
Because of the sometimes perhaps unwise directions I took, I feel like the employment market has demonised me and each job application I make is shunned in favour of the PYT’s who are fresh-faced and bouncingly dynamic.
43 year old actress Kath McDonald, used to the glamour of Hollywood, after taking a baby break found herself
wearing rubber gloves cleaning other people’s loos and having a panic attack during an interview with M&S
Weeks became months, months years. I was doing pretty well with my writing; online magazines, newsletters, feature articles in both regional and national magazines, but the work started to dry up.
Last year I reached desperation point when I concluded that perhaps I really was unemployable so I asked around to see what other mums were up to and that’s when it became clear that I wasn’t alone.
An executive director is now a child-minder; an accountant a part-time playgroup administrator; a teacher worked in a bar; other jobs included cleaning holiday chalets, care home assistants, check-out worker, and restaurant staff.
Ruby McGregor-Smith chair of Women’s Business Council said the 2.4 million
non-working women should not be fitting into the economy but ‘shaping it’
Alexa Kerr, careers development consultant says women can’t expect to return to a similar level ‘everyone has to accept that things will not be the same … you have to look at your skills and as a mother and repackage them to an employer
So what is it that happens when a woman makes the decision to dedicate her energy and efforts into looking after her children? Is it that she becomes less intelligent, less committed, less able to perform, less likely to learn something new?
It’s all well and good saying women returning to the workforce need to ‘shape it’ but you have to convince the employer it needs reshaping and given the likelihood that it is managed by a man, what hope?
There are currently millions of women who have done their very best in raising their children who now want to carry that rich and wonderful experience forward, combine it with their existing knowledge, into a new working life.
OK perhaps I didn’t properly calculate the journey and I luxuriated in the sheer joy of seeing my sons grow up, but it would be nice if the fog lifted for good and the road became smooth and straight, but in the meantime I will be working hard with my part-time copywriting, cleaning and caring in the hope my working life has not reached a dead end.
Katie Powell, corporate executive for more than a decade found her original position
untenable ‘you go back into the workplace … to a career full stop’.