Friday, 1 January 2010

It's not exactly a resolution, but...

There's a Swiss ball in our garage, which occasionally gets used as a giant beachball by visiting kids: the dog also likes chasing it around the garden.
The one person who never uses it is the one who bought it so she could do loads of situps, and thus recover her pre-pregnancy flat stomach. I did about three situps total, before remembering my stomach wasn't flat even before I had a baby.
So with that triumph in mind, I'm not making New Year's Resolutions. But having said back in November that I'd give myself a year to get my life back, I do need a plan.
So here, roughly, is what I'd like to have done by November 2010:
1. Learned to use my old skills differently, but also taught myself to do something totally new. There's no point leaving a great job and just dabbling in the same thing, freelance: I need to stretch myself a bit.
2. Established a mix of work and living that actually makes me happy. Which right now probably means working no more than 2-3 days a week, and using the rest of the time to be a mother and a wife, and a good friend, and a daughter, and a sister, and an aunt, and a vaguely useful part of a community. And maybe do some exercise. Ahem.
3. Have contributed properly to the family's income. Ok, not like before. But I'm used to earning, and I don't like the idea of asking my husband for pocket money.
4. I'd like to find time for something creative. Probably something I'm rubbish at, but anyway.
5. Last but not least: it can't all be about me. When I resigned my Proper Job, the criticism that stung was someone suggesting that work was about more than my personal gratification: what about contributing to society, she said sternly?
So at the risk of sounding nauseating, I also want to further a cause in some tiny way. If I can work this out (or even if I can't), I'd like my experience to be of use to others caught in the same trap.
And if I can do all that by November, I'll still have a month left before the next New Year - which I will, of course, devote entirely to situps.
So that's my plan. What's yours?


  1. "Contributing to society" is definitely a good idea, and a surprising amount of fun can be had while doing it. Of course, worthwhile contributions normally involve some hard slog but the rewards can be great. It probably makes sense for you to take up a local cause rather than a national one that involves time in London or wherever.

  2. I found myself in a vaguely similar position to you about 18 months ago although I was fed up with working for ungrateful bosses and managed to get a bit of cash out of my last one when resigning. This gave me 6 months to take a rest and survey my life before I set up on my own. I had a two year old daughter, my girlfriend was pregnant with our son and we were only 6 months over a move to a new town in the Surrey Hills so life wasn't exactly stress free but like you the thought of contributing to something not directly related to the well being of me and mine appealed. I joined my local NO2ID group and helped organise their weekly stalls in various towns in the area. I found that quite satisfying until it was suggested we organise a meeting, Question Time style, hire out a rather large hall for it and then (most dauntingly of all) try to fill it with people interested the notion of personal liberty. Long story short, we all doubted our ability to get 100 people in a hall that held 250 and the Labour Party were refusing to even acknowledge we had even asked them for a representative let alone send one along. In the end we had a full panel of MPs (including the Shadow Home Sec) and the hall was standing room only, the biggest complaint at the end of it all was that we didn't allow enough time for everyone who had wanted to ask a question to do so. Fulfilling doesn't even begin to describe the experience, coming as I do from the angle of having never had the time or inclination to consider something like this. Whatever you choose I'm sure you'll have a great time doing it, I really do recommend getting involved.

  3. Happy New Year! Your goals are inspiring!

    Just a note about asking your husband for pocket money -- I assume you were being funny, but some people really think this is how one-income families operate. That's not the case in my family or any other that I know personally. (Certainly controlling men DO exist, I just don't hang out with their wives, apparently.) My husband's paychecks are direct deposited into our joint bank account. I withdraw money, write checks, use the debit card, etc. as needed, including on myself for small things here and there. (Granted, the amount of money available for "extras" is sometimes a significant restraint in a one-income family.) My husband's perspective on this is that earning the money is currently one of his roles in the family. In addition to my contributions to the family, the roles I play contribute to his career (he never has to miss work for sick kids and can work late on a moment's notice if need be), and allow the money he does make to stretch much further than it would if I were working (I cook almost exclusively from scratch and we have no child care expenses, to name two big examples.) It does not seem to either of us that this is a one-way dependency.

    There is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to earn money -- I understand that and wish you well. It's just that it's not a precondition of an equal partnership, and those of us who don't work for pay often *do* contribute to the family finances in less tangible ways.

    Have a peaceful year!

  4. ‘I’d give myself a year to get my life back ...’ has a familiar ring; before you know it you’ll find that year becoming very elastic.

  5. Insulate the house and cut our carbon emissions. Make more cupcakes.

    On the subject of money and one-income families, we have our own bank accounts and my husband pays me a "salary" each month so I have my own funds for cash each week and cheques for school dinners etc and we have a joint savings account for bigger stuff. I'm asking for a raise this new year, wish me luck!

  6. Gaby - just read your column [I had it all,but didn't have a life'] and just wanted to message you to say I have very much the same experience and feelings as you.
    I too didn't want to fall into the trap of referring to my achievements in the past tense, but am still finding it very difficult adjusting to life outside my past London-life/career with my now-1 year old son.
    I worked as a fashion editor, and although it was occasionally a glamourous life, the hours were long and the pay was peanuts, so thinking of our long-term plans my husband and I moved back to my home town of Sheffield a few years ago to buy a home for the baby that we hoped would eventually be joining our family.
    I raced up and down the motorway working freelance as a stylist for catalogues and magazines, kidding myself that I could juggle both sides of my life and would [somehow] be able to make it work when we had a child.
    Noah arrived in September 08 and was the perfect package we always dreamt of. When work contacts and friends asked I still said I hoped to return to freelance life within a year or so - after-all I knew plenty of other women who managed to do it.
    The reality of how I began to feel was very different though, and I had a similar sense of dread that I just couldn't work out how it would actually work - my husband was frequently away with work and there was no way we could afford a nanny.
    So eventually I grew to accept that I would not be going back to my old life [when people ask I still say - I never say never - but just not right now].
    I'm now trying to launch a new business [bespoke cards and prints], and despite some business support from a local initiative I'm finding the juggling of pretty-much full time motherhood and new business practically impossible.
    Like Gwyneth my husband is supporting me at the moment, which after 10 years of financial independence is quite hard but we're fortunate and I don't take that for granted.
    I do have a new year's resolution though: to be more accepting, which for me means accepting that this is the way my life is for now so to enjoy all the moments rather than getting anxious about the things I haven't done or should be doing.
    I'm blogging too, although still getting the hang of it:

  7. I have three children all under five .My wife claims that her efforts looking after themn and the house ( shared at the w/e ) amount to the same input as my full time job.

    You seem to be able to combine doing the little woman thing as well as kicking in with some quids. Can I take this as evidence that ,as I suspected , she is a slacker and I am doing all the lifting here .

    Looks that way

  8. amy, what gorgeous pix on your blog - if you take them yourself you have a brilliant eye for this stuff. shame that things didn't entirely work out as planned for you but looks like you are still doing sthing you have a real flair for. will be following your progress with interest!
    Newmania, i only have ONE child and a low maintenance husband - given mrs newmania has three underfives to deal with (plus you) then if she's not in the Priory, she's ahead of the game, frankly. i think you should give her a guest slot on your blog to explain her position....

  9. Yikes, that's quite a list. If you manage them all, I'll certainly feel a failure by comparison :-)

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