Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thoughts on life choices

I was chatting to an old school friend the other day and he asked me when I planned on completing my degree, it got me thinking; there really is no reason why I can’t start studying again, but the fact is I simply don’t want to.

Growing up, the expectation (to me it felt like pressure) was always there that I would study further and “do something with my life”. I did quite well at school and I was always rather studious, so I suppose it was a natural expectation. Funny thing is, I have never been even slightly ambitious. I truly have never had any desire whatsoever to have a career as opposed to a job.

Much to my mother’s disgust, my dream was always to be a teacher. She had far loftier plans for me, I was to study to become a chartered accountant and take over my father’s business when he retired. She was bitterly, bitterly disappointed when, having headed off to follow her dream, I dropped out of ‘varsity after 9 months and went to work as a bank clerk. I think it was the bitterest pill she had ever had to swallow and I don’t think she has ever quite finished swallowing it.

Once I became a mom, all I ever wanted to do was be a mother. If finances had permitted I would have become a housewife in a heartbeat. If I had the choice I would still give up my job in an instant. Now that my girls are big, I would probably need to find something to keep my brain occupied, but I could quite easily find that something at home.

I wonder what it is that makes some people career-oriented and others not? I know that for me the fact that my parents were both fully immersed in their careers probably had something to do with my determination to be a hands-on type of mom, to have family as my priority rather than work. I have nothing against career-woman-type-moms, if that’s what floats your boat, go for it. But I never had any intention of being one.

I want to be the one who hears all about my child’s day at school the moment they come out of the school gate. I want to be the one taking care of them if they are ill and unable to go to school. I want to spend the afternoon helping them with homework and school projects, ferrying them to swimming lessons and the library. That’s just who I am and those are my priorities. Although we have suffered financially because of this life-style, I’ve never regretted my decision for a single minute. My girls and I have had so much quality time together over the years and to me that is worth far more than any power suit or fancy sports car. I’d choose a sandwich and coffee with my daughters over a business lunch any day!


Just Jen said...

This is so refreshing! You have no idea what this post means to me! You make staying at home a good thing. I'm a stay at home mom and yes we have dealt with the financial backlash, the family and friend backlash for me not working, but all in all...I'm glad I did stay home! I have worked part time or from the home over the years to help out financially but my boys are my 'work' and my JOY!! They're only young once and soon they will be old enough (well the eldest is but I got a few years left with the youngest) to stay home on their own and 'not need me' anymore...sigh...then I'll work full time but in the mean time, I'm holding on to every moment. It goes by so fast.
I'm proud of you for being that mom that wants to know everything and to be a part of their lives so fully, whether working or not working, being an attentive loving mom well thats what makes a mom...a good mom :D

Caz said...

REFRESHING is EXACTLY what I was thinking!
I am a career driven sort but lately I am really really wondering if it is worth it! I am constantly looking at promotions or doing a doctorate and considering my options and the other day it struck me: What about simple quality of life? WHY do we have this guilt urge to continuously strive?

Simone said...

I know I my mom really just wanted to be a housewife. My older sister has been able to do that.

I personally could never see myself at home but for the last 3 years I have been longing for a simpler life style, for a break from teaching.
Its part of our reason for moving.

I will have to find some kind of work so we can travel and save a bit. But at least I don't feel like we wont be able to eat if I don't work.

Marsha said...

I completely understand how you feel. I would never have found a "career" if divorce hadn't forced me into doing something. Much of mine was due to a lack of confidence.

Even after I had a job with a lot of responsibility, I never stopped respecting the women that chose to make or keep their family their top priority. I know even with a "career", that my children always came first... always!

Sigh... life doesn't always allow us to do what we would most want to do does it? It seems to me though, that you've learned to make the most of what life has given you and that's the key to success in my opinion!

Linda said...

What's most important is to do whatever will make you happy. Life is too short to be stuck in any situation that isn't pleasing to you.

I say Bravo to you!!!

Simply Mel said...

Am glad you found my blog and vice versa! Am about to scout around a bit further....

And I am so pleased to find another POSITIVE south african! Viva Us!

Just Jen said...

I got gold for you

allie said...

I found yr blog via Simply Mel - who is my daughter.

I chose to be a stay at home Mom - and I regard any kind of sacrifice ito finances or self fulfillment, a small price to pay for the relationship I have with her and her sibs.

Its the best 'job' in the world, girls - don't let anyone try to talk u out of it. . .

Where else do we get THAT quality of flexi-time

Gill said...

Thanks so much for all the positive comments. As much as I am completely convinced of and comfortable with the choices I made, there are times when I need a little affirmation too and you have all done that for me :-) Thanks!

Tamara said...

Awesome post, Gill. I still feel guilty sometimes that I didn't do what my parenst wanted to and become a chartered accountant or at least a BCom graduate. BUT, if I had, I wouldn't be doing what I love, and I'd probably be miserable.

Jeanne said...

I love this post. My parents decided while I was still at school that I needed to become something medical. A doctor like my dad would have been first prize, but anything paramedical like a pharmacist or radiographer would have done. I knew for a fact that I did NOT want to do anythign of the sort, and luckily appalling matric marks in maths and science put paid to that (As and B's for all non-science subjects though...). Did this deter my dad? No. The next option was to become an acountant (aaarrrgh!) - I wanted to be a copywriter. As a compromise, a BComm was proposed and in the end I got a BComm Law and followed this up with an LLB and later an LLM. But when it came to the PhD, I registered and eventually cancelled it 2 years down the line because I realised that I was doing what my parents expected of my, not what I wanted - and I'm not sure that either of them ever got over the shock of my stopping my studies.

I have subesquently discovered that I am the least career-oriented person in the world - give me a good work-life balance and a lot of leisure time to pursue stuff like writing and photography and I'm happy.

I have told my brother that the best thing he can EVER do for his sons is to let them study what they want to and pursue a career related to their aptitudes, rather than try to impose the parents' hopes and dreams on the kids.

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