I took this first photo of my eldest son two years ago, as he was about to move from infant school to the junior school a mile down the road. A storm was coming and I thought it captured the essence of facing new challenges head on and not being afraid. Now, two years later, my second son, has reached the same place on the climbing frame and has also started junior school. At the same time, my daughter has started school and being a third child she’s already almost at the top. My BUBs no longer toddle, they climb. They don’t dribble, they make jokes. They don’t cling to me, they soar. It’s not only a sad time. It’s brilliant.
But for a primary carer it can be a real struggle. I don’t mean the tears at the school door or the sense of our babies growing up, although that can be hard. For some people, whether they’ve been working around their children’s nursery hours or spending the majority of their time at home, it can be like leaving school all over again. Suddenly the security of the beckoning school gates, the scheduled lessons, the looming exams, it’s all gone. That stage of life has been completed – hooray – but now what? Suddenly there’s a huge blank horizon in front of us and we’re not sure what to paint across it. People start asking you “So what are you going to do now?” Going back to an old job or an existing profession is one option for some. Retraining to try something new is another. Many of the Mums who are sending their last child off to school are in their late 30s or 40s, facing a simultaneous mid-life crisis. How long do I have left to achieve what I want to? Do I even have the energy left? Will anybody want me?
For those Mums who are looking for a job around school hours, who don’t have a job to go back to or don’t want to go the full 9 to 5 and make use of wraparound care, there’s a power struggle in the mind. On the one hand you’ve got the pressing issue of earning some money, and wouldn’t that be nice and often necessary? Then there’s the need to re-enter the adult world and get some of your mojo back. On the other hand there are still the millions of jobs to do at home, the wardrobe clear outs, the garage tidies, the maintenance, decorating and don’t underestimate the day to day school admin. You also might feel you need time to just sit back and recover from the last five or more years where you’ve tried to keep on top of everything. Then there’s the exhausting morning routine, and the after school chaos, the dinner to prepare, groceries to buy, pets to walk. It can feel overwhelming. The hours between 9.30am and 2.30pm pass like lightning. If you manage to find a job within those hours or one that offers some flexibility you are winning, if that’s what you want. But before the search even begins, many Mums are left feeling a mixture of sadness, self doubt, and awkwardness. Just like many of us did as we approached leaving school.
But on a positive note, it can feel like second chance at life and it can feel like a chance at trying something new, career wise. There is absolutely loads of support online for Mums (and Dads) in this position. I’ve recently joined an amazing Facebook group called Flexible Working for Mums Like Me (Dads Welcome!) Since setting up the group in February 2018, Katy has grown this group to over 12k members. It is definitely worth checking out for support, advice and jobs. I’ve got a couple of friends who have set themselves up as successful Virtual Assistants (VA). Maybe creating your own business is the way to go? If so check out this excellent source of inspiration, Carrie Green, founder of the Female Entrepreneur Association. She was recommended to me by one of my VA friends as she’s very down to earth but has some fantastic advice. Her She Means Business podcasts are also worth a listen, and she has a book out with the same name.
Whether it’s blue skies or stormy clouds, autumn is a season of changes and dusting off the old. If you’ve just waved your youngest child off at the school gates, how are you embracing this new stage of life? Or for now are you just sitting down with a cup of tea and enjoying the silence before the storm arrives again at 3pm? If so, you deserve it.