What now?

posted on: Wednesday, 6 August 2014

A curious thing has developed with me; it took hold a few months ago and hasn't fully abated. I am ashamed to say that it coincided exactly with my 40th birthday so can only really be claimed as an old fashioned mid-life crisis. Oh, I am that cliche! It is curious for a number of reasons - but mainly because for the first time in my life I have more choice than ever. I quit my job a year ago and honestly it felt like the world was at my feet. I look back on those heady, early days of freedom and see how very good for me it was to escape the confines of the corporate world. There seemed to be so much possibility ahead.


Over the course of the year, normalcy has set in and after years of observing the stay-at-home-mother from across the fence, I found myself neck-deep in all things to do with children and home. The combination of teenage daughter, house build, busy husband, inquisitive, active son left little room for many of the pursuits I had imagined. Not due to lack of time necessarily, but what I found was that all of the things that I longed to do when I was working; have a super-organised house, cook delightful meals, attend every recital and sports match, keep up with friends, be groomed and have painted toenails, they became strangely 'normal' in a fairly short time. This is no bad thing but what I realised is that when you are working and you long for an extended holiday, it's all the sweeter because of the contrast. If there is no contrast in life, the straight-line sameness of it can become cloying.

With our friends on holiday, we had one of those defining, red wine-enhanced conversations. Do you ever find that you can get more of an insight on what your spouse is thinking from hearing him in conversation with others? I think this is a symptom of having been together for over 20 years (yes, really!) where you no longer spend hours and hours discussing your feelings. When you have a life and kids and a house and a million things that need doing, discussions are short-lived and interspersed with other stuff like logistics and cooking and in laws dropping in. So anyway, we got talking about retirement and what it meant. Now to be clear what we meant by 'retirement' was the point at which we will no longer need to work. And I accept that the day we decide we no longer need an income might be a long, long, long way away but nevertheless, we starting discussing what we might do and where we might live.

Of course my first statement was that I wanted to live somewhere with palm trees (see previous post). This is the single biggest requirement for me. And a beach. But beyond that, what I hadn't considered is what I will actually be doing with my time. All of the frantic scheduling and dropping off/picking up of the now will fade away over time. What a thought?! I am not sure what to make of that! Family life becomes so very in-the-moment that it's near impossible to imagine a day without putting the needs of others before mine.

Increasingly since the mid life crisis set up home in my head, I have thought about where we will go when we no longer have to stay at home. Now home is all; it's the hub around which the children's lives whirl and in that spin I am the key facilitator. I make it all happen. But the idea of free-form days somewhere else, with no real agenda is tantalising but also terrifying!

What I do know from my current status is that two things are becoming increasingly important; one is to have company and the other is to have occupation. That may or may not be paid occupation but having something to do is starting to be a requirement. I look around at my peers and see women who have spent years in this state I am in now. They revel in it and to some extent I do too; there is nothing as liberating as knowing you have time tomorrow if it doesn't happen today. But increasingly I consider the possibility of another forty years of this and feel that I have more in me to give.

The big question is: what shall I do??!!


14 comments:

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  3. The sand is always whiter on the otherside of the beach....I have a friend who does live under a palm tree, seeking escape only during the monsoon. With nothing but sun, sand and sea they spend all their time talking about who's doing what with him or her or them........ the constant twitching of palm fronds instead of net curtains it's like living in a goldfish bowl, it's not called Beachenders for nothing!!

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  4. Oh my goodness, that old chestnut! I am in the place you speak of - and frantically trying to decide what to do - pottering around gardening etc. soon palled and I now find myself a lot of the time on the computer, reading blogs, checking Facebook, finding out what others are up to - living vicariously! So, if you find out what to do - please share!

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  5. I too felt like you... That I had more to give. So, I started to volunteer. First at my children's school, I became class mum. Then at the library and then for a group known as Clean Ocean Action. I get so much more satisfaction from helping out, gratis. Doing something because you care and not for the pay check is a lot more rewarding. It's all on the back burner now while we await the birth of our next daughter, but I will definitely pick up the reigns once I am able to. Lx

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  6. Hi Lou. I lived with the palm trees for the last 13 years and let me tell you Lou, problems still arise even when the sun is shining. I went through the same thing when I left the corporate world. In the end I have finally learnt that what I may feel like doing now may not be what I want to do in 25 years (more than likely won't be), and that's OK. It's a sign of growth. If you were happy doing the same thing from your 20's when you are in your 40's, that would be a little worrying ;-) Nothing has to be forever, only for as long as you are enjoying it. There never has to be ONE main thing. I recommend the Barbara Sher book 'Refuse To Choose', it helped me a lot xx

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  7. Write, grow your little company, travel the world and practice a lot of yoga. It's hard to be creative and imagine what you are going to do with a lot of time, if all that's missing at the moment is time. Family life is gratifying, yes, but it also leaves very little room for creativity. You'll find your spot, I am sure. Be it under a palm tree or somewhere else. Dxx

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  8. I love Metropolitan Mum's response. Take every advantage of the time you now have. That's what I tried to do. I did a lot of yoga, I took some guitar lessons, I volunteered a lot at school, I spent time with friends, I cooked a lot of good meals, and our house was CLEAN.

    I know you know I've gone through a very similar thought process. I took the time to see the stay-at-home mom's perspective, and I feel so lucky to have both views. I loved almost every minute of my time at home, but after a couple years off, I've decided that it's time for me to work again. I still maintain that there must be a better balance - I wish I had a part-time solution. But who knows how I'll feel once I get back into it. My boys aren't babies any more. My husband is in a better position to contribute more at home. Already that will make the balance easier. And I'm excited about work. I really am. Scared as all hell, to be honest, but what's the saying? You should do something every day that scares you? Well, I feel like I haven't been scared in a while. It's time.

    Oh and I really do wish we could have that cuppa tea and unload all this. It does help, which I'm sure is why we both like to write about it on our blogs. :-)

    I have one month left. I'm going to relax in Spain with family, explore Amsterdam with friends, get my kids started in a new school year, and then get ready! I will let you know how it goes...

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  9. Lou I forgot to say. Watch this by Marie Forleo http://www.marieforleo.com/2014/04/find-your-passion/
    She's all about creating a life you love. She's really pragmatic and not at all woo-woo (and Oprah and Richard Branson love her!) She has some really great short videos that I think will get your creative juices working. But if you can watch the link above x

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  10. Maybe it's because I too am away on holiday right now.....but you have described, uncannily, exactly what I am feeling right this second!!!

    I have had a million & one thoughts whilst I've been on the beach this past week....which isn't unusual for me & certainly not unusual for me whilst I am away.the difference this time though us that they haven't just been thoughts....they've been thoughts of change, as in big changes. And - bizarrely - the phrase "mid life crisis" passed through my mind....and I have never experienced that before (you know me & my denial about getting older ;)).

    Another odd thing....I've read 5 books this past week & all them have really spoken to me in some way or another, I've recognised myself in characters in all of them, it's been really strange! And it hasn't always been in a good way, more an "I need to stop doing/behaving like that" way!!

    I can really relate to so much of what you say above....having been home for 9 years, I have felt a very strong yearning to get back into the workplace over the last 6 months or so.

    I think part of this is age related and part of it is just me.

    I love what Deborah & Mary say above & I know from their blogs that they have both made changes recently....achieving the right balance is a challenge - it's THE challenge perhaps.....I know that my life balance is just not working out for me right now. Time for change most definitely.

    I love reading aboit your life & feelings about it....so interesting to see how you have found life at home....I cannot believe it has been a year!

    Great post Lou Xx

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  11. Hi Lou,
    Totally empathise/sympathise with you and your post.
    I'm 10 years plus on where you are now - and I'm still looking!
    I know I've got something in me - but just don't know what.
    And too many thoughts on the subject to fill a comments box!
    I look forward to seeing the direction you take.
    Have a lovely day,
    Liz x

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  12. Lou, try this book 'What Should I Do With The Rest of My Life' by Bruce Frankel. It's worth reading if the other is no longer in print. It might just ignite something. But it will also show you how what you are feeling is in the majority not the minority ;-) Thanks for your comments over at mine xx

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  14. A really short message, but just one to say, that I love reading your blog. It's definitely the one I get excited to see updates to on my feedly! I never really post comments, but ALWAYS read the posts! I know you read your readers comments so just wanted to say how much I enjoy the blog! You can verbalise everything I feel, but am unable to put into words!

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