I’ve been freelance for 12 years. I was made redundant from my full-time job as a Managing Editor in book publishing, a job that I really enjoyed and that, honestly, I’d probably never have left had I not been pushed by circumstance. And that circumstance was a launching pad for me training to be a Pilates teacher, and beginning my truly multi-hyphen career which has encompassed Editor/Proofreader/Project Manager/Writer/Author/Pilates teacher/Mindfulness teacher/Conference Speaker…
It’s been a varied and constantly challenging/inspiring 12 years where no year resembled the one before in any complete way. I remember reading a New Year resolution piece in a women’s mag one year that said ‘if you’re feeling bored and like you’ve had the same routine for years, perhaps it’s time to mix it up’…and I thought, hmm, yep that’s NOT ME at all. I had found, I felt, almost a perfect balance of two days a week working in-house in publishing for Pan Macmillan on their health and wellbeing imprint Rodale, now Bluebird Books for Life, and three days of the week teaching Pilates. I taught at a secondary school, I taught evenings in people’s houses and at Pilates studios, I taught corporate lunchtime sessions. I taught a group at the Foreign Office. I met a huge variety of people who I would never have encountered had I stayed behind the desk in my previous employed life.
Then I became pregnant. Naive me, I had no inkling of how being freelance would impact on minor details such as ‘Maternity Leave’ and the financial benefits of being permanently employed. I hadn’t planned strategically to ensure that my working life provided any kind of secure cushion for becoming a mum.
And the past 8 years of being a Freelance Mum has been a rollercoaster of shifting schedules, childcare arrangements, not taking opportunities as logstically they wouldn’t work – knowing that I wanted to be in more secure employment but realising beyond doubt that flexible working hasn’t quite reached the world of book publishing… knowing deep within my soul that I wasn’t willing to sacrifice time with my children in favour of being on a full-time treadmill – but also feeling immensely envious of working mums who had that security and regularity. I’ve realised that it’s much, much easier to get a permanent job when you are IN a permanent job, and if you’re not of ‘childbearing age’. I’ve experienced discrimination in my job applications, being asked about childcare logistics and being told that ‘I’m concerned that you have children’… I’ve realised the immense pressure women are under and how we are often stuck between rock and hard place with our available choices.
My children always know when to get sick: it’s usually within sniffing distance of a pressing deadline. I once had to take my eldest to A&E, and while at A&E got a call from my littlest’s preschool saying he had a fever and had to be picked up, and feeling frustrated that I couldn’t physically tear myself in half to be present in two places at once. My work always felt like it had to be sacrificed in the face of the demands of my children, which was hard to bear sometimes, in my feminist brain, even though I knew rationally that my husband had ‘the solid job’ and couldn’t drop everything and leave work in the way that I, as a self-employed syringe-work-in-all-the-cracks mum, could.
I have felt frustrated by freelance life and motherhood clashing and pulling against each other. I’ve felt tired. Thwarted by nap-resisting babies. Envious of working mums. Sadness that I haven’t been more successful/sadness at the idea of leaving my babies when new opportunities have appeared. Huge feelings of ‘failure to progress’ where career is concerned. My multi-hyphen leaving me spread too thin like the scrapings at the end of the Marmite jar.
And yet. So, so grateful for the time I have had with my two boys in these 8 years. Motherhood has been the biggest life reveal ever. It has solidified my passions. It has set in stone what I am motivated by. It has unleashed a hugely powerful work ethic. Often I have applied for jobs over the past few years. I’ve always been unsuccessful – there has been some reason why I’ve been pipped to the post, it’s not been the right time, I’ve been an also-ran….
I should’ve listened to the universe when it was telling me to trust in the timing of your life. Everything is as it should be, right now….I have completed my training as a Mindfulness teacher. I have written my 6th book which comes out in March next year. Freddie starts school in September and perhaps, a new era is being beckoned forward. I’ve somehow accidentally got a job. Imposter syndrome is rife in my heart and head right now, but I’ve been offered the job of Development Editor at Watkins Publishing and I start in September. All the various Mind, Body, Spirit hyphens have been woven carefully together like a basket. And I should have realised it couldn’t be rushed. No one needs a half-finished basket.
Here I am, trusting the universe. All the feels I’m feeling about going back into full-time employment are for another post. But for now: if you’re feeling stuck, or unsure, or like you’re working too hard and not having anything to show for it: just remember that with any green shoots you just don’t see the hard work they’re doing to push through the surface. All shoots have to develop in their own time. Have faith.