“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I don’t know who first asked me this question but I remember I never had a fixed idea as to what I would like to do professionally. I wanted to write, so somehow ended up studying English language and reading more classics than a sane teenager would commit to having the option of going out instead.
Growing up in Poland, the education system was strict. It changed a lot since, and sadly things like “40 books a year” challenge and Latin as a subject choice amongst your GCSEs are no longer there.
I had more of an idea about the man I wanted to marry. At the age of 12, my requirements were as follows: he will have a driving license and he will be able to play a guitar. Those were my priorities till the age of 17.
My writing streak subsided when I decided to leave the university in the pursuit of a job that brings me immediate funds to pay for my newly found passion for being an adult. I rented a flat and decided having a job would serve me better than reading Ulysses. That was the beginning or something odd, yet strangely satisfying and fulfilling. I discovered the true passion of mine was having a purpose and being productive, no matter what the job at hand was.
What excited me was learning new skills, reshaping my professional offering, and climbing the monkey bars of the career ladder, without a sole direction. I wanted to be the woman with a myriad of skills. I wanted to be Isabella d’Este of my patch of the world. Psychologists would have a field day trying to understand the reasoning behind this drive, but there I was, at 17, trying to figure out life.
From the moment I turned the glorious age of 18, I worked as a sales person, account manager for LaPrairie cosmetics, moved to London, finished a diploma in cosmetology, I travelled with Eve Lom (the actual person behind the brand) and did presentations for Magazines who wanted to know about her amazing products. On Fridays and Saturdays I worked as a shooter girl in central London, serving alcohol till 3am, to then wake up in the morning and go back to a private school I paid for myself.
I worked as a financial consultant and then a partner in a finance firm, after re-training and qualifying as a finance specialist in Zurich. At the top of my career, I decided to pack it in. I reevaluated my life after my cousin’s suicide and decided I will not spend the rest of my days doing the meaningless money pushing and drinking overpriced cocktails in the city bars.
In the same year my first marriage fell apart (I am convinced it’s because he could not play the guitar. Things would have been different if I had stuck with my childhood relationship plans).
I then moved counties twice, met my second husband, started working as an HR director for a marketing company (yup, a complete shift of responsibilities and skills), did it for a couple of years, then started a software startup, which got covered by all the major publications, I even ended up sharing my story with Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. Then another career glacial came and after giving birth to my daughter in 2014, I reevaluated my professional needs and skills, together with the time at hand and embarked on the photography journey, by far the most rewarding career in my life.
Through all the craziness, working a lot, studying, trying to maintain a basic social life, I was happy. I was fulfilled.
At no point in my life have I ever thought I needed a child or children. Never have I dreamt of a big white wedding. I ended up with two of each: weddings and kids.
What point am I trying to raise in this post? I want to talk about fulfilment. No matter whether you know what you want to do in life professionally, you always have an idea of how you want your life to look from a day-to-day point of view.
Even though my own mother is a qualified nutritionist, I never wanted to spend my days in the kitchen. To this day you won’t find a cooked meal in our home, except for Christmas day, when it’s done by my husband. I cannot find a common language with toddlers, even though I have one. I love babies but the thought of spending all my hours picking up toys and cooking 4 different lunches in a sheer hope they would each 5% of at least one puts me off entering the kitchen.
I love working. I love servicing clients, and making a difference this way. I love a professional challenge, yet any challenge at home cripples me. I find 100% of my fulfilment at work.
The pre-baby me always expected for all this to change with a baby, I was secretly hoping to become Martha Stewart in the kitchen but ended up picking up more of her finance tips instead (thankfully not all, hence why I am still on the right side of the prison walls).
There is a lot of mothers (and fathers as well, but that’s a whole new blog post) suffering this new reality shift in silence. Sometimes you are on the receiving end of a post natal depression, but what if that feeling never left you?
From the age of 25, the whole world wants you to settle, preferably with an unmarried, solvent member of the opposite sex, and straight after that ring is on (there has to be a ring, otherwise they are not “committed enough” according to every auntie in the universe), you need to reproduce. Because that is your basic function.
What if this is not in your nature? How many times do we hear the “not everyone is like you, Janice”. Yet do we really realise we are all different? Most of the character traits can be comparable, but we are all different. Some of us physically cannot conceive, but this post is about those who can and choose not to, or are considering the options. I am not here to tell you not to. I am here to tell you “I understand” if you decide this path is not for you.
I have a theory on the subject.
Somewhere someone decided to have a child. They were not the “kiddy” kinda person. They thought baby will change their attitude to family life. It did not. They were now a non-kiddy kinda person with a child. A little human, who didn’t ask to be here, who is not at fault. Who is a result of you just “testing the water”. But they are here now and need the best home you can give them because they deserve the best. They need your love and protection, but you have no love to give. Is this fair?
Maybe you are that child?
The parents realise things are not what they were meant to be, life didn’t just fall into place. They realise it’s harder than they thought. Then their friends get married. We come over, congratulate and say: “So next thing, the little one to complete your family!” We want more people inour circle of doom, without the fire exit. “Come join the dark side” they say. Except we do mean it.
I am not qualified to give life advice, whether it’s on having family or not. Some people dream about having family and those are the people who usually make it work. They want it with every fibre of their being. If you are not one of them and are currently sitting on the cross roads pondering if you would like to commit the majority of your awaken hours for the rest of your life, to another human, who will never be able to repay you for this selfless act, please think about what truly, genuinely fulfils you. Can you imagine yourself at 4am watching endless episodes of Peppa Pig? Chasing little ninjas around the house and wipe porridge of a beautiful corner sofa that you just got delivered, even though it’s not yet the DFS Christmas sale, but just because you wanted it?
There will be many who claim you can have it all, mostly people with the same enthusiasm I had pre-baby, accomplished professionally and considering all tired mums incapable of getting their shit together. Having a human is having a deadline 4 times a week, whilst you hobble on crutches through the Gobi desert, with only sardines as a snack and no water to flush it with, in heels. It’s bigger decision that a marriage (so much harder to divorce your child).
Whichever road you take, it will come with personal sacrifices. There will be different levels of emotional discomfort involved. Social view of your choices will be the least of your worries, and YOU will be your own worst critic. The truth is, you can’t have it all, but you can have “most” of it, and if that bit is fulfilling, it’s almost if not just as satisfying.
Blog post inspired by one of Dawn O’Porter’s heroines from her book “The Cows”, which I cannot recommend enough.