That prams and art are not mutually exclusive.

Living the other half of the life half lived

I reached into the far corner of my wardrobe and felt the once familiar fabric of my tailored pants. I had a day to prepare for the interview, and my day-to-day ‘mum uniform’ of jeans and a t-shirt would just not cut it.

Since leaving a management position to become a stay at home mum four years ago, the tailored pants have only made it out of the wardrobe for funerals. Appropriate really, as getting dressed every morning for work had felt like attending my own funeral. Facing row after row of brake lights on the freeway, I would wonder ‘Is this all life has to offer me? 12 hour days, a long commute and unpaid overtime?’ My healthy salary didn’t come close to compensating me for the life I was no longer living, but simply enduring.

The choice to leave my job to have a baby was a no brainer for me. I would happily lose sleep to my crying newborn: to pushy committee members or dodgy education agents, not so much. But I concede my resignation was hardly a plan, I simply had faith that the world would open up for me when the time was right to come back.

Recently that faith has been wavering. Four years away from paid work – away from computers, spreadsheets, budgets, not to mention changes in government at a state and federal level – and I’ve found myself consumed by thoughts of that messy re-entry into the world of work, made even more complicated by my family responsibilities.

I’ve never regretted my decision to stop and have a family, but it does come at a cost, and the past 12 months I’ve been wondering if I’ve paid with my future. When should I go back to work? Will those tailored pants still fit? Do I even want to wear them? Or do I try to find a career that will fit me and my family?

Motherhood has pulled me out of my comfort zone, and in doing so I’ve found that I’m far more capable than I ever imagined. I can stretch and reach for something seemingly beyond me, and not break. The fear of being a fool no longer holds me back from trying new things, for I know the feeling of not having tried is far less forgiving.

And so yesterday I attended my first interview in over seven years. Still within a university – the setting of my career – only this time, the interview was for a place in a professional writing and editing course.

As I waited for my name to be called, I paced the corridor like an expectant father. I soothed myself by reading the numbers on the rooms around me. My mind raced at all the possibilities ahead of me: my chest ached with the sheer weight of anticipation. I looked out of the windows to the city skyline and a peek of plane tree foliage and I took in a huge, loud breath. The nerves, the ache in my chest: this is what it must feel like to be living. Living fits me well.

Have you ever made a big change in your life? What made you take the leap?

23 Responses to “Living the other half of the life half lived”

  1. Megan @ Writing Out Loud

    All of this is going around in my mind too, Karen. All I wanted was to work in a steady, secure office job, and then I left it all behind. Now, while revisiting it briefly, I’ve found there’s nothing I want LESS than that. Interesting where life takes you when you take a risk.

  2. My Big Nutshell

    So happy to read this post. My work doesn’t know it yet but I need to resign from my executive position in a government agency. I worked by butt off for that position. Like Megan said, There is nothing I want less. The money is big, but I never considered the money. All I thought was how I’d need to up my mental health insurance even more cause that is what it would look like.

    I love how you said you can face it head on. It sounds like you’ve got the headspace for it. This gives me hope. I don’t think I have the headspace. I can’t. It is full. I can’t have anyone else wanting me and needing me. The money doesn’t come into play for me. It’s signing over my mental health for assistant director, three days a week 8.30-5.30, three kids, on call, available always. can’t have another group of people who don’t get it access me. but I like you’ve given hope for when the time is right.

  3. Jen - Lovely Living

    I think you are amazingly brave! It takes a lot of courage to change your life in such a big way. 5 years ago hubby and I left our very secure jobs in Sydney. We packed our bags and moved to the Gold Coast and started our own businesses. 5 years on our businesses are thriving, we work from home with our children buzzing around, we are debt free and love life! While change often is scary it can be the best thing you ever did!

    Good luck 🙂

  4. Sara

    I understand completely where you are coming from. I’ve only been at home with my baby for 4 months & already I am doubting if & when I will go back. Hearing you talk makes me wonder if I will miss work or not. Something for me to reflect on some more I think.
    Good luck with your interviews

  5. Tom Hay

    Wow. I came here from a random facebook link and really enjoyed your writing. If this post is indicative of your talents then go for it!

  6. Secret Water

    I applaud you for being brave enough to take the break and give motherhood your all for four years and now to not follow the well trodden path of expectation and go back to the same job but with the added challenge of a fmaily that demands your attention. My motto: “Live the life you’ve imagined”.
    Good luck!

  7. Kymmie @ a day in the life of us

    I don’t think there will be a problem for you to take a 180 degree turn and get the hell out of administration. (I know, four years!) Funnily, I often wonder where I will go from here. Motherhood changes you so much, and yet you’re sort of the same. But then you can’t go back.

    I can’t put it into words, but you certainly can. xx

  8. kristy@houseofprowse

    Do it – don’t look back.
    There is no other choice – you have the talent and the desire.
    You can do it and you will be a great role model for your boys and other aspiring writers.
    Think of the legacy and the bravery that your boys will have and see because you took that step and went for that interview. (Glad you found a sitter!)
    And if you don’t get in (they’d be crazy!) then have a back up plan and try another way around and in. Don’t give up on your dreams – you can show your boys!

    Also – what worked for me – entering Chem Engineering as a female, mature aged, public school, rural student was…
    1) Find the right people around you to support your dream – mentors, inspiring pathfinding people achieving their goals, and others (writer’s) sharing your dream. Ask for their support, comments and help.
    2) Determinationg – never give up, if it doesn’t work out like you want – change your goal / modify it to suit the family and you. Nothing is lost – it will still provide great research for writing material.

    You have too much to lose by not having a go.
    Go get ’em Tiger!

  9. Sarah

    Can we be friends in the ‘real’ world because I cried when I read this…Im wrestling with these thoughts too…Ive returned to work part time after my second round of mat leave, I dont like it, I know who I want to be but to get there means giving up what I thought my career was, it scares me that Ill wear the mum uniform forever but funnily enough pulling the tailored pants back showed me they fit but I didn’t like how they looked anymore x

  10. Steffani Packard

    That’s so exciting for you!! I’m happy that you took that jump and put yourself out there.

    As for a big change…I’m quitting my full time job with awesome benefits and huge pay because I HATE it! I plan on going to school full time and working part time at a bar, which I never thought I would do, and I am so over-the-moon excited about it!

  11. Diminishing Lucy

    I can relate SO SO much Karen. I could have written those first few paragraphs word for word. I have spent the last couple of years wavering.
    I have recently taken that leap. So far, all good. All of us, all good.


  12. Naomi Bulger

    Wow, this is such a big change. Again! I’ve never been in your position and I’m trying to imagine it – first the leaving work to become a full-time mum, and then the going back – I don’t know how you do it. I have made big changes and taken big risks in my life, yes. Like moving to New York with no job, no visa and nowhere to live, for one! But I think I would struggle more in your place, because my move to NYC was all about me, I didn’t have to factor other people into the risk. I so admire your honesty and vulnerability, and I’m so personally inspired by your journey. Bon chance, I hope this is a glorious next step for you and your family!

  13. C.B. Wentworth

    At the moment, I’m standing at the precipice where a change is getting ready to occur. I went to London this summer for an extended stay, where I spent my days as a writer gathering inspiration and writing long into the evening. Coming home has been a hard adjustment and has brought to light some choices I hadn’t considered before. I’m still figuring it all out, but I know my life has changed and will continue to change. 🙂

  14. tinsenpup

    You’re really out there doing it. Congratulations! There’s no such thing as failure now, just the next step – one after another…

  15. jennifersmart

    I’ve made several big changes in my life & I expect I will continue to do so. I’ve changed countries and moved back again, I’ve been a full time mum, I’ve changed careers, reassessed and changed again. And now, I’m moving towards something I’ve long hoped/worked for, But I’ve always fretted and worried that I’m not making the right decision, will I be good enough etc,etc. It’s not as haphazard as it sounds – I make plans & move towards them. I think that is the way life moves, ever evolving.
    Good luck with the interview. I’m very confident you’ll be successful.

  16. Sarah Bendeich

    Plane trees, deep breaths and tailored pants – exciting times! You have a shining talent Karen and I love reading everything you write. You’re going to do SO well.

  17. Cat

    I have made some big changes in my life like this and that funereal feeli you describe made it easy for me to do so which is odd in a eay as i agonise over things a lot. The first big one was to give up full-time working in the banking sector to study full time in event management and tourism (I now teach the same course I once took). At the time people said I was brave but I couldn’t handle the idea of playing safe anymore and new that if I stayed safe at (then) 28 I’d stay safe forever. I never looked back and work in an industry I like very much. When Bebito was 6 months old I started applying for jobs cos I didn’t have one to go back to having temped for the year before he was born. I was offered every single job I interviewed for (3 all up) but none of them felt right. I didn’t want to work 3 or 4 days a week. I know that suits some people but it wasn’t for me and I’m so glad I let those doors close as now that I teach life is much more flexible and works well for our family. I guess on these things I totally went with my instincts cos sometimes that’s all you have to go by.

    I really hope you get offered a place in the course. I think you supremely talented and have everything crossed for you!

  18. Bright & Precious

    I read your post over a week ago and was wanting to comment immediately but had a brain fog and finally now I have a chance! I can relate to that pain in your chest that feels like ‘living’. And you’ve expressed it so well. Every line had me glued to the screen. I wish you all the best. x


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