Sometimes ‘this job’s made for you’ isn’t the right answer

Posted by: Cath Jenkin | Date: April 9, 2014 | 9 Comments
AFP

A few years ago, I turned down a job that sounded just perfect for me. I turned it down because it was made very apparent to me after my interview that they’d need me to put the position first, and “get a babysitter regularly”, despite the fact that I was a single mum at the time. When I gently and politely declined the post via email, the company director responded with something along the lines of:

“This is stupid. This job is made for you. It’s disappointing that you put the now of your child first and not her future. You could send her to private school and get a full-time nanny on the salary I’m offering you. With that kind of attitude you’ll kill your career.”

I was 28 at the time, and I never responded, because their answer to me galvanised something within me I hadn’t ever really had the courage to face before. I do, and always will, put my daughter before anything else, whenever I possibly can. And, when someone, unwittingly or not, calls me stupid or otherwise for doing so, I instantly take it as a sign that I’m doing the right thing.

Fast forward to a few years later, where I am a freelance writer and media consultant, and my daily tasks are scheduled around my daughter’s after-school activities and homework routine. I don’t make apologies for it (I have, sometimes in the past, been made to feel like I should … ) nor do I even mention it. I get the bulk of my work done in the mornings, spend the afternoons with her and handle homework and, somewhere around 8pm, you’ll usually find me back at my keyboard, tapping away until I am finished with the day’s demands. I’ve been able to create this schedule that’s centred on my child, because of the work I do and the people I work with.

Sure, I’m not Rockefeller and often I feel like the archetypal poor writer in sweatpants and unwashed hair, who’s counting her cents and wondering if she has any sense. Yes, sometimes I feel like I’m overwhelmed and unprepared. On an all too regular basis, I am swallowed up by self-doubt and want to yell: “It’s rubbish! It’s all rubbish! I’m rubbish!” and daydream about promptly running away to spend the rest of my days making gooseberry jam on a farm somewhere in the countryside.

But I’m happy. Every day, a feeling of gratitude washes over me as I write for a living and race towards my next deadline. Every day, as I finish a project and move on to the next one, I marvel at how the very things I ever wanted in my life are suddenly here, and I didn’t have to sacrifice my priorities to have them. The notion that we “have to sacrifice our personal lives to get ahead in life” is trash.

Yes, there are some days where I have to skip a hockey game and scoot off to a meeting but those incidents are few, and I’m committed to keeping them that way. Yes, I don’t earn enough to put her into a private school or hand over her care to someone else to deal with while I dominate a boardroom.

But I never really wanted that in the first place. What I wanted was to be able to be there for her when she comes home, as much as I could. What I wanted was to make a living out of doing the very thing I feel driven to create. What I did not want was to sacrifice myself, or her, for the sake of someone else’s profit margin, even when they dangled the notion of a more financially comfortable life in front of me.

Somehow, through life’s magic turnings and a determination I have to lean on every day, it turned out that putting my family first would serve my life far more than a job that someone once was said was “made for me”.

Image – AFP

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  • Mary-Anne

    Dear Cath
    Thanks for sharing. Those that are grateful are happy – not the other way round. Be sure you’re doing the right thing for your daughter. And for yourself. :-)

    Freelancing can make you insane – but so can having a well paid board room job. Remaining in charge of your life is one healthy way of keeping sane. 😀

  • Danitza

    Wow, your article hit home in a major way for me. I used to be stay-at-home mom, then worked full-time, then worked part-time and now work full-time again. At the moment I feel that working part-time is still ok and I get those afternoons with my son (now 7) and still get some sort of salary at the end of the day. Now working full-time again, I feel very unsatisfied – yes more money but that goes away very quickly thanks to aftercare and driving much further everyday to get to work…kinda stuck as what to do…I want to be home with my son in the afternoons as I can see the benefits it has on him (and me) especially when it comes to homework, but then I feel guilty that if I dont have extra money I cannot provide for him the way I feel I should (I would also like to send him to a private school one day). To say the least I was much happier and content when I didnt work at all…guess its just not possible for everyone especially when you have a house mortgage and car loan to pay off :(

  • http://www.iamtrishpp.com Pat Pughe-Parry

    Well done Cath. You made the decision that was right for you and your daughter.

  • The Praetor

    In life today, we are taught that we must do everything to get ahead in life, even being selfish and love ourselves more than anything else. We are taught to get that good education and that good job, so that we can earn big salaries.

    To the end of it all, sit back and wonder, has it all been in vain? Yes we have the comfortable life, the money etc, but in this endeavor, have we missed out on enjoying our lives, have we spent enough time with our children and family?

    Due to circumstances at the time, I gave up on a bright career as a legal student, and preferred to take on life as it comes. Today I do not regret a single moment. There has been good and bad times, money not always in abundance, but I am happy

    I cannot see how anyone would want to sell their happiness for the highest income.

    The Praetor

  • Dave

    This is a strange and cruel attitude to work and life that many corporates have. I remember Grey Advertising agency in a supplement about them in FM in the 70’s saying they “knew when their employees weren’t doing their best when their marriages were going well!” No wonder our world is so screwed up.

    Good on you…

  • http://feministssa.com Jen Thorpe

    Loved this article and would love to repost it on FeministsSA.com if you’ll send it to me.

    Jen

  • Fiona Ross

    I love this article, but was sad to see it posted in the Women’s section, as though it is ‘a women’s issue’ rather than a societal one. Surely this SHOULD be an issue that affects men and women equally?

  • iyaibeji

    Loved the article – wise person to work this out in your twenties! I just turned down a similar invitation to a ‘fabulous’ senior appointment which would have made me have so much less time with my children that \I would have lost out on peace, professionally and personally. Fiona’s point is completely supported but regrettably many men generally don’t feel quite the same way about quality time with children and work life balance (don’t shoot the messenger!). Still forward looking!

  • bernard#

    Why do I have to find myself on a women’s forum to see this? Some of my happiest times were spent with my sons, taking them around, being at their events, helping with homework, etc. I only enjoyed this for a short while when self/unemployed. The reality for lots of men is that part-time work is not available or feasible. Would do it differently next time around.