What I hadn't counted on was to find it sufficiently thought-provoking to have spent the past few days pondering and reassessing various aspects of my life.
I returned to my 'career' last year as opposed to returning to 'work'. I loved it so much as it gave me back my identity that had become so buried under 12 years of motherhood. But I loved it too much. I became hooked on the buzz of work and totally lost sight of any kind of work-life balance.
I know everyone's life has complications but my life feels particularly complicated at times with my eldest son having aspergers and my youngest daughter undergoing treatment for Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis.
J's aspergers can leave me feeling emotionally drained and physically exhausted by 7AM (!!!) on some days. Miss T's medical appointments can take over an entire week on occasion. Her reduced immunity which goes hand in hand with the methotrexate treatment can lead to sudden and unexpected illness, and potentially unplanned hospital stays.
All this makes having a regular job kind of impossible. I was lucky that I had flexibility with what I was doing last year and I was so determined to make it work that I put my work as a priority over my family.
By Christmas, I knew I had too much on my plate and something had to give. The only thing that could go was work so I stopped.
But again I found myself feeling lost and without my own personal identity beyond the title of 'mother' and I started very very small scale with a few hours freelancing here and there.
Even those few hours robbed me of any free time. On weeks where we were busy with medical appointments, it became nearly impossibly to even fit those few hours work in. But at least I had a work 'identity' once again.
So Monday evening helped me assess and think and prioritise. I've started to draw some conclusions and I wish I had come to these conclusions sooner:
- I know I need 'something' of my own apart from being mum, but I'm realising that the 'something' doesn't HAVE to be work. I would cherish finding time to read, I love learning to bake different things, I have hobbies that make me happy that I desperately wish I had more time for.
- I have to accept that there are times that my life will be stressful because of the kids medical situations (I haven't even mentioned my own arthritis here that has always played a part in dictating the type of work I can do and affects my own day to day life).
- I have to question why it is only 'work' that makes me feel valued. I have always struggled with understanding why society seems to place more value on professional identity / job title / work status than family situation and yet when people are honest with themselves about what is truly important in life and what matters most, the answer is usually family. So why doesn't society reflect that?
- I need to adjust my thinking to KNOW that what I am doing in caring for my family IS important and is valuable. And then gradually allow my self-confidence to build to reflect that.
So whilst many were inspired by the evening to think about returning to work or to gain the confidence to negotiate a flexible approach to their work, I have actually quit the few hours that I was doing in favour of starting to value myself and my role as mother more.
Trusted make-up brand No 7 were there to give make-up advice and do mini-makeovers. I was really pleased that the make-up element of the evening wasn't the focus of the talk. In day to day life I rarely wear make-up - I find that I just don't have the time, and feel perfectly happy to do the school run as I am.
However for work and for special occasions I do prefer to wear a little bit of make-up. For me, I think of it as part of the dress code. I'd dress rather more smartly for work than just throwing on my usual jeans and T-shirt, and that extends to how my face and hair look too. Ditto for a special event or occasion. If it is worth putting on my favourite dress for, then it is worth the effort of applying a little bit of make-up.
Sadly, I don't have any decent photos of the evening to share as the camera on my phone is beyond useless for taking photos! With my 40th birthday coming up this year, I think it is high time I treated myself to my first iphone to be able to get some nicer photos.
Thank you to mumsnet and No 7 for hosting this event and to the wonderfully inspirational guest speakers too! I have not been compensated for writing this post and all opinions are my own.