Now that my urban rhythm has returned, I turn my attention to the task in hand - find a job. But hang on a minute, do I mean job? Or do I mean career? Or do I mean both? Neither? Or maybe simply monetising a hobby? Yet again, my friend 'Status Stalemate' has returned.
Since giving up my right to give the confident but perhaps slightly smug reply of 'investment banker' to the awkward question of 'What do you do?', I have floundered in a sea of inadequate replies:
'I'm a full time Mum'
'I'm a domestic engineer'
'I'm a mumtrepreneur'
'I work in non profit'
'I'm a writer'
'I'm a blogger'
'I'm a plumber'
None of these replies have ever floated out of my mouth with ownership and sincerity. Each of them have stuck in my windpipe, made me gag a bit and then jolted out into the air. They just felt and sounded wrong. The thing is they were all true to some extent (apart from the bit where I can fix your toilet) but I didn't and still do not feel I own any of these job titles because I am missing one vital piece of the puzzle- a salary.
So, why is the salary so important? A friend's husband once said to me that I didn't really want a job, that I should just get a nice hobby. Once I pulled the metaphorical seven iron out of the back of his skull, the concept of a precious paycheck with my name in the payee box became even more important to me. Besides the obvious economic necessity for survival in Manhattan, a salary represents a validation of skill and ability....'I am so good at something, someone wants to pay me for it'. It means that I am a fully functioning, contributing member of society. Without it, I feel indulged and cut off from a part of society.
Don't get me wrong, without a doubt the past eight years of bringing up my kids has been the most challenging, rewarding of my life. I have learned more about myself, my friends, family and life through being a full time parent. I also feel I will have a bond of trust and closeness with my children that you only achieve by being there, day in day out, on tap and on demand. I know this, but it is still not enough. I have some great friends (one with a phd) who are entirely complete being a stay at home parent and I envy them. They know who they are and where they want to be. Not the endless stop start journey of trying to get their career back, flapping around the job market like a landed kipper for them! They frequent home furnishing and garden centres with grace and serenity. I watch these types out of the corner of my eye, looking for signs of medication, maybe even a mild alcohol dependency...anything? But no, just contentment.
So, what makes women like us continue to bang our heads off the glass ceiling? Our generation were programmed from a young age to expect a career, to be our husbands equals, to work, strive and achieve. Have 2.1 clean, well dressed and co-ordinated children, preferably a mix of Boden and edgy high street gear. Work out to a point somewhere between Madonna and Bridget Jones. Nigella in the kitchen, Tiger's latest squeeze in the bedroom. Add on top of that the new culture of 'Mummy bashing', you can be damn sure that if your child shows a chink in his/her armour, you will be the one who put it there. These are the curses of our generation. I'm holding my hand up, I am up to my armpits in it.
I know women with garden centre loyalty cards are screaming at the screen - give yourself a break, make a cup of tea or maybe do some basket weaving or something. Wooooahh, hold on a minute! How does that sound...'Basket weaver'? Now that is really a job title I could live with. I think...
yours googling 'Weaving for Winners'