I think I need a new mantra. My old one isn’t working for me anymore.
Most achievements in my life have been spurred on by an “I’ll show you!” attitude. It’s been pretty effective in the past, but it’s feeling a bit meaningless right now.
When I was a teenager, my parents and The Newcastle Star newspaper suggested I wasn’t cut out to be a journalist (too shy). I thought “I’ll show you!” and got myself a cadetship at The Newcastle Herald.
When I was retrenched from my first magazine job, I thought “I’ll show you!” and nabbed a gig at Cosmopolitan magazine.
When the editor disregarded me as a mousy little thing, I thought “I’ll show you!” and climbed through the ranks to deputy editor.
When I wasn’t progressing from deputy editor, I thought “I’ll show you!” and moved to Singapore to edit a magazine there.
And so on …
But it didn’t seem to matter what I achieved in my career, I always felt like a failure. Working in Singapore and New York, editing Woman’s Day when it was selling 540,000 copies a week, being promoted to editorial director of Woman’s Day, Take 5 and TV Week magazines, creating a series of children’s cookbooks … none of it reassured me that I’d done OK.
Now, as I sit pondering my next move, I don’t have any more “I’ll show you”s in me. Thumbing my nose at my doubters isn’t holding the same attraction. Triumphing over my adversaries seems equally meaningless.
Being invited to fancy parties, having a big office and an assistant, driving a nice car, moving and shaking … none of it compares with nurturing my family. I’m really enjoying blogging, baking and having neighbourhood friendships too.
That’s not to say my ambition is gone. I’d love, love, love to edit a magazine again. I dream about launching a title for women over 40 that’s down-to-earth, kind, honest, supportive and fun. Why doesn’t that exist? Surely there’s a place for it?
But it won’t be at the expense of my family. When I marvel to other parents about kids’ concerts and performances starting at 6pm – “my god, how do they expect working parents to get there?” – they stare at me uncomprehendingly. “If they leave work at 5, surely they’ll make it,” they say.
The magazine industry doesn’t work like that. Leaving at 5pm is just not on. She who stays latest is the winner. But I no longer want the prize.
I blogged about my ideal workplace in My Working Mums’ Utopia:
“I’ve decided it would be filled with understanding, supportive parents. Hours would be flexible: early starts with school-pick-up finishes; job shares; school-hours roles; no dirty looks when you leave at 5pm. I reckon it would go gangbusters. Working mums work hard – they get the job done (right) and get out. No mucking about, no time for faffing. They’ve got places to go, kids to pick up, dinners to cook. And if they think they can do the job part-time, I say give ‘em a chance. Since I’ve stopped work, I don’t see the two-full-time-working-parents scenario as being truly viable. It means outsourcing vast swathes of your parenting to nannies, daycare centres and OOSH. But parents (and kids) need more than that. Our kids should be able to leave school some days with their mum or dad, kick about in their own backyard, do their homework before dark, have playdates. Not be constantly rushed from pillar to post by overstressed adults weighed down by too many responsibilities and expectations. I want to work. I want to be a mum. I want to do both well (and still have time for me). It should be possible.”
If I don’t work in magazines again, so be it. I’ll find other outlets for my relentless creativity. I’ll blog, bake and nuture friendships. I’ll eat dinner with my kids every night.
Such good things.
SO, WHAT DOES YOUR IDEAL WORKPLACE LOOK LIKE?