So what news? Well this week saw the resurrection of a potential business idea that I had put to bed a few months ago due to prohibitive start up costs and the fact that I didn’t actually want to go to work. I mean this literally. I want to work, I just don’t want to go to work. There is a big difference, I now realise, between these two statements. When I say I want to work, it means I want to exercise my brain, interact with a diverse group of people, have responsibility, do something vaguely meaningful and preferably get paid for it. When I say I do not want to go to work, I mean I do not want to put my little boy into full time daycare, get in a car and commute to an office, take four weeks annual leave a year and use it traipsing around the world visiting relatives instead of having a proper holiday, and spend my whole time wishing I was at home instead of missing out on my son’s formative years and paying a nanny to enjoy them instead.
“Why don’t you go back to teaching?” my friends cry. They have a point. I taught for two years in Dubai before I had my son and I loved it. I’m not sure I would like it quite so much now though. Teaching has the holidays, there is no doubt about that, but if you want to be a good teacher, it involves working full time hours even if only part of that is spent in the classroom. Many mothers returning to work do a three or four day week but teaching, particularly nursery school teaching, requires that you are there all five days and that’s not even counting the prep time, staff meetings and other extra-curricular activities like report writing and curriculum planning. It makes no sense at all to me I’m afraid. What is the point in putting my son into school five mornings a week at the age of two and then having no time for him in the afternoons either, solely because I’m busy nurturing other people’s children for a pittance of a pay packet?
There is also the social aspect to consider. Working as a teacher does not exactly provide much adult interaction, and as every stay at home mum will attest, adult interaction is the thing that is missing the most from life when you quit work to have a baby. For the sake of my (and everyone else’s) sanity I cannot teach 3 year olds all day and then come home to a toddler. You have to be a special kind of person to be able to do that and I’m not one of them. I miss people – big people – and teaching would not fulfil my aim to one day have more to talk about than children, mine or anyone else’s. I firmly believe that at this time in my son’s life and mine, I can either be a great teacher or a great mum, but I simply can’t be both.
I could, of course, sit and do nothing. For the past few months since my son began nursery, three mornings a week this is exactly the art I have been perfecting. It’s why I started writing, because I have the time and wanted to kickstart my babybrain again after far too long away from anyone over the age of two. But how long I can sit and do nothing for? I’m not particularly good at doing nothing. Gradually, and without me noticing, it plunges me into a depression and I get lonely and bored and end up spending far too much money. On the other hand three mornings a week really isn’t an awful lot to play with. There are always things that need to be done. ‘Nothing’ always turns into ‘something’. I rarely sit with a coffee and a magazine in my hand during this precious ‘me’ time, but I do go to the gym, I do get to shop for shoes and have coffee with friends, and now I’m thinking about adding in yoga or tennis into the mix. All of which is good for the soul but there is this niggling thought forming that I really should be doing something else like….working.
I remember arriving in Dubai five years ago. I was busy settling into life here and not quite ready to start job hunting. Me and my only friend at the time (another ex-career woman turned Trailing Spouse) decided to hit the social scene full on and went to an ‘Expat Woman’ coffee morning. We arrived at 10am on a Tuesday to find the cafe literally teaming with glossy, tanned, air-kissing women clad uniformly in white jeans who, without exception, ignored us completely. We didn’t make any friends that day but I do remember saying over and over “What the hell do these women do all day long??” So ignorant was I back then of how to be gainfully unemployed. In fact, I myself remained jobless for nearly six months and became something of an expert, turning down all manner of things I didn’t want to do before deciding to retrain. Despite the fact that it was my choice, those six months were the most boring and depressing of my life. When I look back I realise that taking one of those jobs, even if I didn’t want it, may have changed the way I felt about Dubai and living abroad completely. It could have instantly given me friends, a life of my own, financial independence and meaning – all the things I felt got ripped away from me when we left the UK and some of which I am still lacking. I don’t want to make the same mistake again five years on.
But it’s different now. I’m not used to going to work any more, I haven’t worked for two years at all and I’ve not set foot in an office for five. I feel desperately out of touch with things and sense that I’m dangerously close to becoming one of those women at the coffee morning. I feel as if I’m virtually unemployable in the traditional sense, along with thousands of other women I’m sure, who take an elongated leave of absence for one reason or another. Sometimes when I’m in a really dark place it kills me to think of all those years I spent working my butt off to get ahead and I blew it by getting on a plane. Then I think of how I retrained, learnt how to study again, took exams and passed them and then did something I loved for two years and I don’t feel so bad. But there is a big blank space when I start to think about what to do next. Maybe working for myself is the answer.
I’m sure – in fact I know – that a lot of women feel this way after they’ve had children. That’s why there are so many who start their own businesses – interior designers/wedding photographers/cupcake companies – it’s a way to return to work without going to work, to do something you enjoy so that at least when it’s taking up all your time and you’re working into the small hours in order to spend tomorrow afternoon taking the kids to the park, it will seem worth it. It’s tempting to join them, but I worry that the market for ‘mumtrepreneurs’ is becoming saturated, particularly in the more creative fields which is where my experience, skills and interests lie. Of course, the way my friends approach the competition is to be really good at what they do. I guess it doesn’t matter how many people do what you do if you’re the best one at it. These amazing, talented, driven women are my role models who make me feel like I want to stand up, get out and join them.
So now all I need to figure out is what to do. I have one idea that would work nicely in Dubai and someone who is vaguely interested in making it become a reality. The problem is I don’t know whether I should commit to it. Firstly I keep thinking I should make the most of the short time I have to enjoy the early years with my son and worry about what I’m going to do when he’s older. I’m just not sure I will last that long without getting really bored or bankrupting us. The other, slightly larger elephant in the room is the question of how long we will be in Dubai for. Should I make the effort to start something new only to move just as it starts to take off? Worse still, what if it’s successful and I get too comfortable here and don’t want to leave? I can’t believe that is actually a consideration, it sounds ridiculous,but it’s true. We don’t know how long we will be here for and I find it very hard to put that aside and ‘go for it’. It is really difficult to contemplate the idea that I would have to abandon my career again – or worse still, my business.
So maybe alongside the Dubai plan I need to think on a more global scale and choose a path that can lead anywhere, or a business that will travel. As a Trailing Spouse and Wife of a Foreigner this is the most sensible option as it gives me the flexibility I need to pick up and put down whenever and wherever. So, here you go, all you recruitment specialists out there, I know there must be something that will fit the bill:
Wanted: Part-time entrepreneurial global business idea with low to no start up costs required for experienced manager with commitment issues. Must be financially and emotionally rewarding and fulfil both the creative and organisational aspects of my skill set. Must allow for approximately 12 weeks of travel per year and not interfere with quality time, either with my child or myself. I cannot bake cakes but I would like to have mine and eat it.
I eagerly await your response.