My blog posts tend to start at the back of my mind and work their way forward over time. It’s like a little niggle of ideas and words which are often not quite sure what to do with themselves.
When this blog post started to niggle, it was going to be called ‘Who Am I Now?’.
The niggle started after I had been to the hairdressers (it was time for a drastic haircut). I was chatting away, as you do at the hairdressers. The chat came around to work and I heard myself say something along the lines of:
“Oh, I’m not working just now, I’m at home with the kids.”
Now, there is nothing wrong with this statement in itself. After my second child was born, a year’s maternity leave turned into 2 more years career break, which turned into resigning and continuing to look after the kids until the youngest starts school. The youngest doesn’t start school for another year yet.
I have no time for the ‘working mum’ versus ‘stay at home mum’ type disputes. I think that each family has to choose what is right for them. I think that what is right for them is nobody else’s business. I think that nobody should feel like they have to justify how they have chosen to balance work and family.
In that sense, there is nothing wrong with me saying that I’m not working and that I am at home with the kids.
But, the thing is, it is simply not true.
In the past six months I have started my own business and taken on a contract with Scottish Cycling as Breeze Area Coordinator. I am also training as a tutor for British Cycling.
That is not ‘not working just now’.
As this niggle worked its way forward in my head, and the words started to form themselves into a coherent idea, I realised that who I am now is exactly who I always was.
I am Diana. I am kind, enthusiastic, obsessive, genuine, passionate, short tempered and unrealistic. I love reading and cycling and cooking. Health and fitness are important to me. Nature and the environment are important to me. Friends are important to me, but not too many, just a few close friends. I need to spend time outdoors. Almost everything which goes through my head comes out of my mouth (or my keyboard).
Who I am has not changed. Not as I have got older and not since I have had children.
It is what I am which has changed.
Before I had children, I was a primary school teacher.
As with most jobs, this took up an good proportion of my time and my thoughts. It wasn’t who I was but it was what I was. It was how I described myself and an important part of how I defined myself. It was especially important in how I defined myself to others.
When I stopped work to look after my children, I became a stay at home mum and this was how I described myself and defined myself to others.
So why have I not made the shift to describing and defining myself as what I do now?
Partly because it’s quite frankly quite difficult to do this in a few words. I am a cycle coach who supports and trains Breeze Champions. I also create teaching resources to support primary teachers in teaching across the curriculum within the context of encouraging physical activity. It doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue.
But I do not think that this is the only reason why I still tell people that I am not working.
I think it is because, at this point in time, none of these things add up to that much of an income.
This is not altogether surprising since I am currently fitting this in around looking after a six year old and a four year old. When the youngest goes to school I will have a bit more time to focus on working.
What worries me is the thought that I do not value my own work because it does not make much money.
We have to use what we are to define ourselves to others because that is how our society works. Where would small talk be without ‘were you working today?’ or ‘what do you do?’.
But there is so much more to what we do than that which makes money.
So why should we only define ourselves by that which makes money?
It worries me that income as a value judgement is so central to our society that I will not value my own work until it creates an income level comparable to what I earned as a teacher.
The change in career which I have embarked upon is based on wanting to be able to continue to drop my children off at school in the morning and collect them in the afternoon. Because I think that that is what is best for my family. The decision has nothing to do with income levels. Yet my own value judgements are based around income.
I think that it is important to us all to feel valued by others. Not necessarily by everyone, but by those we care about.
But surely we also have to feel valued by ourselves.
I do not think that I am alone in looking for validation from others, whether that be my husband, my friends or my bank statement.
I think it is time for that to stop. It is time to value the things I do because I know they are valuable.
My after school cycle club provides fantastic opportunities for children to develop their skills and really enjoy cycling.
My involvement with Breeze is helping to support women in my local area and beyond to get on their bikes.
My teaching resources enable teachers to get the children in their class more physically active while still hitting all the curriculum targets.
I am still a stay at home mum but I was working today.
I may not know how to describe my work, but it is work and it is valuable.