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What will you do once your children have grown?

What will you do once your children have grown?

When I was in high school I wrote down in one of my many journals what my plan for the future was. With teenage arrogance and idealism I had my life mapped out.

I have lost the written plan, and certainly the plot, since then but I seem to remember it went something like this:

  • Complete school – 1989
  • Go off to study Graphic Design (hopefully at University) – 1990-1993
  • Work in the advertising industry, build up an amazing career, eventually have my own company with my name in bold writing across the front of the building.

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  • Get married in approximately 1996 – you know it’s necessary to have a few years of single life before settling down.
  • Have children in 1998  – because it’s important to have a couple of child free years of marriage just so that you can get to know one another and build up your relationship. Strong foundations and all that).
  • Stay at home to look after those children – note how speedy was my rise to career stardom (five or so years max).
  • Be content with that decision for ever because obviously, who could compare a successful career to human lives?
  • No idea what I wrote next.

In reality my actual life didn’t exactly mirror my ambitions. Surprising really as I was so confident in myself and of course, I could be anything I dreamed of couldn’t I?

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My timeline looks like this instead:

  • Finish school 1989 – yep, got that one right thankfully.
  • Graduate from Stellenbosch University 1993 with a degree in Graphic Design – just about managed that.
  • Spend a year working in a student mission – didn’t expect that one now did you?
  • Get married at the end of that year (aged 22) – WOAH that was quick.
  • Spend next 6 years freelancing, travelling overseas then working full time while hubby completed his Masters.
  • FINALLY have a baby in 2002.
  • Move to Ireland
  • Have another baby in 2004.
  • And another in 2006.
  • OOPS, and a fourth one in 2009.
  • Delighted with all my babies but too exhausted and busy to care about seeing my name anywhere. I see it often enough anyway on the top of letters home to the parents of…

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To keep myself occupied with a life that could revolve around little ones I got involved with helping out at our breastfeeding and local toddler groups. I was also busy with our church mum’s group so there were hardly any dull days.

I found volunteering is a great way as a new mum to mix with other adults and not feel quite so lonely or isolated, especially having moved house.

Now I often wonder how mum’s who go to work when their children are young manage to cope with balancing all the pressures of home life and work life. I also sometimes envy their career successes and freedom that comes with being able to be an adult for a day and make decisions that will be meaningful outside the confines of our little world at home.

I am glad I made the choice to stay at home but I still wonder what it would have been like to not have done that. Was my frustration at being stuck at home with them while my class mates from school and varsity seemed to be living glamorous lives having negative effect on my kids? Or would they have suffered emotionally if they were raised by other loving adults instead of me?

Would I appreciate my children more if I saw them less? Or if I had gone back to full-time work when they were all very small would I be filled with regrets at not having spent time with them while they were little?

I don’t know the definite answer to all of those questions except the last one. I knew that I wanted to be the one to raise my kids and I know I already regret those moments that I did spend with them when I wasn’t fully present, when I pushed them away instead of drawing them closer.

I remember when my youngest was less than a year old, a bouncing baby on my knee, we were out to dinner at family friends and I was asked “What will you do once your children have grown up?” The man who asked the question was my Dad’s best friend and had been his colleague. Sadly my father had passed away before my daughter was born so in a way he was possibly taking on a fatherly role by asking me a question which has come back to bite me on the bum.

Perhaps it was because his wife was now at that stage herself, or because he was aware that my father had paid for my third level education and I was seemingly ‘throwing it all away’ on ‘being just a mum’. (Not his words). Maybe he recognized something naive in my life approach or perhaps he was genuinely interested in my work. I’m not entirely sure why he asked that question.

I was a little taken aback as I felt like I had only just begun my parenting journey and had plenty of time to think about the future. I can’t remember what my reply was but probably something muttered along the lines of keeping my hand in though freelancing while I raised a family.

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Now my children are all at school and this is the time in my life that I never anticipated in my earlier plan. It never occurred to me that once my children were grown up, I’d have a life that didn’t involve them. What happens once my kids don’t need me so much anymore? Can I easily slip back into the career I left behind in 2002?

The short answer is NO! My old career is not alive anymore and there’s no way on this planet I’m ever going to slip into anything dead. (Eek, sorry if that comes across as a bit gross!)

Once my youngest started school I admit I faced a bit of a crisis. Although I had been doing the occasional piece of freelance work, I hadn’t been investing enough time in building up enough clients again. Also the arrival of our children coincided with a massive move across the world from Johannesburg to this small corner of Ireland – I had left all my biggest clients behind.

I was no longer attending toddler groups and I retired as a breastfeeding counsellor. I was sending my CV out and applying for interviews, I even went to a few but never had any success. I was depressed at the thoughts that the only thing I was now good for was spending the rest of my days keeping the house clean.

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That question from all those years ago had come back to haunt me and I finally realised what he was asking me, how would I plan ahead for the future? Well I’m not sure I could have anticipated all the changes and unforeseen house moves but perhaps I could have been more intentional about my work. Most importantly I should have not left my portfolio behind when we moved thinking I’d never need it again!

Looking back though I can see how each stage of my life has worked as a building block to the next. Every time I was refused a job I tried something else and as a result have had opportunities I wouldn’t have dreamed of.

In fact I fell in to blogging when I applied for a job two years ago that I knew I wasn’t qualified for and never got. One of the requirements of the position was to know how to use WordPress so I looked that up, started a blog and have not looked back since. I discovered how much I love to write and in the meantime have learnt a whole new set of skills.

The biggest hurdle I have had to overcome and I still battle with is self confidence. They say it’s a common problem for women at this stage in their lives. I see so many younger adults with way more self belief and yet also way less experience. Now that there’s time and potential for me to embark in a new direction, do I have enough courage to make it work and stick when things get tough?

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You tell them Hillary!

One of the greatest lessons I have learnt through these changing seasons is that I don’t believe that women can ‘have it all’. In other words I think it would be almost impossible for a women to have a full time job as well as raise their children without support or childcare. We each have to make a choice about what we do and at what stage, which is never an easy choice to make. Obviously, for many this isn’t a choice either, or it’s a choice made with great sacrifices whether financial, emotional or parental.

However, I think that in either situation, whether stay at home mum or working mum, it is possible to have regrets about not having chosen the other path.

If I were to go back in time to tell myself anything, it would be to not worry about my future but to appreciate each moment that passes. I have learned that life comes in seasons which change and through them all the greatest gift we can ask for is patience to endure those seasons which are exhausting and stretch us to beyond our capacity to cope.

Also I would tell myself to be content within each situation as I will come to see I have been placed in them for a reason, usually for my good even though I didn’t recognise it at the time and even though some times can be extremely painful.

Would I go back and make different choices? I don’t think so.

I’d tell myself that I will make mothering mistakes as I go along no matter how hard I try to do what I think is the right thing, but my identity and worth are not based on any prestige or success, they are in spite of what I do.

Finally, because I’m a woman who prays, I would remind myself that if I commit each situation in prayer knowing I have a Heavenly Father who protects and guides me, then I can trust Him to walk with me along which ever path life takes me. I know I have a God who loves me and desires good things for me, that He is working all things for my good and His glory, even though I don’t understand it all now.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails”. Proverbs 19:21

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Guest Post

I wrote a post over on Rachel Bustin’s blog about ‘Having it All’ as a mum, here’s the introduction:

Can Women have it All?

I don’t believe so. Assuming that is, that HAVING IT ALL means to have a successful career while simultaneously raising your children, with no other child care (no crèche, no nanny, no au pair, no granny). There simply isn’t enough time in the day! You can ask any new mum and they will not remember when the last time was that they shaved their legs or had a shower or drank a cup of tea while it was hot. There’s just no time for little luxuries like those. Let alone a booming successful business!

I was one of those Mums who decided that I’d give up my full time career and stay at home to raise my babies…

Click here to read the rest.


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55 thoughts on “What will you do once your children have grown?

  1. I love you wrote out your life plan as a teenager…! I love even more that you even remembered any of it (no way I would!). Life has a funny way of never working out how you thought….they say we make plans and God laughs at them. Best now you have blogging…I reckon you will be set! Thanks for joining in with #coolmumclub I really enjoyed this post! x

  2. Terrific post Liberty. One thing though, I would reframe that lack of self-confidence thing: I have come to believe people who doubt are more creative, more genuinely thoughtful, MORE INTERESTING!. There are way too many bombastic types in places of influence fouling up their own spaces, and the planet. I don’t share your religious bent, but iit doesn’t stop me seeing life in metaphorical terms, or reading form into what might well be a random series of events. I do think we kind of follow our own paths, and things often only make sense retrospectively, or maybe that’s us being creative again: making a story out of an avalanche of “facts”!

    1. Thank you Enda, I like the way you contrast low self confidence with a type of arrogance which we’d be far better to avoid in ourselves (and others!) I agree also that we tend to be led by our passions/abilities and interests so to some extent we write our own courses. Obviously we can’t predict the crises or serendipitous events but we have a measure of control over our response. Thank you once again for reading and commenting so thoughtfully.

  3. I so agree with you….I really don’t think parents can have it all either. I have tried it all -stay at home, work part time and work full time and like you say, your parenting life changes as it goes along so value it. I wish I had known this but then, no one does and you don’t really appreciate your role as a parent until it changes! Thanks for this. #coolmumclub

  4. It’s about being open to whatever life brings, maintaining your own identify and not trying to live your life through your kids while nurturing your relationship … And if I figure that out and manage to turn it into a book, then I can probably retire to the Bahamas! (I promise to donate 10% of my profits to the church!!!)

  5. I loved this post and its really got me thinking! Though I only have two children (hat’s off to you for FOUR!) I haven’t really looked much past how I’ll work my hours around the starting school chaos that will ensure. Whilst I’ve stayed relatively within the sector I want to be in, I am a firm believer that once children come along you really can’t have it all…and it takes a lot of mindset changes. Great read xx #blogcrush

    1. Thank you Jess for your thoughtful comments. School life is so busy for kids and when they get sick -as two of mine have, rather a lot – I have found it such a relief that I can be at home and be flexible. I can’t imagine how much extra stress it must put on a working mum having to keep asking for time off when your children need you to be at home for various reasons.

  6. I love your life plan; but I too have definitely realized that life rarely goes according to plan. I’m actually looking down the barrel at the other end of the spectrum and wondering what I’m going to do in 4 years when my oldest heads off to college/ life… I realize that I have fewer years left with my boys and I’m honestly not sure I know what I’ll do when they’re gone. #BlogCrush

    1. That’s daunting too isn’t it? My eldest turns 16 tomorrow and she is so independent, she has said she’d already like to move out! I think that it’s all very well having hobbies but we need work to help us feel useful too. The hardest part is finding a job when you’ve not been in the formal sector for so long.

  7. Great post! I think you are absolutely right about two things: We can’t have it all (aka be “super mom”) and I’m pretty sure most moms get the “what ifs?” about not choosing the opposite path. Life is full of choices and I think there will always be “what ifs?” when it comes to just about anything! But that kind of thinking can drive a person mad. 😉 #blogcrush

  8. I love this so much and I relate to so much of it. I’m a SAHM, with my youngest still at home, but last year, the perfect job for me came up. Although I had had no intention of going back to work at that stage, it was too good an opportunity to miss and I felt like the job was written for me! I applied, was interviewed, and didn’t get the job because I didn’t have any “recent” experience (having been a SAHM for 6 years at that point). I still feel really upset about it, if I’m honest, and have that panic that you describe of wondering if the only thing I’m good for is “keeping house”… but my blog has shown me that I DO have something to contribute and that I AM more than a mum.

    Fab post! #blogcrush

    1. You’re right Lucy, and I’m sure that even if you didn’t have the blog, there’d be a myriad other ways in which people can tell you how much you mean to them. It’s hard for us to accept our worth is not the things we do but rather in who we are and what we represent. Xx

  9. Brilliant post. Your life plan was great. But I actually think your real life has turned out even better. I think we all wonder what our life would be like if we’d made choices. But I’m a big believer that our lives always work out as they are meant to. #blogcrush. Hugs Lucy xxxx

  10. My children are now grown and i found it was a long and painful transition for me. I totally agree that this rhetoric suggesting women can have it all is an unnecessary pressure. I stayed at home to raise my children and as they became more independent took an open university course, opened a bakery, started a hobby blog… Now I’m a full time blogger and bracing myself for becoming a grandma (fingers crossed). I have had to work out who I am when I’m not being a mum and it took me a while to realise, I’m still mum, but I’m more than that too.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience so openly, it certainly is a painful transition – a bit like giving birth, but this time to your own identity again! I wish you all the best with grandparenting, that’s an exciting new adventure and one that never even entered the radar on my plan!!

  11. I think parenting styles change as your children grow older. Even if they out of the house and married – you still continue to parent but on a different scale #globalblogging

  12. Best laid plans haha… Yes I have been a working mum and stay at home mum. There are pros and cons to each. If only there was a third option? #Blogcrush

    1. Mmm, there is the work at home mum (WAHM) but I think that’s the most stressful option. You feel guilty all the time if your kids are with you while you try and work! Somehow your time needs to be separated if you need to give both your undivided attention.

  13. Great post! I am trying not to think about my own children getting older right now. Sometimes I think about when they were babies and I want to cry. They’re only 3 and 4 right now but I feel like they’ve grown up so much. I love that they are learning and that my husband and I try to give them the best experiences in life that we can. I think living for the moment with them now is more important to us than to think about what we’ll do when they move out of the house.

  14. Great post! As a stay at home mom myself I often struggle with finding my purpose outside of being a mom. It is scary to think about them being gone one day because I have given so much of who I am to my kids. This is part of the reason that I love blogging. It helps me find a balance between being a working mom and a stay at home mom. #Blogcrush

  15. I found this refreshing to read, it made me think back actually to all those aspirations I had when I was a teenager going forward. Oh boy could I tell my younger self a few things, but the fun’s in finding out as it happens isn’t it? #blogcrush

  16. I remember planning out my life with my friends at a sleepover… I think in that I was married at 24, was going to have 3 children called Honey, Kai and Star, and I was going to be a writer. Funny the way we do that…! I agree our life passes in seasons – or even chapters – it’s exciting not knowing what’s coming, but it would be good to have a bit of a blurb to give you a vague idea sometimes! #BlogCrush

  17. Great post! I have two young kids and have decided to stay at home despite the 12 years invested in becoming a physician and more time after building my career. I don’t regret it, but it is difficult. I think I used to believe women can have it all, but now I really do not. I appreciate the insight into your experience and path. All the best! #blogcrush

    1. Thank you Margaret. Becoming a physician is a huge investment in so many ways, giving it up seems like a greater sacrifice. However I would say that there’s nothing worth more than time with your kids while you have it. All the best to you too!

  18. Brilliant post – I loved it! I laughed out loud a few times and empathise as another stay at home mum. I am out the other side – if there is such a thing – with grown children now. I never had a clue what my plans were before I had children – I love that you had years planned out. I wish we were friends back then, you would have been a good influence on me haha! xx

  19. What a great read! I’m going to be in the exact same situation. I took voluntary redundancy after maternity leave from my journalism job, and am now at home with my 3 year old and 17 month old twins. I’m hoping my blog will be making money by the time they’re all at school! But I have to say, some days are so hard I wish I worked full time! #ItsOK

  20. Great post Liberty. My answer – I have no idea!
    I also wrote a post on having it all. My was along the lines of what is each individual’s definition of “having It All”. Thanks for linking up to the #itsok linky.

    1. I guess there’s still lots of time before all our kids have actually left the house, hopefully by then we’ll be international bloggers of renown. 😀 The definition of having it all is key, we usually have everything that is most valuable right in front of our eyes without appreciating it!

  21. Such a great blog post, I identify with so much of this being a stay-at-home mum too. Those moments of not engaging as much with my children weigh heavily on me and I too have had thoughts about whether it would have been better for them if I had worked, would I have been more patient, more present, more loving? But then, like you, I wanted to be the one who raised them as it is such a relatively short phase in our lives (although financially and emotionally tough).

    Now as my youngest starts pre-school I think ‘what now?’ I would happily have a fourth, but my hubby looks horrified at the thought, lol! So what next? One thing I have enjoyed is training as a breastfeeding peer supporter and training as a hypnobirth teacher, reminding myself that I can learn and I do have skills, even if I do have a massive amount of self-doubt (something I think that comes almost hand in hand with being a SAHM, particularly when everyone else I know has taken a different route).

    Apologies didn’t mean to make my reply so long, but your post really resonated with me xx

    1. Thank you so much for your amazing response, so good to know that there are others out there just like ourselves!
      Funnily enough I also trained as a breastfeeding counsellor when I was expecting my third. I have retired from that now and am busy studying something else. I think that if you have an active and interested mind you will always find something to keep you busy, I guess the main thing is to recognise the purpose and value behind what you do. I often struggle with being content with where I am, always pushing myself to be doing more. I suppose the important thing is to allow myself to be who I am in this moment and to appreciate what is right in front of my eyes. It can be difficult though can’t it?

  22. Absolutely brilliant post Liberty… a question that crosses every SAHM’s mind at some point. Especially when all the kids are at school. Can we go back to working full-time? Do we still have it in us? Do we even want it any more? So many questions and ifs and buts, and no clear-cut answers. I guess it’s about finding a balance and doing what one feels is right for themselves and the family. What you said is so true, however – sometimes we just need to be in the moment and appreciate the now more. Thanks for linking up to the #itsok linky!

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