Sometimes I get stressed about life (don’t we all): what on earth I’m doing and why; whether I’m doing the ‘right’ thing (is there ever a ‘right’ thing, strictly speaking?). Usually it’s when I haven’t earned much money in a month and am feeling worried about (lack of) money.
Generally I enjoy my varied and relatively flexible lifestyle but at the times when I get stressed and worried about finances (in particular in order to be able to pay for things for the children) I usually start scanning the job websites, hoping that there may be that one really interesting full-time job out there which will use ALL my skills and experience (surveying, management, writing, presenting, catering, creative, organisational, language-learning, music-loving…) as well as pay a decent salary and fit in around childcare…
The last job I applied for, because I thought I ‘ought’ to, didn’t really appeal right from the beginning. I won’t say precisely what it was but it was a full-time surveying job in the public sector. There were one or two aspects in the job description which made me think ‘hmmm’ but by the time I came to the interview I had got my head around possibly working full-time as a surveyor again. Early on in the interview it didn’t feel right… and I left feeling that it was not going to be my job and that I’d feel stifled working there. It won’t be any surprise to hear that I didn’t get it, and nor did I lose any sleep over not getting it.
At the stage at which I was applying and thinking ‘should I/shouldn’t I?’, at least two friends said why couldn’t I do surveying as well as being a chef/writing. As I drove home from the interview I realised they were right: and my conclusion was that perhaps I needed to embrace a portfolio career. After all, I love the variety it brings. A typical week when the kids are at school has a fairly strict structure to it so that I can fit everything in, but there’s a flexibility as well because I’m not tied to a particular office or employer 5 days a week.
So, the majority of my hours are doing surveying work but based from home. Then there is a day and a half at college, at least, plus homework; writing the regular weekly newsletters I write and sometimes other bits of writing (I’d love to write more features), an Italian class and homework; and cooking for dinners.
There are benefits to all the elements of what I do (you’ll notice that there’s no singing practice included above, which is something I really do need to do more of): surveying is something I’ve been doing for years, and is a profession which, prior to children, I got fairly senior within. I feel confident doing it (most of the time) and it earns a reasonable hourly rate – though there’s not as much of it in Cumbria as down south. But my current boss is good to work for and the work keeps coming in, and I get to travel around a bit.
College and the chef work appeal to the creative side to me and also it’s an area where I’m learning lots of new things and progressing – which satisfies the restless, always-wanting-to-learn-something-new part of me, as does learning italian (when I finish the catering course I think I’d like to do Italian A level).
The final bit of the money-earning jigsaw is my writing. I get a huge amount of satisfaction from this and feel it’s something I do well. I love meeting the wide range of enormously interesting people I interview, and also it often makes use of or complements all the things I especially love: singing, running, cooking, history, living up here…
The downside of the current portfolio career is that I never know exactly what my income is going to be from month to month, and I’m inclined to say ‘yes’ to any offer of work just in an attempt to earn as much as I possibly can – as any freelancer knows – and then I’ll end up at times wondering where I’m going to fit everything in. But if one of the children is ill I can usually work from home and look after him/her; if they need to be taken to the dentist, doctor, to piano exams etc. then I can take them, even if it does mean not earning any money for a couple of hours. I can work when I feel like it – late at night; early in the morning (actually, no – I never feel like working particularly early in the morning!); at weekends; at times when I don’t have the children, and I am in charge of my own prioritisation. One of my closest friends commented that at least I could be myself.
When I got home from the previously-mentioned job interview I had a phone call with a local magazine about some freelance work; and I’m now talking to someone about some possible ‘development chef’-type work. One door closes; another opens.
And my conclusion? That I should actively embrace my portfolio career; embrace the fact that I use a range of skills and experience by having a varied work (and educational) life. And as a result I feel far more positive, optimistic and confident than I did when I was trying to fit myself into the ‘correct’ mould for that last job.