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Career Changes

I’m currently short of paid employment. This has happened a few times over the past three or four years. It hasn’t bothered me too much until this year when my savings ran out. Suddenly I find myself financially dependent at times upon my Partner. Doesn’t fit too well with me even though in my previous long term relationship I spent many a year being a “kept woman”.

Being unemployed (or, as I prefer, semi-retired) does lead one to ponder career choices and changes. I surround myself with people who all seem to be working in their dream jobs.

My sister has managed to carve herself a nice career doing exactly what she wants – writing and researching. She’s quite the academic these days, being invited to law seminars to speak upon her research topic which somehow overlaps in to her creative work of crafting work for theatre and more recently, short film. Unfortunately all that work doesn’t pay her much. Yet. She keeps telling me it will happen one day, the cash will roll in, in big clumps rather than paltry tidbits. I can’t help but admire this tenacity of hers. She’s about to turn 40, and she’s refused to compromise her writing career. She sticks to writing what she enjoys, she’s not searched out other, boring, hard writing jobs. The academic career fell on to her by accident. Good for her I say.

The people I follow on Twitter all seem to adore their jobs. That’s fantastic. My own Partner truly adores his work and has worked for the same company for coming up 30 years.

All these people, they’re so incredibly fortunate. I have to search to find the people who work in the drudge jobs, the jobs they hate because the environment is toxic or doesn’t pay well or simply don’t suit them.

So I’ve come to look at my own career history. Thirty years ago, not sure about university, I ended up training as a Flight Service Officer for the then Department of Transport. That job has been wiped out of existence. Many years ago. I left to have the first of my children. In those unenlightened days pregnant women were not permitted to continue working in Air Traffic Control or Flight Service. Not long after my son’s birth, my husband and I decided then was a good time for him to do his compulsory two years working in a remote locality (as per his contract). So I remained a Stay-at-Home-Mum (SAHM) for some years, taking the opportunity to give birth a second time a few years later. My then husband and I felt that his job was highly paid and therefore we had no right to deny an unemployed person a job if I were to return to work. And, the cost of living where we lived in a rural town being what it was (low), I felt no need to top up the family finances.

Fast forward many years. My husband continued to do remote postings. We enjoyed the lifestyle, the travel, the changes. And it was terrific for the kids. Money was good. We were settled in Perth, his family home. And I tried to find work. I didn’t. After a few months I gave up. My husband gave his blessing to resume being a financially dependent SAHM.

More years pass. Now we’re living in Brisbane. An ad in the newspaper, targetting SAHMs looking to return to work. Part-time hours. Perfect. Come work with Suncorp (before it was merged with Metway). I applied. I got in. The extra money was useful, the kids now in school and there were fees to be paid if we were to get them in to private school. The job was crap. Selling insurance. I didn’t believe in the product, I didn’t like the tactics used to get a sale. I moved on to working with the Brisbane City Council in their brand new call centre. More pay. Lots more pay! Job was quite good for a call centre position. I was happy working my part-time, fit-in-with-school hours.

Then. Life changed. Big time. My husband won an overseas posting working in the Middle East. A wonderful opportunity. For all of us. We moved. We emigrated. Scary stuff. Signing documents saying you’ve no intention of ever returning to live in Australia. Back to being a SAHM. My qualifications, such as they were, were not enough to score me work in my new home country of Oman. Didn’t matter. Husband was making heaps of cash, tax free. I helped with the family’s finances and investments, researching where next to buy our next property. I helped Husband & friends with their part time photo journalism careers. All fun. With not a thought on my part on how I could funnel this unpaid work into translatable skills later in life. Then. Life changed again. Big time. Again.

Divorce. I came home to Australia in 2000. Alone. Tried to find work. No career history, no work references, no skills that could be verified. I’d been interested in alternative therapies (a fad we women seem to go through). I did an expensive course. Then the liability insurance thing happened and I needed to do a further expensive semester to upgrade to diploma level in order to set up practice as a … what? Hadn’t decided … massage therapist, aromatherapist or reflexologist. All appealed. But I did not have the funds for the diploma.

So I became an enrolled nurse in 2002. Thought this was a great idea. Nursing or teaching, never out of work. Teaching meant kiddies and that didn’t thrill me at all. So, nursing. Enjoyed the study. Thought about going on to complete the degree to gain Registration but needed a break from study. Graduated as an EN at the end of 2003. Then my new Partner was posted to Alice Springs. Not a problem I thought. Great opportunity. Took me 4 months to find work as a nurse in town. Amazing. Then I had to fight to get part time hours. Once working I discovered NT Health was still working in the dark ages, no staff self-rostering. Okay, I can cope. Staff shortages got to me. I quit and began working as an agency nurse. More money, better hours. Great.

At this time, I’d begun to feel unwell. Odd symptoms. Saw the doctor a few times within a few weeks. Was having a barrage of tests, swallowing a heap of pills. Found the heavy lifting in nursing here was troubling. Then I was diagnosed with GORD and oesophagitis. Nasty. I quit nursing for a few months. But I didn’t recover. The GORD is ongoing. Heavy lifting is out of the question, and I often have severe nausea in the mornings so those early shifts were a no go too. Time for a career change.

Entered the NT Government doing administrative office work. Pay was excellent, much better than nursing. But the job was, at times, incredibly boring and frustrating. Then there was the lack of flexi time in my department. And I still had that morning nausea thing happening. And I was working full time. Which isn’t conducive to a work life balance that leaves one feeling refreshed. I found full time exhausting and resigned after my contract ended after three months.

Since then I’ve done a few temping jobs in offices and departments. Enough work to keep me financial. With a bit left over for cheap hiking holidays.

Looking back over the decades, I realize that I found being a SAHM, staying at home, raising the kids, looking after the running of the household, very satisfying. It was hard work, often involved a lot of planning and logistics, but was paced out through the course of the day so that I wasn’t exhausted by the weekend. And whilst it wasn’t paid, I had the satisfaction of seeing my two children grow up, mature and enter the adult world of university and work. Even during those years of enforced separation from my children after the divorce (my kids remained with their father in Oman), I still played a role in their lives. And that took a lot of work and persistence.

In my recent months of unemployment here, I’ve kept myself busy “keeping house” for my Partner and myself. Some of you will roll your eyes at that, possibly with horror. But I’ve found it reasonably satisfying. With my illness, I often need to pace myself very, very carefully over the hours and days. And I do have to take great care with meal planning. I can’t miss a meal, nor can I risk eating foods that will cause a flare up. So that means planning, shopping, cooking. Cooking from scratch. All very healthy, and cheap too. But time consuming. My Partner benefits from the healthy meals too. And he gets his clothes laundered regularly, and the house kept clean and tidy (within reason, I don’t go overboard). It’s not enough of course. Apart from a lack of cash flow, it would be nice to do outside work, maybe 10-20 hours per week. That’s all. We’ll see how we go over the coming weeks. But I have, finally, come to terms with the fact that I did enjoy my many years of being a SAHM. That being a SAHM was my main career. Pity it doesn’t attract the respect it deserves. Or the money. 🙂

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  1. seantheblogonaut
    June 14, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Have you thought of web design?

    • June 15, 2009 at 4:13 am

      I’ve toyed with this idea over the years. Haven’t done any html work for years, not since making blogs became so easy. Suspect I’d have to do some re-training. Would be fun. I get put off by those who go the heavy marketing route where I’d prefer to keep it simple.

      You run your own web site don’t you? On your own server? Do you find it chews up your time?

  2. June 15, 2009 at 6:12 am

    So much information here but I’d still like to learn more! How true, if only we were paid to look after the kids but I’ve also found that after several years of being jobless I’m keen to earn some cash and prove that I can support myself and have a life outside of the kids and family. Although I’m living my dream of creative writing it hasn’t paid up yet but I’m confident it will and if the worst comes to the worst I can always return to web copy writing. I think we’re both lucky to have this time to explore what our dream is and work towards it without the constraints of a full-time job sucking up out time and energy. Good luck with it all!

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