Monday, June 25, 2007

The emergence of the Flexi-Mum

Having spent nearly 6 years trying to "find myself", I think I've at last discovered who I am again. It's no coincidence that my eldest child is also nearly 6, as I seem to have lost myself immediately after child-birth.

I knew who I was until I became a mum. I was a 33 yr old research manager, working 9-5, or rather 8-6. Suddenly, I was a mother who was still a research manager, but not doing any research except finding out all I could about breast-feeding, colic and baby poo.

Then my maternity leave lapsed and I decided not to go back to work. Suddenly, I was a "real" housewife and full-time mum. I was a really crap housewife, finding it would take m
e two days to complete a full wash cycle, so much to remember, so much to forget and so little time to forget to do it all in. Not to mention the continuous cycle of breastfeeding, changing nappies, trying to get baby off to sleep, meeting other mothers and talking about babies, breastfeeding, colic and nappies. Perhaps I was such an awful housewife because I took the more enjoyable full-time mum bit literally. Somehow, I had been transported into somebody else's life. I no longer recognised me, the old me, the real me and I didn't know where the new me was heading. There was no annual review, no training plan, just a life of making it up as you go along.

When my baby was almost a year old, I got the financial calling to go back to work. It was proper an office, with computers, telephones, other people, projects and tea breaks. At last there was a plan, a future of training courses, meetings and mostly sensible conversation. So, back into a professional working life, I looked forward to the return of my old self.

And did she come back?, no!

Although part of me came back and enjoyed the job, the maternal side of me could not let me throw my 110% into the job. Everyday, I left on time (an hour earlier than most), desperate to get back to the nursery feeling guilty and feeling troubled that I'd left my colleagues to finish pieces of work before home-time. It was such a relief when, nine months later, my husband announced that he'd got a new job in Suffolk. So I handed in my notice and became a crap housewife and full-time mum again, whilst project planning a relocation.

Since then, with the move over and settled into our new town, I have been on a path of accidental self-development, trying but failing to become a domestic goddess, but have been self-promoted to full-time mother of two. Of course, we're talking serious parenting here, completely absorbing what was left of the old career-led person...until...

A few years ago, a spark of my old enthusiasm hit me and I became a governor of a local sc
hool. At the same time, I started turning one of my hobbies into a pocket money business. About eight months later a friend approached me with a business idea, which led to developing a creative company, which is still running today. The pocket money business is also beginning to take off, providing me with a regular but basic income. Meanwhile, I have become an adult education tutor at a local college and I regularly write for a number of publications, whilst having a few other irons in the fire.

However, when people ask if I am a full-time mum or housewife, I have a tendency to still say, "Yes Yes" and if they ask me if I work, I often catch myself saying "not really" or perhaps "a little". This conundrum has developed because I don't actually go "out to work" in the traditional sense and the work that I do engage in doesn't actually feel like work. It's just part of my dibble dabble lifestyle that I've previously discussed.

This dibble-dabbling has made it even more tricky because it makes it difficult to put me in a box and humans like to compartmentalise people and things. Being neither a housewife, nor a full-time mum or a working mother and instead doing this, that and the other, I've been desperate to put my finger on it for a long time, just wanted to feel sorted in a non-neurotic kind of way.

And at last, with a big sigh of relief for you and for me, I have found out who I am and what I really do.

I can now shout proudly from the hill-tops...I am a flexi-mum, yes a flexi-mum. A flexible working mum, giving myself permission to feel good about the fact that I haven't fallen back onto the conveyor belt of work, but am instead being resourceful about earning the money that I do, whilst still spending most of the week with the kids.

A flexi-mum, yes I like that but most of all I really love the flexi-mum kind of life!


I am currently conducting research on the effect of childbirth on self-image and working options for new mothers and would be grateful for personal stories, no matter to which decade they belong. Please feel free to leave a comment or email me at

Also, if your lifestyle is a flexi-mum lifestyle, please get in touch and send me your stories too.


Baba said...

Really enjoyed the flexi Mum story......have just logged on and horror of horrors - no blog to read for today!!!! Please hurry, my routine is suffering....

21st Century Mummy said...

Hi Baba ~ sorry. Have been a bit busy playing at the zoo. But it's alright now. I've just posted up some details and I'll post on time tomorrow. ;-)

Estelle Donovan said...

Actually I can say wholeheartedly that whether you work, stay at home, work part-time or dibble dabble, as long as you are a mum, something has to give and not everything can be done to the exacting standards we all once expected from ourselves. I have spent 8 years searching for the perfect solution having tried most combinations, and have reached the conclusion that we really can't have it all. A perfectly acceptable balance is having a little bit of everything we want though! Keep up with the dibble dabble!!!! Stelly x

21st Century Mummy said...

Hi Stelly, you are so right. I am certainly from the generation of mums which came after the "having it all" culture. I think there is now an acceptance that you can't have it all and I am really enjoyed the bits that I dabble in. Thanks for the support! ;0)