I've been getting ambitious lately. I don't know how it happened. I started off being perfectly sensible - on leaving university (after finishing the masters next year) I would go out and get a steady(ish) job in a production office. My first job wouldn't come easy, but I would get there. This seemed ambitious enough with a small child in tow and then my brain started to get other ideas.
Although working in a television production office is still my goal, my brain has started to toy with the idea of being much more creatively involved in production, such as writing or even directing. This is a direction that I wanted to avoid, partly because it didn't exactly ring of job security and partly because it's what everyone seems to want to do in this industry. I didn't think that entering into an area even more competitive than the one I am already going into was a good idea. But the thought is there and it will not go away. All this got me thinking about how our priorities change so much when we have children. Many women still want to have a career and yet not prioritise it over their children - so how can we work around this?
As much as I feel guilty about being ambitious (you can read about my extensive parental guilt here) I want to think that it is ok to be ambitious and be a mum. Yes, we have children, but we do not give up every element of our lives when we become a parent. Yes, there are sacrifices - this is part of being a parent and something that I would not change for the world. You may disagree with me, but I think it is worth looking into the options to see how you can make your dream work.
I may be saying this to make myself feel better - the career vs mother war has been raging in my head even before Bobby was born. But as he has got older and things have settled, I have realised that it would benefit both me and my child if I at least try to follow my ambitions. The truth is, that I am absolutely rubbish as a full time mum (more guilt here.) I admire women today and of previous generations who were able to do this - but it is something that I just can't do. I need to at least have a part time job so that I am out in the world, and have found this to be very good for my mental health. I have felt reams of guilt over this, but I know that if I was at home full time I would be heading for depression pretty quickly. It's something that I don't have control over, but don't feel any less a failure as a parent.
The fact that I need to be out in the world doing something (in order to be healthy) is what gives me encouragement that it is ok to be an ambitious mum. We are very lucky that there are lots of options out there for working mums if this the route that we want to take. The BBC for example, who I would like to work for one day, have many flexible options including term time working depending on your role. So if you do the research, I am sure that you will find a way to make things work. My 'less steady' career choice may actually work out for the better, as if I have periods of not working, I can spend time with my family. So there are positives and negatives for both options. If we have dreams, we need to make plans to get there and there is no reason that we can't include our child in these plans and see how we can get everything to fit together. Will you be working freelance for example? You could take time off if you wanted between jobs. Does the company you really want to work for offer flexible contracts for working mums? Let's go all the way; you want to act in Hollywood (we really are going all the way here). You won't be working 100% of the time and will have time off between productions. So why not use your script-reading break to spend time with your children?
If you are trying to figure out the next stage of your life with your child in tow, or feeling guilty about your dreams - then I hope that this has made you feel a bit better. I certainly feel better after writing it. As parents, we are always going to feel guilty - this is a given. But let's put our guilt to the side just for a moment and see what we truly want to do with our lives. Now let's make a plan, how are we going to get there and how can we fit our dream around our child. Get doing the research, I am sure that you will find an array of options. And don't forget, dream big!