My Brilliant Career

Just tricking, I do not have a brilliant career. I am a 43 year old single mother with not a single career in sight. And how, you might ask, does a woman get to the middle of life in this day and age without a proper job? Gather round children, and I will tell you.

When I was in Year 11 at school our career advisor took us to the offices of the local newspaper to scope out careers in journalism. It was night time, the offices were bright and bustling, and everyone everywhere was peddling words. I thought I had found my spiritual home.

But somehow, after school I vaguely drifted off to university and studied English Literature for four years. I enjoyed this immensely. I learned how to think critically, a skill which has stood me in great stead all my life. I learned how to write without frilly adjectives (ha, that didn't stick, did it?). It was all very entertaining, and broadening for the mind for someone who had grown up as a missionary kid. I met The Man, and we got married, because as Good Baptists, that's what you have to do if you are going to take a relationship to the next level. About four minutes after I graduated, I got pregnant.

The Man got a job in Broken Hill, so we moved to the desert and bought a tiny miner's cottage. I volunteered as an adult literacy tutor and reluctantly learned how to cook. The Man took a job in Adelaide and we had baby Number Two. It was very hot in Adelaide that summer so we decided on a whim to move to Tasmania. We wanted to live in a mud brick house in the forest. So we did. Did you know that Tasmanian forests are full of leeches and snakes?

We moved to the suburbs which are mercifully free of nasty bugs and reptiles, and I went back to university to do a Masters of Teaching. A year into this, oops! Baby Number Three. By this time I was home schooling children and rather glad not to be studying. Endless domesticity was doing my head in a bit, so I started an independent on-line children's bookshop for homeschooling parents. This was a joy in that I got to read and review lots of wonderful books and talk to lovely people about the books they needed, but I was absolutely pants at the business side, which was a problem, as it was actually a business, a fact that frequently escaped me. Eventually I moved that 'business' on, but am so pleased that it is still run all these years later by lovely homeschool parents.

In the end, most of the children wanted to go to school, and I decided that being home alone at the merciless whims of Posy would be bad for her character and mine, so they all went to school. Being unable to leave well alone, I volunteered at Posy's school extensively.  In fact, by the second year I had volunteered so much that I was offered some Teacher Assistant work. I now do Teacher Assistant relief work with the Kinder kids whenever I am needed. Which means I get to play with four year olds and get paid for it. Which I think is pretty fun. In a couple of years when Posy is old enough to be home alone for half an hour or so after school, I could do the same thing at other schools. I find relief work suits me wonderfully, because I get to work with lots of different amazing teachers and kids, and do new things all the time. I have a very short attention span, so new is good. This week the office manager rang me to see if I could do relief work in the school office. I just laughed, and asked her how brave she was feeling. But today I did it, and hardly cut anyone off at all on the terrifying phone system, and no doubt caused absolute mayhem with all the school admin systems, but had a ball pretending to be one of the lovely office ladies and dealing with scraped knees and blood noses and lost bus money. I mean seriously, school admin is gloriously messy and unpredictable, and again, so much fun.

To be honest, I don't really consider any of this to be a real job, because it feels a bit like play acting. I put on my boots and a dress and pretend to be a grown up. I don't do it often enough for it to get boring, and when I am there I have a ball. All care taken, but no responsibility! That is the wondrous nature of relief work:) And really, it is ten times easier than all those years I was home alone with small children. But though what I am doing is fun, it is not all that I want to do.

So now, I am contemplating a future which will involve more paid work of some description. I still have children, and I want to be home with them when they are home, and The Man wants that too, and is happy to support me to do that. But I want to work too, and use my brain and try new things. But what? I have about twelve ideas a week, none of which I have acted on so far, because I generally haven't thought them through at all well. I don't think I actually really want a brilliant career. I want to patchwork together a good and satisfying life from a collection of fun little jobs that make me happy. I have thought of going back to uni again so I can be a 'proper' teacher, but I think that what I am doing now is all the fun bits of teaching without the painful bits. And if I was a teacher I couldn't be doing all the other things I want to do. I think about gardening and writing and making things and helping people and I want to do them all, so that is my plan as of this moment. Ok, you are right, that isn't a plan at all, more of an idea. I am all about ideas. Sometimes I even implement one or two.

Here is my question for today - if you could do anything you want to do, completely disregarding ideas of remuneration and social status and what you actually trained for, if any quirky little interest in your life could be expanded into a part time hobby job, what would you do? Or have you taken this to the next level and actually done it? Please tell us all about it. I want some inspiration!


GretchenJoanna said…
I loved reading this - there is much similar to my own life, with one major difference being that there isn't any need for me to make money as I "patchwork together a good and satisfying life from a collection of fun little jobs that make me happy." That is a great line (and in my opinion, not too many adjectives) and describes what I would like to do, and what I have done.
We all have to live within the limits of our situation and abilities, and I'm just very glad that I had for my quilt-life so many "patches" to choose from. My limitations have not seemed burdensome.
Gardening is one thing I'd like to do more of, and that is the one kind of work I am less able to do as I get older - still, I don't lack for happy and fulfilling jobs.
Thanks for blogging!
Anonymous said…
I would love to start a group of culturally diverse ladies who got together to cook food from their country of origin and share the recipes, the cooking and the hints and tips with each other. I would love to have people of all walks of life turn up and share the love around and make Launceston a hub of social interactivity at the most base level. Too many people get sidelined at home without an out and a group like that could forge friendships, community, hope and engagement with life. I always wanted to do that but never found the means or the way.
Anonymous said…
Love how our journey in life takes twists and turns that we didn't expect.

I have to separate how I feel now - tad bored with my job, wanting more time to me, wanting to live in a forest (without leeches, snakes and mozzies) or in England, pottering, doing some paid work without responsibility. As I said I have to separate how I feel now and what I want with how I felt earlier when my career was my me time and gave me great satisfaction and was fun and I knew I was doing something meaningful.

So I wouldn't change what I did bu I might quit work and just regroup and read books and potter for a couple of years and then .... Mmmm, don't know. Go back to my job, or do so,e part time literacy work. Sorry, no inspiration.

Would love to hear more about being a missionary kid! (
I think writing is a good job for me, so I'm glad that's the one I have. However, if I was told I couldn't be a writer anymore, I would want to be a folklorist or work in a museum like the Smithsonian.

Apparently, making money has never been my goal ...


P.S. Fascinating to hear about your missionary kid background. I wish you'd write about it more sometime.
CJ said…
I always wanted to be a writer. No idea why I never did anything about it though. I do hope you find things that you enjoy doing. That is the trick I think. CJ xx
Unknown said…
Now i understand why you are able to string sentencing together and make them work. Your writing for me is peaceful. Does that make sense? It flows and resonates and even though at times it deals with emotional topics, there are no jagged edges for the reader. Its all rounded out with well chosen words (i love adjectives too).

Today's post is no exception and it probably has all of us thinking hard, day dreaming "what if" while we are at our paid jobs. I've been very lucky in that i love my work and the people i work for. I'd like our cashflow to be better so im not so stressed. The problem is that i've been doing it for so long (33 yrs), the same M-F routine and i want a break, or a change. In an ideal world both Hubby and Son would be working and i could be at home and be a homemaker for a while. To have the freedom to decide how my day will unfold rather than deadlines and expectations to meet. I would like to clean my home, organise it, cook and preserve, garden, and perhaps do worthy volunteer work. I want the freedom to visit my friends (like Jessie and Sharon) without having to squeeze it into a weekend. But alas, my situation is that i will always be the stable breadwinner and the support for my men and so work i must and be grateful that i am able to do so.

The big dream was always event management including commercial cookery. If i won Tatts, it would be a heritage home in the country (walled garden with orchard) with weekend B&B. Sigh........
Unknown said…
Goodness, see what i mean, you would never make that mistake. My proofreading is atrocious or i need glasses. That should read, string sentences together.....
Anonymous said…
I was singularly underwhelmed by my options when I was in high school - leave at Y10, go to secretarial school (I almost failed typing); Y11 - Nursing of people or animals (ew squicky) or Y12 teacher or accountant. Now, I don't particularly like children (they like me for some reason. They're like cats); so teaching was out. And as for accounting? Well, I studied history,
maths, literature and chemistry. Not very accountant-y subjects.

The only thing I really wanted to do was be a writer, and that wasn't considered a suitable career for a lady.

So, I wandered around trying a few jobs here and there, managed a couple of book shops, worked in a bank, ended up at a large government department that was fun for the first ten years and went progressively down hill. Got bored, slipped in a DipBus (actually in Accounting. Go figure)finally went to uni and fluffed around with majors (while avoiding further accountancy), ended up with a management degree and a psychology degree via a dalliance with economics, communications, journalism and something else that I can't remember...

Now, I have a job where I write a bit (a lot at times), fluff about with numbers and look up stuff on the interwebs. My perfect job. (I'm actually a researcher)
Bek said…
If I could do anything now, I'd be a part time farmer of unusual and heritage fruits, and part time edible gardening consultant.

In real life, my plan is to work and save my ass off for the next 5 years, then hopefully be able to buy sone land in the country and work part time, grow all my own food and otherwise live of my investments. My part time work will likely still be dietetics, as I do really enjoy that work, but who knows...
Jo said…
Ooh, what a great collection of ideas.
Gretchen Joanna, I am sure your life has been full of satisfying experiences because you seem to be such a contented, calm person. When I grow up I want to be just like you:)
Fran, friendship through cooking, I like that, let's do it!
Lucinda, what I am enjoying about my work now is the fun without the responsibility. But I hear what you are saying about how that has changed throughout your life. That's why I don't plan to go back to study and lock myself into anything.. hope you get some pottering time soon..
Frances, writing is definitely your life's work, keep it up! I hope you get a chance to hang out in a museum sometime as well. I imagine you could do both. The next novel could involve a Smithsonian research grant..
CJ, you are clearly a writer:) That is on my bucket list too. Not novels, articles on gardening.
Lynda, ooh I bet you'd be great at event management. You always sound so organised. Go for it girl! Can you branch out sideways from what you are doing now?
Miss Maudy, I am so thrilled you have found your perfect job. I loved Psych too, and sociology. Because I am nosy on a really large scale.. it was really hard to narrow down to a single major in the end for my honours year. I wouldn't mind research, because I could happily study forever..
Bek, I love your imaginary job titles. Can I come and work with you? One thought I've had is to manage vegie gardens for yuppies who are too busy but still want a trendy vegie garden. Maybe I could branch out into artistic varieties of chooks as well.. today I worked at the school again and spent some time telling the school groundsman how he could improve the school gardens (I could tell he was ever so grateful..).
Treaders said…
Hi Jo, I have always known what my "if only" job was. I would have my own little second-hand book store. If you saw the first Harry Potter movie it would be a bit like the store in the back streets of London (run by John Hurt) where Harry buys his first broomstick (nimbus). Set in the walls of an old town. BUT I would also sell homemade cakes and tea and coffee in really weird shaped cups and dishware. The idea really isn't so much to sell the books but make the money on the cakes (sneaky). Lots of sofas and chairs and maybe a few chess games/card games where people could come and sit and chat. In fact, I saw my dream shop in Deauville, Normandy, actually - now just waiting for them to move out so I can move in!!!! Anna
Jen's Busy Days said…
Anna, I love your idea. Apart from the weird shaped cups, that idea never crossed my mind. I would spend a lovely amount of time baking and reading while someone else did the dishes. O:-)

I also would like to design homes for people, homes with all their cosiness and individuality, not houses rubber stamped, huge and no character. If I get through my studies I may just end up doing that. :-)

Jo, a happy patchwork that suits your lifestyle sounds great. A pottering nana who writes and loves little children would be marvellous and if money isn't a worry enjoy your life.

By the way can I join the cooking classes? All I can contribute is choc cookies and choc muffins, not very cultural.

Best wishes
Jen in NSW
Jo said…
Ooh, Anna, I do hope those people in Deauville move out tout suite! You clearly NEED that space. It sounds marvellous and I will be suggesting those improvements to my local second hand bookshops right away. When I was in Brisbane recently The Girl and I visited Bent Books, which was wonderful, with a little courtyard garden and a chaise longue in the back room to recline and read all the more comfortably. I am thinking cakes and tea in the little courtyard would add mightily to the experience.. Anna, you must do this, and send all the photos:)
Actually, now I come to think of it, many of the readers of this blog could use this idea in their own homes. Solve the problem of too many books. Put up a sign outside, sell the books and the cakes, all artfully arranged around your comfy chairs, and declutter and make money at the same time!
Jen, keep studying, you will be designing happy homes before you know it:)
Anonymous said…
Does it sound like I'm bragging if I say I'm actually doing it? Since I was little I have wanted to be self sufficient. I read books like The Secret Island or the Willow Farm series, both by Enid Blyton. Or Swiss Family Robinson. I even worked through Robinson Crusoe and more. :) I never thought through the full process of kids, home schooling, etc but I am dabbling rather seriously in exactly what I have always wanted to do. :) Making money from it however... I'm wondering about and working around the idea of doing a Permaculture Design Certificate (involves finding babysitting etc so lots to figure out logistically) but that would allow me to work in the field of self sufficiency and of helping others to arrive at a level of autonomy with their food and needs too. :) Still at the ideas stage though. It's fun to dream about it all though hey. :D
Jo said…
Living The Good Life hey Jessie, or should I say, Barbara:) Keep dreaming..
Oh, and working at self sufficiency like a demon, as you were:)
Tammy said…
I've been thinking a lot about this lately. If money and social status were no object, I would be a 1950's housewife ... except without the children or the Valium. I love canning and gardening and making rag rugs and wearing aprons, and I am dying to learn knitting.

There is one more part of the master plan - by planning out my time, I would be able to fit in writing. I'd love to have the time and flexibility of schedule.
Jo said…
Ha ha, Tammy, that is my life, except with lots of children and chaos, and more chocolate than valium. I too want to fit in writing. This is the bit of the master plan I haven't quite worked out yet.
Hope you get to work at some of those things soon. Knitting is easy until you have to sew up the seams, I find:)

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