It’s 11pm and I’m meant to be asleep. My darling husband is asleep and I should be laying next to him, spooning, whilst I dream next to the safety of his manliness. Instead, I’m awake. Infuriatingly wide awake.
You see I have a problem. I am soon to be unemployed. This in itself is not an issue per se. I have been a stay at home mom for most of my married life. Sure, I have worked at the odd job here and there, but on the whole, I have stayed at home to be a (not-so-good) home-maker and (hopefully better) mom to our two beautiful children.
Then, about three years ago I had a midlife crisis. I turned 40 and I wanted a career. I had been given the opportunity for a career when I left school when I was offered a place at university, but I dropped out when it all seemed too hard and interfered with my partying too much (oh, the short sightedness of youth!). I then went to nursing school and dropped out of that, then I started another degree in commerce but dropped out of that, and then another and another, and, well, you see where this is going. I have a string of courses and degrees that I have not finished and it has affected my psyche quite deeply.
Despite being quite intelligent, I felt uneducated and that hurt me in the very bowel of my being. I didn’t seem to fit into my own life. I was not a good homemaker. Domesticity does not agree with me. Motherhood agreed with me greatly, but not the domestic side of it. I adored my children but felt constantly inadequate because I was always not measuring up to what I thought a mother should be. And I certainly did not measure up to that house-wife title. No, I needed to find something that I could do that would help me to feel like I fit. I wanted to DO something with my life. I wanted to BE somebody. But what did I want to do with my life and what did I want to be? I had no idea.
So, three years ago, I took myself off to a “Reinventing your career” expo, aimed at people who are looking to change their careers (in my case, it was start my career, but they didn’t have to know that). As I wandered from stall to stall I tried to imagine myself trying on careers as one would try on clothes. Did it fit, did I feel good in it, did I look good in it? Truthfully, I had no idea what I was looking for, but eventually I came across Chisholm Tafe’s stand and the Community Services department were exhibiting. I got chatting to the woman there and had a look at the course handbook. I liked what I saw. I had always had a strong sense of social justice and this seemed to me to be just the thing for me to make my mark on the world. Look out Mother Theresa, here was coming Sarah. I enrolled and started my two year Diploma in Community Development in January 2009.
Despite it being a very emotionally challenging course (a whole bunch of 20 to 50-something women makes for a very turbulent environment), I excelled. I had always been academically able, but I had never achieved the heights that I was getting on this course. I just loved it. My placement proved somewhat challenging – a bit of a bump to earth realising that I had so much to learn, but I was prepared to learn, so I picked myself up again and ran. I was flying.
Then, of course, life had to throw a curve ball. In the last quarter of my two year diploma my mom died. I had to leave my course, travel to the UK and nurse her until she died of lung cancer 8 weeks later. 15 months later, I am still trying to complete the final placement of my course. My zest for studying and my course has left me and my need for a career appears to have left me as well. There is no doubt that I feel very much broken, but that is what grief does to you and you just have to roll with it.
When I returned from the UK in July 2010, the organisation for whom I had done my first placement, asked me to come and do some ad hoc work for them. I was delighted. Paid community development work, I could not believe my luck. It was for a local government council and was relatively well paid considering my inexperience. I also got to work school hours which, when you have a son with autism, is a blessing. All went swimmingly well until recently, when my boss decided she didn’t like me anymore. Yes, it was just like that. One morning I was the golden girl and the next I was the fallen angel and boy, did I fall with an almighty bump.
The situation became untenable. I knew I had to leave. I discovered that this was a pattern with this particular person. I was not the first victim, and I no doubt will not be the last. The only problem is that we had become used to my income. I had become used to my income. No more asking for money to buy things, no more justifying why my petrol tank didn’t last the week, no more having to buy things for the kids and then ask for more money later. Can you tell I’m the spender in the family? I didn’t want to give up my job, but I had to. I had spent two years studying the merits of social justice and empowerment and here I was working in a company that had managed to diminish my self worth to nothing. I had never felt more disempowered in my life. So, after making a formal complaint to the General Manager, HR and the union (despite knowing nothing would come of it), I resigned.
However, we have just bought a house. A big house. Our dream house. And whilst my beautiful husband can fund the running of it, the extras were meant to come out of my income. And so, in a moment of weakness, I panicked. I signed up for a party plan company that my sister-in-law works for. I have been using Grace Cosmetics for a couple of months now and I really do love their stuff. What I love about it is the fact that they are not tested on animals, their packaging is biodegradable and they organically grow the main ingredient of aloe vera on their own plantation here in Australia. In fact, they are the largest producer of aloe vera in the southern hemisphere and export to a lot of the world. Easy sell, right?
There’s only one problem. Whilst I am sociable when I have to be, by nature, I am quite reclusive and I am petrified of selling. When it came to doing the friends and family list, so vital in the party plan business, my list totalled 15! Yes, that would be 15 friends and family that I have. I am a migrant to Australia, so couldn’t call upon my family since I have none. My sister-in-law is my sponsor so no joy there, and well, that left the fifteen friends that, truly, I was having to scrape together. Four are friends to whom I am relatively close but never see. The remaining ones are work colleagues and people that were at Tafe with me – acquaintances at best. How the hell am I going to ask them to have a party for me?
But, it gets worse. I am a gung-ho kind of person and so in my enthusiasm for my new found career and potential income, I got myself a credit card (bad, bad, bad mistake) and spent a further $2000 over and above the $300 joining fee, buying up more product for my kit because, I told myself, that it would be easier to sell if people can actually touch everything in the range (not thinking about the fact that I have to find the people to actually touch the stuff!). Oh, and I also got business cards, postcards and car signs made up. All this would be okay, except I rarely leave the house and I really don’t like to sell, no I really HATE to sell.
In an attempt to stave off my panic, I spent further money downloading ebook after ebook on direct selling (research is a particular strength of mine) and party planning. I read them voraciously, but nowhere did any of them have a chapter on how to get bookings if you had no friends. I mean where was the chapter that read “Party planning for billy no-mates”?
Now, as I sit here, with my husband pleasantly slumbering, I am left with a gnawing feeling in my stomach that I have made a terrible mistake. This isn’t the career I wanted (I have no idea what I was thinking!!), this is certainly not going to make any mark on the world that I can imagine I would want to make. Now, I am not only going to be unemployed in just over a week, but I now have a $3000 debt to pay off (because admittedly, I bought some personal things for the new house along the way).
I don’t know how to tell my sister-in-law I no longer want to be in her team, I don’t know how to tell my husband without causing him to go into cardiac arrest that I have gone into debt for something that is so far off my personal chart that my aura has upped and left me, and I sure as hell don’t know what I am going to do with the 1000 postcards promising a free facial that are winging its way here as I type this up (I know this because I have just received an email telling me my purchase has just been shipped – oh goody!).
What adds insult to injury is the fact that this is not the first time I have done this. Oh no, this is the THIRD time I have done this. First time was with Dreamweigh in South Africa – a slimming company where you lathered yourself in some awful smelling goop and then wrapped your entire body in cling film, waited half an hour, lying there like a mummy and then miraculously you had lost weight (which of course, is loss of water due to the sweating you did wrapped in layers of plastic in the african heat). Unsurprisingly, that didn’t last long. Then, when I moved to the UK, I started to sell Virgin Vie, a party plan make up company started by none other than Richard Branson himself. Again, not a good move for me. And now, here I am selling cosmetics again. The only problem is that I am not a cosmetic person. It is true that I love the skin care products and I absolutely love the make-up, but I am not a fru-fru girly girly person. I am not the beauty and bling person that I think you need to be to gain any substantial income.
So, what do I do? I cannot find a job with the hours that I need, at least not with the qualification I am hoping to one day gain. Having an autistic child means your life is dictated by routines and constant melt downs. Its hard (but funny at times too) and can be energy draining. I probably should realise that being a (not so good) homemaker and a mom is my career and that the difference I am making is to the three people who matter most – my husband and children. But no, I have this frigging need to make some frigging mark on the world, like I have some unfulfilled quest or something. I swear sometimes it feels like I am living the life of some movie script and any time now I’m going to have that eureka moment and “the eye of the tiger” music is going to start playing and my life will be plain sailing and the world will know that Sarah was alive and MADE A DIFFERENCE to the world.
Can someone please tell me how to rewire the system, because it is definitely faulty?