I used to be a corporate lawyer, I loved getting up early in the morning into a sassy suit, mandatory high heels and designer handbag with no more than keys, lipgloss, a glossy fashion magazine and a daily newspaper. I felt alive when I stepped off the train and approached my office in the Sydney CBD, pausing briefly to pick up my latte and toasted blueberry bagel before swiping my security pass in the lift to my office. I had arrived at my second home, I felt a sense of belonging and comfort. I was ambitious, highly driven, career-focused single woman who enjoyed my work immensely. Okay so the practice of corporate law wasn't anything really like an episode of Ally McBeal or The Practice but it was still fun. There were very long hours, poor remuneration (at least for the first four years) and sometimes demanding, moody partners and clients but that's with any job and frankly those days didn't happen that often.
I had little or no social life outside of work other than attending work or client functions, with human face time outside of work limited to compulsory family outings (you know the ones - births, deaths, marriages and Tet (vietnamese new year, a big deal in my family), familiar faces at the gym, the staff serving me coffee or the wind down drink with a small network of friends working within the CBD or work colleagues.
I measured my happiness by how successful I was in my career and so, with glowing performance reviews, a respectable income (finally!) and a flourishing legal career I professed to myself and to all who asked that I was happy. Happy in my late twenties to early thirties to travel the world, take fancy holidays to posh no-children resorts alone or accompanied by my mother or girlfriends. Happy to buy extravagant gifts for myself and for family and friends from the designer boutiques along Castlereagh Street and happy to celebrate birthdays, public holidays, and god forbid Valentine's Day (ugh) alone.
Some of you (my mother included) are probably thinking that my life could not have been complete and that I could not have been happy being a one dimensional workaholic. Perhaps. Perhaps my personal self (and my biological clock) was muted by my professional self. Perhaps I took awhile longer than other women to work things out because I was not miserable and ipso facto, introspection not required. Sure some days I was stretched, physically exhausted and mentally drained, but mostly I got a buzz out of my profession and always spoke fondly of it.
Don't get me wrong, I am not a man-hater or anything like that. I simply didn't have time to surface for air let alone consider a personal relationship. I did have the chance through work to meet a handful of smart, attractive, sophisticated and charming men, I just wasn't that interested. I dated a really lovely kind guy for awhile but for a bundle of reasons we spent more time building our careers than our relationship and both ended up single. The thought of getting married and starting a family didn't even register on my radar. So it follows then that when girls came to the office to show off their newborn, I wasn't exactly eager to hold the baby. Of course I find babies cute and lovely but I didn't feel maternal and try as I might there didn't seem to be a clucky bone in my body (sorry Mum).
Of course, here comes the predictable part - one day things changed. I met a very smart and handsome guy (an opposing lawyer, actually) whom I couldn't stand (he felt the same way about me) at first but somehow the disdain for each other turned to mutual adoration and then he professed one day over a liquid client lunch that he wanted me to be the mother of his children (so very Pride and Prejudice I know). Yes, it is true what they say - when you meet the right person, you just know. You do.
Fast forward a couple of years and we were married, mortgaged, joint bank account holders and co-owners of a car with shiny wedding rings. We arrived back from our honeymoon pregnant with our first child and decided as novice parents do, to leave Sydney, our home and our legal careers to take a punt on a career change in banking in London (at the worst possible time in financial history).
Having had financial independence my whole adult life, I was confronted with the novel concept of being entirely dependent on someone else and having to live off my husband's money and found it (surprisingly) difficult. Yes of course I understand it's what most married people do particularly as we weren't the type of married couple with separate accounts or finances. It wasn't that my husband cared how I spent the money or made me account for it (though it would have been amusing to see him try), it was just that I felt terribly uncomfortable about it. Despite years of hoping one day to find myself in the position of living off someone else's money, it really fundamentally bothered me. Deep down (pop-psychology here) I would say it really wasn't the fact that I wasn't earning an income that bothered me but rather that I never foresaw the gear change. I never pictured myself as a stay-at-home mum or housewife. I saw myself as a whole bundle of things and losing my financial independence rightly or wrongly lead me to feel that I had somehow become one dimensional. I know it sounds strange but without gainful employment how can one measure one's success? Do you break down the stay-at-home mum work into 6 minutes (a billable unit for lawyer's timesheets). I was always dreadful at self-assessment so it came as no surprise that I was lost, utterly lost. Do you measure your success as a mother by asking yourself whether you have raised a happy and healthy child or by whether you are a sex-kitten, domestic goddess churning out daily fresh pureed food for baby and gourmet meals for husband?
I racked my brain over it for quite some time and have now simply resigned myself to the fact that my personal success is immeasurable. I take each day as it comes and every now and then I sneak a look back and see how I'm going. That's all I can do. Motherhood is an exclusive club and all of its members are different. For some motherhood comes naturally, for others its a role grown into and for others like me, you fly blind. You give it your best shot and hope for the best. No-one tells you that aside from all the indescribable joys and rewards that motherhood brings, it is also acutely lonely, exhausting and monumentally boring (believe me, I spend a great deal of time bored senseless). Be prepared to doubt yourself, your worth and your inability to measure your personal success as a mother.
So to alleviate boredom, I've started this blog. I am now a mother of 3 small children under 5. Its no mean feat but thankfully I have help. My intention with this blog is to start a collection of random recipes that I've tried and work (Vietnamese home grown recipes), to do some investigative reporting into topics (such as single dating in London) and I'm more than happy to take up challenges that people may suggest (eg 5k run, restaurant reviews, shop reviews, exercise fads etc) and other random pieces of useful information for the modern mum not wanting to be bored. Watch this space.