When you work in a ‘normal job’ you have annual leave, you have pension funds, you have a certain amount of security and you can take breaks. You even mostly get a designated two days off a week. If you work freelance you have no designated time off so you have to choose the time off, great if you’re not bothered about earning money, but if you’re a hardworking conscientious freelancer, it means you can’t ever really relax; there’ll be emails to respond to, invoices to write, tax returns to muddle through. Want me to be honest? 90% of the time, I LOVE it, I love the unpredictability, I love the variety, I love being in different towns, working with different people. Sometimes we can barely breathe for being so busy, and other times we look at the week ahead and have four days off. As with everything, there are pros and cons to each lifestyle but the one we’ve chosen can be a high maintenance one and therefore it doesn’t appeal to some.
When it comes to parenting, there’s no pension scheme, there’s no annual leave, you get very little sleep and sometimes you can’t think for how busy it is and sometimes you get quieter days and easier weeks. Seeing a slight parallel?! We keep reading articles and books which tell us about the ridiculous shock to the system parenting is, and I’m not disputing that. You’re suddenly given this little creature who is 100% dependant on you, with no handbook, and no real way of knowing what the right way to proceed is. And the self employed life doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with the baby life BUT, whilst trying to be a parent there are certain skills you need to develop, certain skills that our lifestyle has already developed. Now please don’t mistake my meaning, I am by NO way insinuating that this means we’re better parents or ahead of the game. However, for example, since being a teenager, I’ve spent many hours up in the middle of the night, admittedly it switched from writing essays to feeding a baby but still, I feel comfortable, I know how this feels. We get jobs through at last minute, and with my husband being a fight director, we’re already used to packing up the car and having lots of bags, only now it’s not swords, it’s a steriliser and a travel cot! It doesn’t put us ahead of the game, it doesn’t make us better parents but certainly it’s given us a sense of calm. We still don’t know what we’re doing but we’re used to living day by day with new things being thrown at us so it at least doesn’t really phase us!
We often stay with friends and family when we travel around and it often gives us glimpses of what ’normal’ life looks like. Being able to commit to regular events because they know where they’ll be from week to week (and day to day!), having a full fridge instead of shopping day by day because they know they’re going to be at home to eat it; regular things, regular lives! Are we sometimes jealous of that way of life? Yes sometimes, especially when we’re eating a service station sandwich instead of a roast dinner on a Sunday because we’re on our way to or from a job. Or when we’ve finished work at 2am but know we’ll still be up early with Scarlett the next morning. And after a busy time, there is no better feeling than coming home to our own place, and getting into our own bed! And that’s what makes up the remaining 10%; but to be honest, only 10% of slight envy I’d say is pretty good going.
When Scarlett turns 4, she will be going to school and that’s when the real shock will come for us, when we are more tied to a more regular lifestyle! She is our priority and so we will have to travel a lot less as a family. We’re lucky really, we’ve already started to bring some of our stuff more local, my husband most regularly at the RSC as he is an Associate Practitioner there which is just 35 minutes down the road, and we’ve set up a more central company to expand the work we do nearby. But it will be an adjustment, that’s the thing about parenting, and life in general; sometimes you’ll be prepared, sometimes your choices will put you slightly ahead of the game, or at least let you be able to understand the game, but in the blink of an eye you’ll be in a situation that’s beyond your strengths; your highs will turn into your lows, your ‘ahead of the game’ will inevitably turn into ‘please can I stop playing..’! The phrase ‘life is a roller coaster’ is such a popular cliche because it’s so true. Apparently things like anxiety and depression have increased since social media has really taken off, and I can totally understand why; we all put our highlights online, a memoir of happiness to look back on. You don’t have a backstage pass to other people’s lives, everyone is fighting their own battles and therefore although obviously some people go through the mill more than is fair, we’re all in this big mixing pot together! So although there are some people who seem to try and feed off how other people are living their lives, it’s because they’re trying to get through their own issues.
I’ve found, when you get married, have a baby and continue working, you don’t really have time to focus on anything else and not comparing my life to anybody else’s has lead me to being the happiest I’ve ever been. Frankly it get’s tiring worrying about if you’ve made the right choices anyway! I think it’s why when you reach your 30’s, you become so much more self assured, in hindsight spending so much of my twenties worried about what type of person I wanted to be, and what type of lifestyle I wanted to live was a waste of time that thousands of people in their twenties do! But once you just start being and doing, you get a lot less headaches and enjoy what you’re doing so much more! This is wisdom that I will try and pass onto Scarlett but that doesn’t mean she won’t still go through the awkward teenage years and the messy twenties! If we’re lucky, she’ll be as confident and independent as possible but no-one gets through that time completely unscathed! The best we can do is continue to live our lives to the fullest, be true to ourselves and prove to Scarlett that whatever she chooses in life and whoever she chooses to be, we will love her unconditionally and be there for her.
So we don’t have annual leave, we don’t have a pension scheme so we’re putting some money aside to save one up for ourselves, and day by day our schedules are wildly different. There are alternatives, we’re in for a slight lifestyle change when she goes to school, but in the meantime, we’re having a blast. None of us get a handbook for our life choices, and if we’re lucky we have fabulous friends and family who accept us for who we are (in which department, we are extremely lucky). So if Scarlett wants to get covered in tattoos, shave her head and live in a monastery, we won’t necessarily understand her choices but as her mother I will fight to the end for her right to make those choices (and try and ensure she at least chooses a sanitary tattoo parlour!).
A lot of my fellow bloggers have lives that are slightly sideways of ‘normal’, in that they don’t work 9-5pm Monday to Friday, and I love reading what choices they’ve made. One of my main problems in my twenties is that I wasn’t sure which choice to make, there are hundreds of options and all worth exploring, but at some point you have to have the confidence to say THIS, this is what I’m doing. It’s not to say you can’t look into the other options and keep a few other contenders as hobbies, but decisions do need to be made. Whether you’re in your twenties and struggling, or lucky enough to have already discovered your calling (I always envied those with such a clear idea early on) know that there is no correct answer, and therefore no wrong answer. Life is short (wow I’m full of the cliches today hey!) and nobody else gets to walk your path so if you want to have trees lining the path or high fences up around it, you plant those trees, you build that fence. The path only has to be attractive to you, other people can visit you on it but nobody else will be living there (have I bled the path analogy sufficiently enough yet?) It’s taken me years to decide on my path, and mines filled with cups of tea in ornate tea sets, everyone who visits gets to wear a cape, everyone gets their dream theatre role and there’s an abundance of thai food! So whatever path you choose, forget everything you think you have to worry about (a good piece of advice I had once was to think about whether the ‘disaster’ you were facing would still be a disaster in five years time) and concentrate on making your path as perfect for you as possible. Every flavour of ice-cream has its fans (a little mix up of metaphors there to brighten the post…you’re welcome!) and why would you stop eating coconut if it’s your favourite just because more people think strawberry is the best? It makes no sense, only you lose out. It’s like anger, holding onto it is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die (now I’ve started with the analogies, they won’t stop so strap in people!) doing things because you think it’s the most socially acceptable is like putting yourself in solitary confinement and expecting other people to be bored (that one doesn’t work so well but I didn’t get the best nights sleep last night so cut me some slack).
Anyway, what I’ve spent far too long saying is that the variety of life is what makes it so amazing. Live yours, visit others and enjoy the change and experiences visiting them bring, don’t judge others on their choices just because it’s not necessarily what you’d do. And if you do all that you may just surprise yourself and how much free-er you feel, the time you spend worrying you can swap for time spent enjoying your life! I turn 30 in a couple of weeks and I have no worries about entering a new decade; getting older is not something that scares me, I enjoy looking back, I reminisce a lot, but these days I’m much more secure in my future and now I’ve decorated my path to my tastes, I’m thoroughly enjoying being here!