There are not many times in your life when the cliché in the title of this post can be used with any real meaning, but now is one of those times. This week I made one of the biggest decisions of my life and I’m in equal measure excited and terrified about the turn life is about to take. I was about to say “my life” but it’s not just mine. My entire family is affected by this decision: my wife, all four of my children, even my parents.
A bit of history: when I was growing up, I always swore I’d never end up doing the same thing as my dad. Now don’t get me wrong. I have an enormous amount of respect for my dad. He’s been very successful for a lot of his working life, and he’s very good at what he does, which for the sake of simplicity can be summed up as follows – buying clothes, and then selling them for more than he paid for them. This line of work has taken on various guises over the past 35 years, from running a high street shop, to a being in charge of the manufacturing for a major high street brand, from being a wheeler-dealer wholesaler to running a distribution company responsible for the interests of a range of big-name American labels. The trouble for me was that, well, it just wasn’t for me. I have about as much interest in clothes as my wife does in the result of last weekend’s Grand Prix. So it could be argued that it wasn’t exactly my finest hour when, a little over 5 years ago, I totally ignored my own lifetime of advice, and joined the family business. If I’m honest, it was a bit of a heat of the moment decision, having recently entered the world of parenthood and being seduced by the promise of a regular income, which seemed so much more appealing that the daily grind of pitches and rejections that was my freelance career.
Fast-forward five and a half years, and I have been increasingly plagued by thoughts that, at 34, I can no longer claim to be young and have my whole life ahead of me. I’m not quite at the stage of mid-life crisis just yet, but I have been hit by the realisation that if I don’t sort out my career soon, I could suddenly find myself in my mid-to-late 40s, regretting that I wasted my working life doing a job that was neither challenging nor fulfilling.
I’m not sure if “synchronistically” is a word, but I intend to use it in the current context. Synchronistically, the amazingly talented, creative paragon of organisational prowess who is my wife, has defied all logic by having a career that is going from strength to strength, despite having given birth to sons number 3 and 4 less than 10 months ago. As well as regular appearances in national newspapers (not to mention on television and radio) she has launched, edited, and provided swathes of content for various consumer-focused public sector websites. The volume of work she’s had coming in has placed a serious strain on her work-life balance, as it won’t come as any great surprise that finding anyone willing to take on a childcare role for four boys aged 6 and under is quite a challenge, notwithstanding the fact that she’s their mummy and she’s not overly keen on farming them out, when nobody can care for them as well as their parents.
MrsH was getting overwhelmed with work to the point where she was considering jacking it all in to look after the kids. And then it occurred to me: where would be the sense in throwing away the exciting, and increasingly frequent, opportunities that are coming her way, in order for me to pursue my career that didn’t appear to be going anywhere fast? And so it came to pass, on Wednesday 2nd December 2009, that I decided it should be me to give up my job for the sake of redressing our family’s work-life balance.
Now this is, sadly, not a license for me to become a full-time househusband, being kept by my superstar journalist wife. Not at all, in fact. But what it is is an opportunity to get off the road I’ve been going down for the last few years thanks to a questionable career choice, and get back to doing the things I have a passion for, which include writing and being a professional geek, while at the same time having more time for my family. The short-term goal is to relaunch my career as a freelance writer and IT consultant – so if anyone’s reading this with whom I used to work in those sectors, rest assured that I will be in touch soon! In the long term, MrsH and I intend to collaborate on a variety of projects, combining her prodigious writing, researching and organisational skills with my technical knowhow and business experience, so we can share our lives and responsibilities much better than we have been for the last few years.
So for those of you who have been wondering about my cryptic tweets and posts on Facebook of the last few days, now you know. And to all my friends and colleagues in publishing and technology, I look forward to working with you again soon.