The moment my daughter entered our world, she simultaneously both made and unmade everything I thought I knew about life. Up to that point, I considered myself perhaps somewhat in possession of enough experience and ‘know-how’ to accomplish what I felt I had been given to accomplish. One look at this tiny human entrusted into our care to raise well, and I knew no job or skill before this could prepare me for this kind of complexity.
As a parent (and perhaps especially if you are the primary caregiver for a season) so much of your identity and purpose demands evolution when a child enters your life, you have to rethink and reimagine your role in this season. What do I have to offer in the raising of my child, what do I have to offer the world in this new space, and what part (if any) do all my previous ambition play in all of this? Perhaps it is one of the priceless gifts given to us in parenting – the sudden necessity to pause and re-evaluate who we are and what we’re about.
Lean Into The Uncertainty
This is what parenting does; throws you into a world of uncertainty, a world with no handbooks, polarising ‘expert’ opinions, and lots and lots of sleepless nights. Maybe I was the only insecure newbie parent out there, but if you were anything like me, there were so many times in those first few months when I was immobilised by that feeling that no matter what choice I made, I was going to damage this poor child for life. I was trying to find solid footing so I could once again feel safe and secure – it was an elusive task that only brought me fear and anxiety. It was only when I finally embraced the realisation that parenting will in fact be a lifetime of uncertainty and unpredictability, that I discovered a new rhythm of grace to parent confidently. Uncertainty is but an invitation to explore, grow and include new wisdom into our own lives, and whilst there is ample research out there (and I mean AMPLE) with polarising opinions on parenting, let’s always remember that it’s not about perfect parenting (as if that concept is even attainable) but being the best imperfect parent you can be – loving, learning, growing, forgiving, changing – in an ever continual cycle.
Walking Into A New Future
When I left on maternity leave from my job as an Executive Assistant to Senior Leadership of a large not-for-profit organisation, I had every intention of making it back to the job role twelve months later. But as I took time to consider the future, two things grew increasingly clear 1. It was not a job I could give 100% of my ability to with a young child in tow, and 2. It was time to create space for other dormant ambitions to develop.
To be completely frank, letting go of the certainty of a job I had done for four years, a job where I was wanted and had a crucial role to play, brought to the surface issues of self-worth, value and identity. But as with anything we dare to reimagine, letting go is the first step to stepping forward into a new future. Letting go of old paradigms, of past failures or even accomplishments, and daring to extend our boundaries into new areas.
With nothing but space in our lives for the unknown possibilities, we may find ourselves in that uncomfortable space that exists between where we are and where we want to be. It is a space yes, but not a wasted one. It exists for us to do that not-so-glamorous work of self-discovery, adjusting our own thinking and enlarging our world to include a new version of yourself that merges your life’s ambition with parenthood in all its messiness.
Fast-forward to today…I have a new sense of purpose both in my family and in my career, doing what I love (writing) for people I enjoy working for, whose work I believe in, whilst learning to raise a child.
No matter what stage of the parent-career journey you find yourself, let’s choose not to see our parenting responsibilities as taking away from our ability to build a career. Instead, let’s choose to embrace the uncertainty of its nature, and listen to its invitation for us to re-discover, re-imagine and re-define who we can be in this season and what we have to offer to our worlds because of it.
Written by Johanna Barker