Andrea Mara

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Out of the Office by the End of the Week

I’ve published 53 interviews with women about balancing work and home, and I’ve written dozens of posts about women in the workplace, but I haven’t said much recently about my own job.

I do have an update though – after seventeen years in the funds industry, six jobs, eight bosses, and far too many pairs of black trousers, this Thursday, I’m out of the office one last and very final time. Or at least for a year. Or maybe just a few months. Or if it all goes horribly wrong, perhaps just weeks. As you can see, this is very clearly planned out.

Whether finishing up and switching careers is a good thing or not depends on the time of day and how much coffee I’ve had and who I’m talking to.

At first, it all felt very much like something that was being done to me – something over which I have no control. But as a wise friend pointed out, I did have choices. I could have opted to stay and take another role, but I chose to take redundancy and go. So I need to own that decision, she says, and she’s right. It does feel better that way – to see this as something I’m choosing. Well, kind of choosing.

The truth is probably somewhere in between. If this restructure wasn’t happening – if our Irish branch wasn’t shutting down – I would happily have stayed here forever. I love my job, it’s interesting and challenging. I love the people I work with. I have great flexibility and a steady income.

Taking an alternative role that was on offer within the same parent company was very tempting – I would have had the same great flexible conditions that I have now. But ultimately, I’d be taking a job I’d hate. I’d be miserable at work, and wondering about the what-ifs. I decided I wanted to know about the what-ifs firsthand, so I turned down the role. And as is so often the case, I knew as soon as I’d done it that it was the right thing to do – a huge weight was lifted.

But I still needed to work. For the sanity and for the bills.

So I called some agencies to look for jobs similar to my own; in the funds industry, and with flexibility. I got “Yes” to the former, “no chance” to the latter.

I was told that I’d have to apply for full-time roles, and then negotiate down to part-time hours later. Having worked a four day week with one day from home for the last three years, I couldn’t bring myself to go back to full-time. I am in awe of parents who work full-time. I did it when I had two children, but for me, the third child was a tipping point. Maybe when they’re all older, but for now, I need something that’s less than forty hours a week.

So, in the end, it was a bit like that “Choose Two” parenting meme you see on Facebook sometimes:

Clean House Sanity Happy Kids Triangle

I realised that for me, there’s a work version. In my current role, I have all three elements that I want from work, but in the future, I can choose only two:


Working Parent Triangle Office Mum

So I’m choosing flexibility and doing something I love. Income is the trade-off.

I’m going to work from home as a freelance writer – mostly at night to begin with, because I’ll have no childcare. From September, my youngest starts pre-school, so I’ll have two hours every morning. Freelance writing is competitive and it’s hard to make a lot of money. It’s unpredictable and it doesn’t quite pay the mortgage. But it means that for now I don’t have to work full-time, and I can have time with the kids, and I can do something I really love.

So it’s goodbye to the funds industry, and the commute, and my lovely office, and my lovelier colleagues. I’ll be boxing up the work dresses and the smart court shoes, and filing away the newly updated CV – ready to go when it’s needed. Meetings and spreadsheets and Power Point and lunch-dates will be replaced with school-runs and playgrounds and homework and cooking, punctuated with hurried email checks and scrambled note-making, until the night-time work begins.

The tea will never be as hot. I will resent cleaning. I will phone my husband and rant that I didn’t work in funds for seventeen years to spend my days hacking porridge off chair-legs.

I will be stressed if I have deadlines to meet and nobody to mind the kids.

I will be even more stressed if I have no deadlines to meet at all.

And I will be broke.

It might not work out, but I’m going to give it a go. Because in the midst of the porridge and the cold tea and the homework and the cleaning, and the deadlines or the lack of deadlines, there will be lots good times. And I think, despite being very, very sad to say goodbye to their childminder, the kids are excited about having me home for a while. And I’m excited too. And petrified. It just depends on the time of day and how much coffee I’ve had and who I’m talking to.

Wish me luck, won’t you?

Coffee shop office - Office Mum
My favourite coffee shop doubles up nicely as an occasional office


PS: On Saturday night, I was speechless (literally) and absolutely thrilled to win “Best Overall Parenting Blog of the Year 2015” at the Glenisk Irish Parenting Blog Awards, at a fabulous awards ceremony in Odessa.

I was in the finals with amazing bloggers like At The Clothesline, Bumbles of Rice, Mind the Baby, and Minis and Mum, so was taken completely by surprise when my name was called out.

It was an amazing event, organised by some very talented bloggers, and I was delighted to be part of it. And I’m really, really hoping my award is a good omen for the future…

Where Wishes Come From and Office Mum

 Chatting to my good buddy Sadhbh who won “Most Beautiful Blog” for Where Wishes Come From – photo used with permission from the very talented Sandra of A Modern Mommy’s World.


Colonies Wonderful IPBAwards Office MumMy lovely teapot-trophy! Handpainted by Colorines Wonderful





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