About eight weeks ago I came to the abrupt realisation that even with the best belt-tightening will in the world, my romantic plan of staying off work with the kids after leaving a career in medicine was just not financially feasible. I floated along for a few weeks at first, happy that I would no longer have to juggle the competing and often conflicting demands of work and home life. However after doing a few sums I had to put aside my (admittedly ambitious) plans of becoming a full time batch cooking, crafting and home educating blogger, who would simultaneously develop an ability to create magical learning experiences out of toilet roll tubes, twigs and home-made cinnamon-scented play-doh.
As I braced myself for the unavoidably epic (but also enjoyably procrastinatory) CV updating and reformatting process, my husband came across a job online that he could see I ticked all the boxes for. I applied and was shortlisted - hurrah!- and then was immediately terrified at the prospect of a job interview. Medical jobs in the U.K. are generally allocated centrally, based on application forms and exam results, so once I thought about it, I realised I hadn't had a real job interview since my first part-time job working at the local multiplex cinema aged 18. For the record, I'm now 32.
Of course, as any stay-at-home parent will tell you, apart from a few snatches of alone-time here and there (e.g. while sitting on the toilet or during the 45 seconds it takes me to fall asleep once my head hits the pillow), finding time to read over my application form and prepare some answers for the interview proved impossible. The day before the interview I was stressed, irritable, and utterly convinced that despite my suitability for the post on paper, nerves would prevent me from saying anything sensible to the panel on the day. It took my ever-patient husband to persuade me that a walk in the park with the children while we verbally extracted the key points from my CV was now my best option. It paid off, as our daughter took her first independent steps that day, and a few days later I was offered the job!
I now work in student mental health- an area that is currently widely neglected at great cost to many young people, and wider society too. I work two days a week, which gives me five days with the children. For me it is the perfect work life-balance- I get to keep my professional skills sharp in a supportive and dynamic environment, contribute to the household financially and still spend the majority of the week with the children. As working week:weekend ratios go, I'd pick 2:5 over 5:2 every time! Yes, this has also come at a price- my husband and I now only get a day off work together once every two weeks, and we got rid of the car to save money. But we now make more of an effort with our evenings together when the kids are in bed, and to be honest, in the past month I haven't really missed the car at all- we are all walking more and making full use of London's new hopper fare on the buses.
My point is that working and home educating are not mutually exclusive. Rather than letting work eliminate home education as a feasible option for your family, why not start with home education as the constant and fit your work around it? For full time working parents: despite what society tells you, part time work, freelancing, consultancy and self-employment are realistic and feasible ways to get out of the rat race and spend more time with your family, if you are willing to make a few adjustments to your lifestyle. For home educating or stay-at-home parents who also want to work: your only limit is your imagination! You can monetise that hobby, or follow up on that business idea you've been keeping to yourself all these years. Creativity, flexibility and a willingness to think outside the box are inherent in the home educating lifestyle, and sought-after skills in the workplace. Don't wait for all the traffic lights on the street to be green before you even start moving. Remember, fortune favours the brave, so take the first step and though you may not see exactly how right now, the rest will fall into place.