Released On 9th May 2022
Julia's blog: The Days Are Long, But The Years Are Short
Our middle child, a daughter aged 10, went away this week on the longest school residential trip any of our children have undertaken (Covid got in the way of our eldest’s anticipated Year 5 and Year 6 trips, so for once, the second is doing something before her older sister). She left on Monday morning and came back on Friday - four nights away from us, with no direct communication, the only source of information, a concise (rudimentary!) teacher update on a blog posted daily. She was deliriously excited to go, and we were thrilled for her that the trip exceeded all her expectations. Despite plastic sheets, cold weather and terrible food, she returned full of delight and the sense of achievement from spending that long away on her own (not to mention the sibling one upmanship), has demonstrably built her confidence - another brick on the pathway to independence.
She was barely homesick, blessed with a robust constitution and an ability way beyond her years to self-soothe. I, on the other hand, was a mess. I find that when one of our children is absent, the dynamic completely changes. One out of three being absent results in much more than a third reduction in noise, exuberance, laughter, squabbling, general cacophony of family sounds - they are more than the sum of their parts. On the first night of her being away, I found myself pathetically digging around in her cupboard looking for one of her hoodies to wear. It’s impossible not to miss an absent child without being aware of one’s inordinate luck in that situation. Ours was a temporary absence - and as we watch the devastation in the Ukraine unfold, or bear witness to friends or colleagues suffering permanent loss, it’s obviously critical to recognise one’s own (touch wood) good fortune.
I was not the only parent, of course, missing their beloved children and it was a conversation with another mother that sparked my observations for this piece. Walking our dog, I bumped into a friend from school. Her youngest was also on the trip, leaving her with one older child at home. With a wry smile, she noted how quiet it was at home - that her eldest was very self-sufficient, that her husband didn’t get home until 8 or 9pm, and that looking into this void “it might be time to get my career back on track”. As the familiar saying goes “The days are long, but the years are short” - this week had highlighted to both of us how suddenly our lives can go from being consumed by the requirements of small children to being much emptier, much more open, much less busy. Keeping one’s career going whilst having small children can be very hard. There are many challenges and many obstacles, and rightly or wrongly, this affects women more than men. But, in my opinion, it is vital. I’m reminded of the advice contained in the poem “Desiderata”, that my own mother used to read to me: “Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.” There is truth in this (actually in this poem as a whole) - despite the challenges of parenting and working, the endless juggling and the moments of pure exasperation, “the days are long, but the years are short” and our careers, however humble, really are worth holding on to.
Following a career in the City, first as a solicitor and then in an investment bank, Julia now runs an executive search firm focused on flexible roles. She lives in London with her husband, a Trauma and Orthopaedic Consultant (who will hopefully, given his line of work, never work from home…!) and who works full-time. They have three children, aged 12, 10 and 7.