Friday, November 02, 2007

What's the plan, Stan?

When we first got married, a wise Professor of Hubby's told us that we should always have a 5 year plan. A written record of where we would like to be 5 years from now. Given this advice came from someone who managed to achieve a Knighthood during the course of his life, we took heed. And it became an annual tradition for many years - we would sit together and over several glasses of wine produce our route map.


Life plans.

And the funny thing is, when I look at the plans from 1994, much of what we wrote has come to pass. Yes, there are elements that have we have dropped (Third child? What was I thinking...), but we managed to get ourselves back to the UK, in a home of our own. Hubby did his MBA, I found a job I enjoyed, we started a family - so many things clicked into place.

But as we contemplate life from here on, the plans become harder to make. I knew right back then, that when we had children, I would want to be at home with them. But I'm filling in applications for Johnny's school place next September and I find myself acutely aware that a chapter in our lives is drawing to a close. A new page will be opening and I haven't the foggiest idea what to write on it.

Looking back, I see that my part in our life plan has often been in a supporting role. And I have loved doing that - I don't begrudge it in the slightest and I would do it again in an instant. The only thing is, after thirteen years of fitting myself around other elements of life, I am finding it almost impossible to know what what it is that I really want to do. Sometimes too much choice is a difficult thing.

And I worry, that blogging is somehow deferring the need to make some plans. There's a Japanese phrase 'giri-giri' which is hard to translate, but means something along the lines of 'working out of a sense of obligation, rather than to achieve anything in particular'. Sort of like Busy Work. And I wonder if my blog is giving me a false sense of achieving something with my life, when I'm not really.

34 comments:

Lucy said...

Does your blog feel like an obligation? I think it is a lovely expression of your general content and an illustration of what is important to you. I would say that there are all sorts of things we do because we feel we must or because there is a genuine need to do it, that there must be a least a little space for things we do just because we want to. Your blog is certainly an achievement and you should be proud of it but don't feel that you are not achieving anything else - look at all the things you have written about and I'm sure you will appreciate how much else you manage to do aswell.

Big hugs from another somebody feeling just like you!

Jox said...

mmm, interesting......
I think you have just summed up what a lot of women feel. You spend years getting through each day, making it enjoyable and watching children grow that you can't remember what it was you wanted to do when it all slowed down.

Lesley said...

I've never been a planner, especially work wise but I have always found that as certain aspects of my life changes new opportunities tend to present themselves. Whatever you decide to do will be right for you. I love reading your blog and hope you keep on blogging. Good luck with your decisions xxx

cd&m said...

Oh dear somehow you have kinda hit the nail on the head I feel a wonderful sense of achievment when I finish a post, get comments etc. But and it is a big BUT what have I actually achieved, my time would be better spent working on the shop, maybe even cleaning house. Oh now you've got me started......

Charlotte said...

I know what you mean about the blogging. I sometimes think "Am I living or am I blogging?" The two can co-exist, but surely what's going on in real life is more important. However, as Lucy said, it makes you happy - and me happy - to blog and be part of a blogging community, so it has to be good.

Lala said...

Hi Ali! I think as our children enter different phases in THEIR lives... we do to... and we struggle to find a new "identity" for ourselves during these phases... it's a growing process for the children as well as ourselves... I'm not so much living by a plan as maybe working towards goals... the path to some goals may not be as straightforward as others... but the goals can be met... Your blogging is wonderful... a record of your life (and family)...

Lala :o)

lyn said...

Extremely well put Ali.
I call it Blogstacy - a very addictive drug indeed.
xxx
lyn (mollychicken).

kirsten said...

well said.
it could be the opposite - maybe blogging is a detour, or maybe blogging could define where you wanted to go? i totally get the 'giri-giri' thing - i wish my sibs would catch on...

alice c said...

I think that is a very interesting post. First: I'm impressed with the whole five year plan thing. Not just the idea but the fact that you did it. Second: I know all about that sense of uncertainty when your children move to the next stage in their lives. Third: Your blog is yours and you can do what you want with it - that freedom would have been too intimidating for me when I was a full time mother because I was so used to thinking about myself in relationship to other people. Now that I work I have more sense of myself and have been able to create my own space. I admire you for doing it now when you are at home with your children.
I have a friend who is always able to put a positive spin on everything - I am sure that she would say that you were maintaining your computer skills and ensuring that your personal network is up to date. One day you will find something more interesting to do and then you will put the blog down for a nap. Until then I will enjoy your writing - thank you!

lina said...

Oh Ali. This is how I feel when I think about what will happen when my children go to school too. So much of our identity gets wrapped up with careers and then children, that sometimes we lose who we are, what we want to do. I have 2 years left, before my youngest will start school (5 here in Canada, yay I get an extra year to procrastinate!)and I'm already trying to think about what next, so that it doesn't hit me too hard! Blogging for me was the first step to carving out something that is mine alone. Your blog is wise, funny and creative and something I thoroughly enjoy reading like many others...thank you!

velcro said...

Surely your blog is a diary of all the skills you have learnt (bag making, embroidery etc)? Perhaps you could use it as a way of working out where you want to go from here?

monica said...

Oh I so could have written this.

That is EXACTLY how I feel...

giri giri... but what the heck do I want?

Anonymous said...

I love reading about your life and think you achieve an awful lot everyday. I have two young children (just turned 3 and 4) and I read in amazement and wonder as I see all you manage to do!! 5 year plan sounds good but I think that sometimes we concentrate to much on big goals that seem nb, rather than being pleased with the smaller goals that we achieve everyday. The giri giri thing - perhaps we get more out of the obligation thing than we think. Bottom line is if you aren't enjoying something or getting something out of what you are doing then stop, say no. But with children, achieving smaller things each day, really is huge and contributes to daily contentment though all life has ups and downs, working life too. Nothing wrong with your sense of identity being in relation to your children. It could be in relation to your work - is that better or just a different part of identity.
Oh, ranting on but you provoked the thoughts!

Fiona x

meg said...

I was just thinking yesterday (after I cleaned the house top to bottom because my mother was coming) what a huge thing it is to make a home. To balance the chaos of life with warm meals and fresh sheets. It's an immense ammount of work, but something you can feel when you are in a home that is loved and cared for. My babies are very little, so I am in the thick of motherhood and can hardly see tomorrow much less 5 years down the road. So I have no advice for how you are feeling now, but know you have made a beautiful and loving home and that is something to be proud of.

French Knots said...

Sometimes the answers make themseleves apparent. This time last year I wanted to change my life but didn't know where to start and lacked the courage to do anything. Now a year later I'm happier than I've been for a long time, so your post strikes a chord with me.
Your blog is a record of your life and interests and I enjoy reading it.

Clare said...

I admire your honesty and I hope you manage to find peace and the right path for you.

Your blog may help you work through your choices.

Good luck.

Cathy said...

I can sympathise with everything you've said. It is so difficult to find a happy medium in life. I have found it really hard since Ruth started school over a year ago, but I am now enjoying having time to do things for me and also having more energy to make the after school times and weekend more enjoyable. However, I do feel really guilty that I spend time blogging, sewing (despite making money from it) and doing things for me. As for the 5 year plan - I barely have a 5 week plan! I sometimes think i'd like to be that organised but actually I like not knowing where we will be. Everyone needs and deserves a hobby, and blogging is just that. It is also a great way of looking back over what you have done and achieved. Don't be too hard on yourself. Good luck with working it out.
Cathy XX

karen said...

I love the 5 year plan idea - I can hear Richard gran as I make him sit down to do it with me!!

And the thought of what we do after the babies are no longer babies is very frightening - also that fact that that part of our lives - which seems so all consuming - may now actually be passing.

I am sure you will find your new niche!

Allison said...

There are obviously a lot of us out here that are in a similar position and can appreciate your quandry.
Even though Frankie is only 8 months old, I've started seriously thinking about doing something (well, I need to get a small job to pay for Tilly's pre-school next year). I'm sussing out a plan that may turn into something long term if I want it to.
My suggestion to you would be to start small. It's always so much easier to tackle a small mole hill, than a giant mountain.
Maybe the trick is not to ask yourself "what do I really, really want to do?" because I think there is so much pressure to find the perfect thing, that you are never allowed to complain about doing. Maybe you just need to find a little thing that you wouldn't mind trying, just for a little while. It may or may not be paid employment, a sport or volunteer work. (It's amazing how much you get out of helping others)
It's so hard to get your head around, but maybe just try taking little steps at a time.

Megan said...

Really interesting to think about. I agree it is a phase that a lot of us are in right now. Will have to get back to you on this one.

kayla_d said...

What a difficult position. Sometimes I find myself wondering the same thing, and I know that I need balance.

When I read the comments, I was sort of expecting others to be like "No, you have to keep blogging..." After all, we're here because we enjoy reading it. But the comments instead show that people genuinely care about you, not just the blog. You'll find the right path--I sure did, and I've never had a plan!

Louise said...

Do you know I almost think the opposite. I feel I am closer to the real me than ever before by doing blogging. I am writing and creating way more than I would have before and feel like the brain is constantly stimulated by all the other lovely bloggers out there. It has connected me to so many interesting people (like yourself) and made me really think about what I can achieve. I tend to agree with Lesley that things tend to present themselves - you know, one door opens and all that. This year has seen me really make some changes and concentrate on me a bit more - which is good for all of us. Good luck I'm sure everything will right itself again soon.

dee said...

Hmmm that is a hard one.

I started blogging as only a journal to myself, chronicalling our family activities no matter how small, so I could look back. And then I decided to password it because I got worried about anyone lurking for the wrong reasons. But then, I felt cut off from the world. So I unpassworded.
Funny, I guess its not just a journal but also my journey that I want to share with others.
Whatever you decide, if blogging does fulfill any kind of satisfaction for you, keep doing it.
I have many mixed feelings about it, this is why I don't post unless I really feel like it, that way it doesn't make me feel obligated to do so.
By the way, in Hawaii, giri-giri is (probably Japanese slang word) used to describe the part in your hair - esp. when you are a baby, kind of the swirly part in the hair. More than one giri-giri means that baby is going to be a rascal. My boy has one on his head. And he has one at the end of each eyebrow. I'm not kidding.

Junie Moon said...

It is good to have a plan and periodically reevaluate to see what works and what doesn't. It is often hard but sometimes we have to let go those things that don't serve us well.

Whatever your decision, I hope it's one that brings you fulfillment and happiness.

Gatherings said...

VERY good question.

Victoria said...

Hi Ali, just wanted to say I loved your post and understand so well what you are feeling, as do many others in your comments it seems.

I fear that moment when the kids are all off to school and (phew, this is a biggy to say out loud) I think that has played a very large part in my agreeing to this third baby.

I love this wee girl to bits before she even arrives but I recognise a large part of me doesn't want this mummy time to end yet. Perhaps its because I worked when Aimee was small???

Anyway, all I can add is that I do believe one way or another life will work out right for you guys. And as for the Blog - I'm going to be the one to beg you not to stop. I simply adore your writing and see your blog as a beautiful online journal of the journey you are taking through life as a wife, mother and crafter. I'll certainly be sad if you stop but understand a time will come when blogging goes on the back burner.

Simmy said...

OMG you're going through it now. That's just how I was feeling (as you know) some weeks ago. I still feel the same and haven't found a conclusion so I guess I can't offer you any advice.

I've been at home for a year longer than you and I do yearn to get out there and do something for myself. Somehow blogging, although wonderful just doesn't fill that gap. A few years ago I worked very p/t in a bookshop around here and it was wonderful. I was out of the house, out of my normal role. People knew me as ME and not a mUm or wife - it was great. I felt wonderful and I had so much energy too and achieved more than I do these days.

Good luck with your decision - and do email me if you want to 'talk' won't you.

PS Don't blog out of a sense of obligation but keep doing it if you love it and it makes a difference in your life. (Hmmm I seem to have answered my own questions!)

Joanna Butchart said...

I am new to blogging as you know and find it difficult to add to it as often as i should. However, I dont feel that you should feel that is not an achievment. It is the modern day equivalent of a diary and even Oscar Wilde noted down how important that is. Bringing up two children, enjoying a happy marriage, crafting and setting up an etsy shop as well as writing frequently in your blog is an extroadinary achievment not to mention everything else you do on a daily basis. Think about how much you do do and praise yourself for it and embrace any new adventures that are about to come your way

dottycookie said...

I hear you - good grief do I hear you. I do work part time, but I don't think my current job is something I can see myself doing in 5 years time, let alone longer. Which leaves the question of "What next?" I'm feeling overstretched, wishing I hadn't volunteered for quite so many things and wondering if I can back out of any committees to ease the load a bit ...

Your blog is evidence of all that you achieve every day - and if it's a record of that for the years ahead, is that maybe OK? Whatever conclusion you do come to, about life, work, or blogging, I'm sure it will be the right one, and I hope it will make you happy!

greenolive said...

no, no, no! Your blog is giving you the space and time to reflect, connect and work out what it is that you want to do. I love that Japanese phrase. I also think you guys are so together to have 5 year plans. For all my INTJness I can't seem to get hubby (Libran) to commit to any plan at all.

sam said...

I get the little saying, and I think I often am guilty of that too. but should it really be guilt? an achievement is and achievement no matter how worldly small. Maybe what you are really trying to find out is a way of saying that blogging is ok - or maybe you want a way out? I think that if you receive joy from what you are doing - your family are supporting you does it matter how much money you make? or how the rest of society view it? You can see from all these responses that we don't think this is just busy work! :)

Florence said...

Ali, your post was really uncomfortable reading for me, as your words reflected exactly how I feel a lot of the time, but rarely make myself stop and ponder on(although my thoughts are never normally that eloquent or concise!).

I too am filling out school application forms for my youngest and feeling very much like I am on the crest of change, but quite unsure of what that may be. I know that I want to be there to pick them up and drop them off, to be there every day in the holidays and if they're ill...but to sit at home and do nothing other than blog and clean the house would be too self-indulgent...so what might fit around all that, bring in a bit of extra money, and give a sense of self-worth...I'm still thinking on that one, but like you, I've felt occasionally that blogging is a diversion from the things that I really ought to be getting on with, such as laying the foundations for my life with two school children.

I hope you carry on though, as I very much enjoy reading your posts!

tiel said...

oh Ali, I see this and hear this 100% right now. I don't feel obligated with blogging, but I do feel like it encroaches on my life at times and that I need to reset my priorities and devise a plan of my own, esp next year when the kids will spend less hours at home with me due to school and kindy. I don't want to be bound to this space in my life all day because I have the time to do so.

you will figure it out. I think we are a factor of a generation of so many women where too much has been offered to us and we cannot really know what will ever satisfy our desires.

VickyandJen.com said...

Seems as though you are achieving a lot simply by reading the comments from all of us that you are affecting. I personally hope to keep hearing from you.
Jen