Goodbye, dream job! (Gandhi made me resign)

4 November, 2013

When I was a tiny tike, when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I’d reply “A farmer’s wife!” OH MY DAYS! My hard working feminist mum must have had an absolute CONNIPTION! I can just imagine her response to my seven year old self; “Er, why not just be a farmer, Lu? There was this thing called emancipation?” Mind you, for much of my childhood I also wanted to be called “Girl Eric” so my mum was probably used to my clumsy handling of gender issues.

I soon changed my mind about the farming and began chasing the dream of acting. It was pretty serious; after school I landed a place at the Central School of Speech and Drama. But during my gap year in New Zealand I fell head over heals in love with the country and the people and decided under no circumstances could I possibly leave! I gave up my spot at Central and, in a huge swerve towards the straight and narrow, began studying theology. A life in the ministry wasn’t for me, but I knew with conviction that I wanted to spend my life trying to make the world a bit more loving, beautiful and peaceful. I ended up completing a degree in social policy and even working in that field for a few years. When I moved back to London with a beaut kiwi husband I decided I wanted to work in similar fields of social justice but with a more global theme, so began a post graduate degree whilst doing some part time work for Oxfam.

Graduating from the London School of Economics, I was, along with all the other Bright Young Things in my year, gobsmacked that people weren’t grabbing at our sleeves as we walked along the street to hire us. There followed a few months of soul destroying unemployment; one time that I was absolutely CONVINCED I’d found THE job for me only the silly sausages didn’t know! And they hired someone else! Ooof. All the tears were cried that day.

And then, miraculously, in a dearth of London based social justice-y roles, I landed a full time, open ended role with Oxfam as a campaigner in their London office. Hello, Dream Job!

For four years I trained volunteers, planned awareness raising events, lobbied politicians and generally made as much racket as possible about global poverty. I flipping loved it. There was a real atmosphere of imagination and creativity and, most of all, purpose. One of my favourite projects involved taking a bunch of activists over to Copenhagen on the Climate Train for the climate change talks, we did a load of media and joined in with the protests of this global earth loving movement.

And then I began having kids.


During my pregnancy and the start of my first maternity leave I was all “My important work can just pause while I get this parenting thing out the way” but the more time I spend with my children and the more I read about child development, the more I see it as Important Work.

I am certain now that parenting, and adult-child interaction, plays as much of a crucial role for social justice as campaigning.

I read this quote from Gandhi today, and as always, he nails it:

“If we are to reach real peace is this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children; and if they grow up in their natural innocence, we won’t have to struggle; we won’t have to pass fruitless idle resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which consciously or unconsciously the whole world is hungering.”

So, the other week, I resigned from Oxfam. As you know, I’m on maternity leave right now gallivanting around Spain in a camper, but after Christmas we are heading to New Zealand for a few years so I inevitably had to send that email. But it felt pretty big. As if I’m not just resigning from my dream job, but from a whole career.

Because somehow now I want to pour my whole life into this idea of peace and justice beginning in childhood. It’s not that I see it as more important than the work of development agencies but simply newer. We are only just beginning to understand the nature of the relationship between our treatment of children and the well being of society, it’s a massively under-resourced area.

I’m definitely too lazy to become a Professor of Neuro-science but perhaps I could get involved through more writing, even blogging… a different campaigning job… a Forest School… *flies around in a super hero coat trying to fix childhood*

I’ve oscillated wildly from thing to thing before, dreams evolve, so new dream jobs emerge, right?

Although if you ever spot a New Post from me with the title “Life as a farmer’s wife” you have permission to comment with a sweary emancipation themed rant.

PS Yes, we made it to Spain! We have pootled down through Longrono and Zaragoza to the coast where we plan on trundling right the way round. The sun is still hot, the people are so warm and the grape vines are turning fiery red along the road side.

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  • Alex 4 November, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    OMG! Awesome post. You always seem to vocalise more eloquently than I can the issues facing so many mothers. Yes I AM doing and important job and no I don’t sit in an office everyday πŸ™‚

  • Circus Queen 4 November, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    This is very much how I feel, except I wasn’t in a career before I became a mum. I became a mother before I could settle into a career. Then I pretty much had an identity crisis, wondering if I’d ever get into a “real job” and find my life’s work. And the more time I spend with my daughter, the more I realise the value of this work of mothering and the importance of childhood. Some days I still struggle with it but most of the time, I’m actually pretty happy with enjoying this incredible thing unfolding before me day to day.

  • Jenni 4 November, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Thank you for writing this post, I feel it really sums up how I feel at the moment. I know I am moving further and further away from a job in social policy/politics which was my life ambition since I was a child. Strangely I never imagined actually being a bother and here I find myself soon to be a mother of 2. As commented on by the others, you write so eloquently and seem to sum up how so many of us feel when we admit/accept that our dreams can change completely. I really hope you enjoy heading back to NZ, your travels so far look amazing.


  • Caroline 4 November, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    I love your writing all the time Lucy but this post has really struck a chord with me. I rarely vocalise my belief that I’m doing ‘important work’ for fear of offending others around me. It is quite probably I will just refer them to this post in future because you have written down the thoughts in my head more eloquently than I ever could!
    And I’m loving the bombaround updates, keep em coming!

  • Jenny F 4 November, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    Loved reading this post, as I start out on the crazy-beautiful-unpredictable path of parenthood and wonder how much I will change forever…I get the sense that everything is going to be very different and am so excited about life taking very different shapes from here on in. I’ll be tracking your movements from across the globe…

  • ThaliaKR 4 November, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Wonderful quote and wonderful superhero pic of Ramona (as well as all the other words and pictures πŸ™‚ ).

    I am very much looking forward to your company on the journey of making the world a better place, one child at a time, one family at a time, one blog post at a time.

    Enjoy Spain!

  • Roger Driver-Burgess 4 November, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    Great post, thanks Lucy. So glad to hear that NZ is still on the agenda. Are you still planning on joining us at the base of the Coromandel? I’m looking forward to introducing you to all our organic-gardening-home-schooling-earth-house-dwelling-breast-feeding-music-making-world-changing friends. Or at least, Carolyn will while I’m in back in India!
    Hope your Spanish adventures are a bucket of fun and wonder!

    • Lucy 7 November, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      We are looking around and won’t know until we spend some time in different places but the coromandel is certainly tugging at us a bit.

  • Jo Clayton 4 November, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Your post is so uplifting! I totally agree with you and feel that you must cherish every single one of these moments as bringing up your children will b. The most important job you ever have. I recently made a decision to go back to work full time now that my eldest is in full time school and my youngest starts next year, but every day I battle with the guilt of not been there for them when I really need to be somedays it rips my heart to bits! I thought that I needed a career however my children are now my dream job and career!!! I am a mother and that is enough for me being able to bring them up to believe in justice and truth and to fight for what it right! (even when those fights may be about who took the last brick, crayon, etc!) Motherhood is the biggest most important job of all! I just wish I had the guts and the money to tell my employers that! Ha!

  • Jacqui 4 November, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Loved this post; however, must give a shout-out for farmers’ wives. The are totally emancipated and co-work farms with their spouses!

  • becky 5 November, 2013 at 7:40 am

    I I had my masters in social work sewn up and had just completed a psychothrrapy post grad and I wanted to change the world. Then I had my children and i too saw that as way more important than anything that i be there for them . So like you Lucy I learnt to be thrifty I began to write and I had blessed hour upon hour raising my kids. I was able to be with them all the time till they went to school and even now I can take and collect them and be there if they need me. Precious’ work’ indeed and such a privellege.

    A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove… but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.”- Forest Witcraft

    • Lucy 7 November, 2013 at 12:22 pm

      Oh, awesome quote! Thank you!

  • Thalia Kehoe Rowden 5 November, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    Lucy, have you heard the latest Guardian books podcast? It’s on alternatives to global capitalism and has a long discussion about a Spanish pueblo in Andalucia – sounds fascinating and up your alley (possibly literally?). I’m very ignorant on Spanish geography, but wanted to let you know in case you’re nearby!

    • Lucy 7 November, 2013 at 12:22 pm

      Brilliant, we are heading there so I’ll investigate! Thanks so much πŸ™‚

  • Mary Firth 5 November, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    I totally wanted too be a farmer’s wife too! Then a farmer, for years and years, till I hit 16 and realised that farmers don’t grow up in inner city London, and decided to be a fashion designer instead… I’m in total agreement about the parenting thing being a full career, though like most other full time mums I need regular reassurance that I’m worth as much as someone who works for a living. I keep having amazing ideas about what I’ll do once they’ve grown up a bit, but like yours my dreams evolve wildly from one thing to another and I’m not sure I’ll ever make it to forest school leader, doula, manager of a community supported smallholding or living-wage-earning wedding dress designer. But the important thing is what we’re doing right now, establishing these fragile little things as robust injustice-fighting superheroes!

  • Anne Read 6 November, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Lucy’s Mum here. I have found not just the post but the responses inspirational! ( I would suggest that my parenting style could best be described as ‘Unintentional Parenting’!) And so to all of you, taking the advice of Lucy’s previous guest ‘spiritual’ blogger – God bless you!
    (Apologies for the using far too many exclamation marks – I get it from my daughter!)

    • ThaliaKR 10 November, 2013 at 1:53 pm

      Ooh! Lovely to meet you, Lucy’s Mum!

      I’m really hoping you mean me, cos that would be such an honour πŸ™‚

      Well done on your work saving the world, one child-of-your-own at a time and one trafficked person at a time.

  • April Whitlock 6 November, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    I really enjoyed this post, Lucy. Thank you for sharing your interesting background. I have also recently given up my career to be with my children and have no regrets and recently posted about it (although I am very ill-attentive to the blog!). Crazy really to think I was worrying about it for months, but now that I am mothering them and not the job, I feel more empowered and liberated. I also feel that the future has so much more promise and possibility than I did before, simply because my focus was too narrow. The creativity bug has awakened and these are exciting times! I look forward to reading more of your travels and shenanigans! x

  • Justin 7 November, 2013 at 1:11 am

    Great stuff Lu! We look forward to following your journey from up close in NZ! Hey, have you heard this podcast. It was on radio last night and got me thinking of how something like what you’re planning on doing is so important when you hear about these sorts of terrible things that we seem to be doing to our chrildren in the west.

    • Lucy 7 November, 2013 at 12:21 pm

      Ah, fab, I’ll listen later, thank you!

  • Naomi 7 November, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    I was listening to a long time hero of mine Jim Wallis at Greenbelt this year. He’s written a book on the 10 most important things, or something. I was expecting some holy, social justice, unattainable, kickass type thing to be number one. Was totally gratified when he said, ‘the most important thing is to make your family your priority’. Yay, I can do that.

  • Jo Clayton 8 November, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    I quit/gave up my “job” today to make my children my priority!!!! I have never been happier!!!! Thanks again for the good read! I hope we all start a revaluation!

    • Jo Clayton 8 November, 2013 at 9:26 pm

      Revolution!!!!! Bad spelling!!!!

    • Lucy 8 November, 2013 at 9:59 pm

      Wow, awesome πŸ˜€ wishing you all the absolute best of best with it!

  • Mrs Fox 27 November, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Great post, perfectly articulates why I stopped working; to be around for my children. And great quote from Gandhi. Good luck in NZ.