I found that pretty hard to answer, as I can’t remember a time when children haven’t been a consideration, and I’ve no idea what that would feel like. I already had one by the time I was 17, so I never experienced the luxury of being able to legally drink and drive (not together of course) without a child in tow.
If I didn’t have children, what would I do? Would I make the most of my freedom, skipping happily from the theatre to the gym, filling my days with fulfilling work and wholesome voluntary activities? Or would I be swaying from one cocktail bar to the next, an inappropriately young man on each arm?
Probably neither. If I didn’t have children I imagine I would spend quite a lot of my time loafing about at home on my own, watching re-runs of Sex and the City and imagining everyone else was out doing something terribly sophisticated, like having drinks and chatting about literature with Stephen Fry. Which is how I pass many an evening already really.
So what about as a child, before parenthood was even conceivable – what did I imagine my adult life would be like then? I gave the question some serious thought. I actually have a very poor long-term memory. Goodness knows what happened to me as a child, but whatever it was has been successfully blocked out. Most of my childhood memories come via my sister, who even at four years younger than me seems to have a much clearer picture.
I do have an image in my head that has stuck with me though, from a time when I must have been imagining life as a grown up. It is a really only a flash, and is basically me dressed in a lovely suit and high heels, letting myself into an elegant, tidy and sparsely furnished flat. That’s it, but the sense I get from it is that I am just getting home from a long day in some kind of stressful but rewarding office based job, and am looking forward to kicking off my heels and relaxing with a nice hot bath.
All in all, not very helpful in terms of career planning. The opportunity to wear a nice pencil skirt and a good pair of shoes is clearly important though, which makes me question my current work at home status. Much of my time is spent in trousers with elasticated waists and I barely leave the house, let alone let myself back in with a sense of exhausted satisfaction.
Obviously I like writing, which is lucky, given my line of work, but I do miss the social interaction. Half the fun of work for me is striking up some kind of inappropriate relationship with a colleague, and skiving off to look at facebook or send personal emails doesn’t give the same sense of wicked pleasure when you work for yourself.
In the back of my head I nurture a dream of being offered my own column in the Guardian weekend magazine, one I’m sure is shared by one or two others, but I have learnt in the last year that work to me is about more than just the job you do. It is about the company you work for, the people you work with and the person you become once you get into that pencil skirt.
As much as I love the flexibility that working from home gives me, I miss the banter, the camaraderie, and the reason to get dressed in the morning. So maybe I’ll stick with my journalistic dreams, but I need them to involve an office. An office with lots of other interesting people in it. And maybe an on site cocktail bar and a view over Manhattan.
Hang on, my secretary has a call waiting. It’s Stephen – he has a new book he’d like to discuss over lunch. Sorry – must dash…