Changing direction is something many of us think about but sometimes a change has to come when we are faced with new challenges in our lives. Tanya is kindly sharing her experience of making the move from the 9-5 to her own copywriting business after her son has troubles at pre-school. Tanya is a Chartered Civil Engineer who is now a technical copywriter and editor for the engineering and construction industry. You can find her at www.engineeredcopy.co.uk.
“On the 3rd of August, 2016, I got the call to say I had got the promotion onto the senior management team. That same afternoon, I got the first call from my son’s pre-school, asking me to pick him up as his behaviour had spiralled out of control.
At first, we thought that my son – who was nearly 4 – was just bored at pre-school and was trying to get himself sent home to be with mummy. If he’d been born a month earlier, he would have started school in 2016, so it made sense that he’d be ready for something different by now.
They tried sticker charts, afternoon naps, costumes from home as an incentive for good behaviour – but it didn’t matter what the pre-school did, he continued to get aggressive and began hurting the staff and destroying their play rooms. I arrived one afternoon, after getting a call just before an important meeting, to find the toddler room where they’d moved him completely trashed.
It was shocking, particularly as we didn’t get this kind of behaviour at home. But the worst was seeing the young women that he’d hurt, and repeatedly apologising for what he had done – but there are only so many times you can say sorry before it sounds hollow even to your own ears.
One morning I dropped my son off at 8am and then started my journey to an office an hour and a half’s drive away. Before I had even arrived, a call came through from the pre-school to pick him up – he was out of control again.
At work, my boss was very understanding, which I was grateful for. But the work – and the stress – was piling up. The other manager role that was supposed to have been put in place never came to fruition, and the assistant I was told I would have ended up being staff who already had full-time roles trying to help me as and when they could spare the time. The only way to manage it all was to work in the evenings and weekends. Add in the 3 hours of travel time daily, and I was exhausted.
After moving him to a smaller branch within the same pre-school group and experiencing the same problems, the pre-school terminated our contract in January 2017. They gave us 4 weeks’ notice, but it didn’t matter – my family all lived abroad, and only my husband’s disabled mother lived nearby. There wasn’t anyone else to turn to.
Thankfully, she was able to help us out by looking after my son for 2.5 days a week, and I ended up having to go part-time and share my role with another colleague. By this point, school was on the horizon, and I didn’t know how we would manage childcare before and after school.
I made the decision the day I got our notice of termination to start building my own home-based business. In 2015, I had read about people working from their laptops all over the world, and had wanted to do the same (minus the travelling), but at the time I didn’t know where to start and soon gave up. My son was the catalyst for finally figuring out how to make it work.
Previously, I had had some mentoring from a senior manager, trying to identify my strengths and use them to define my ideal career path. I had wanted to write, and loved editing, but couldn’t see how to make that work with my engineering background other than by writing bid documents. I knew from experience what a high-stress and demanding role that was, and often with travel, so I wasn’t keen.
Instead, I joined an online job board, positioning myself as a technical writer and editor. I spent three weeks applying for jobs for at least two hours a night, every night, until I finally landed my first contract. I was scared stiff and completely out of my comfort zone, but the client was happy and I got my first 5-star review – and some repeat work.
Once I had that review, getting contracts was a lot easier. But the downside was that between my part-time management role and my side business, I was working 50 to 60 hours a week. I couldn’t keep it up forever.
In July 2017, I made the decision to give up my management job and focus solely on my business, much to the bewilderment of my colleagues. They didn’t understand why I would give up my role, and I just couldn’t bring myself to discuss the problems we were having. I finished a week before my son started school.
I really hoped that school would be the panacea we were all desperate for, but unfortunately that’s not been the case. However, we are finally starting to get the help we need to identify exactly what is causing my son to have so much trouble controlling his emotions and his aggression. It’s still a long road ahead, but I know we are slowly crawling towards an answer. In the meantime, we are all doing our best to help my son manage his “tricky times”.
Things are still tough, as he’s on a reduced timetable which impacts the hours I have available to work. But I get more time with him than I ever had before, which you can’t put a price on. Every month that I manage to pay my bills is a win in my books. The days are long, but the years are short I find. And I don’t miss the stress of my day job and its commute.
Looking back over the last year, it’s been a heck of a journey. So, wherever you are in your own journey, I just wanted to tell you that it’s ok to say, actually, I need to do something else now, even if no one else knows or understands why. And you never know what you can do with the skills you have.”
I am sure many of us are inspired by Tanya’s story. If you have a tale about changing direction, I would be pleased to hear your story and feature it on the blog.