When I was at school I was good at science, most particularly biology and I thought it might be a good thing to work in a laboratory. I thought medical research might be a noble occupation but I wasn't set on it so I had a general direction to head in.
As fate would have it, the week I completed my exams there was a position advertised for a lab assistant at a pharmaceutical factory just near home. I applied for the job and got it. The interviewer chose me because the young man she interviewed had achieved higher marks than mine so she expected he would move on to greener pastures but I might stay.
I thought I might do the job for the long holidays and then quit to go to university but after a couple of months there I was not inclined to give up the pay packet. I wanted to work full time and study part time, which I ended up doing. The idea of a science degree taking six years of part time study was daunting so I chose to go to technical college where an associate diploma would take four years. A couple of failed subjects meant that my four year study plan extended to five years with the last two years being a very reduced workload. I eventually achieved my Associate Diploma of Applied Science - Biological Techniques but didn't ever officially use it because by that time I had worked in a number of Quality Assurance labs in the manufacturing industry. It was a lucky deviation from what I expected because I was better suited to QA than to research. QA yields fast results and mostly, has fast solutions to problems. I wouldn't have enjoyed the long years of research work that all too often results in a dead end.
There was a recession and I made some big mistakes with office politics so I was made redundant a couple of times but I finally did well at a plastics company where I was trusted as the only Quality Control technician for the afternoon shift. I wanted to make a career there or at least grow enough there that I could develop a career but the company moved to Melbourne during the time I was on maternity leave for my second child. Moving cities was never an option for me so I took another redundancy.
With two littlies and no job to go to, I became mostly a stay at home mum for a few years. I did some casual cleaning work and when my church got a grant for an admin assistant I did that one day a week for a year.
After a few years, all the kids went off to school and I was offered a job in the herbal medicine factory where my husband worked. I bottled herbs for them as a casual employee for a number of years and as the kids progressed through school I thought maybe I could commit to a more demanding job so I pulled out my diploma and asked them if they would consider putting me in the lab there. I wasn't confident I would know how to do the work but I was confident I could learn it quickly and do it well.
Unfortunately the answer was a flat no, my hours were reduced, my immediate boss bullied me to the point where I would be nauseous even thinking about work and I left.
I felt that I had been out of laboratories for too long to be taken seriously as a candidate for a position in a lab so with the chance to do something different, I decided to become a doula. I felt that maybe this was "my calling", the place where I could really be my best self. I had realised that although I enjoyed science, I probably enjoy people better. Doula-ing would allow me to keep in touch with my scientific bent and it would also allow me to meet a range of people, not an exhausting daily carousel but enough to keep me interested. I would need to develop some degree of intimacy with clients to be useful in the birth room and I would need to use and develop skills in teaching and listening. It should be a dream occupation.
I have talked here about doula-ing so that part of my life has been documented to a degree. I think I can say that I have been very successful as a doula but not as a business person. For the families who have chosen my services, I have done my job well but not many have chosen me. In five years I have attended 22 families (one of them for first and second babies) offering either birth support or postpartum services and while I have enjoyed it immensely, it doesn't really count as a "life's work"
My work as a mother has been my life's work and I am proud of the results but I do hope there will be another body of work that I can be proud of.