Advanced search

Midlife crisis vs family responsibilities

(85 Posts)
emptydreamer Tue 11-Aug-20 09:53:53

The thread is not directly about me, although there surely are certain similarities. It is inspired by several discussions I had with friends over the last couple of weeks - it seems that the lockdown had triggered an early onset of the dreaded midlife crisis in many of us. grin

So I will call the abstract heroine Mary.
Mary has a steady, secure and well-paid job - let's say, she's an accountant. She is also a parent to a couple of small children, and let's make it even more difficult - a lone parent, so there's no help or a safety net from a partner.
Mary is quite unhappy in her job, and has been for some time. She has always dreamt of doing something very different - let's say, veterinary medicine. Going back to uni to re-train means that Mary's family will have to live a very basic lifestyle for a couple of years, and then some, until Mary catches up in her earning power.

So the question.

Does Mary owe it to her children to stay in a mind-numbingly boring, but safe job? Or does she owe it to herself to try something she really wants?

OP’s posts: |
aprilanne Tue 11-Aug-20 09:57:57

If her children are young and it's a drastic life style change sorry Mary you owe it to your children to stay safe once they fly the nest or at least leave high school then yes follow your dream but no you are a mum they must come first

Bumpsadaisie Tue 11-Aug-20 10:01:35

I think the issue is Mary thinks her difficulties could be solved by becoming a vet.

I don't doubt that it might make some difference to her to be doing a job she enjoyed more and to have the experience of training , being part of a cohort at uni, etc etc.

But the danger is she might do all these things and the essential problem will remain unchanged (to the extent that its an internal rather than an external problem. )

I'm interested in why Mary is single and what that is like for her. Is she lonely.

ComtesseDeSpair Tue 11-Aug-20 10:03:28

I think if Mary is confident of being able to requalify and find work in a sector / industry where skills are in high demand and there’s good future potential then she’s essentially making a sensible decision for her family: they aren’t going to benefit from her burning out if she continues in her current career.

I’d have a different view if Mary wanted to “follow her dreams” and spend years doing, say, a creative writing degree with no likely prospect of it getting her anywhere and a greater likelihood she’d end up even more demotivated than she is now (just with much more debt.)

I do also think Mary needs to examine whether it’s actually her career / job which is making her unhappy or whether she could change her outlook by working for a different company (perhaps taking her skills to a workplace where she’d feel like she was making a difference) or moving sideways rather than completely changing. It might be that what Mary currently dislikes about her life is more easily hanged than she thinks.

BoneAppleTeaa Tue 11-Aug-20 10:04:16

I say Mary should go after what she wants, it sounds like the needs of the family will be met (albeit in a different way) and if she feels that she can manage the change, then she should do it.

Bollocks to this concept of you’re a mother so you’re a non entity now.

I may or may not be writing this from my own early onset midlife crisis.

minipie Tue 11-Aug-20 10:04:36

Depends what very basic lifestyle means. Not having foreign holidays, fine. Not having money to fix the boiler if it breaks down, or not being able to pay the rent/mortgage in a bad month, not fine. You do owe it to your kids to maintain financial security if you can.

Would Mary be able to drop to part time in her secure well paid job, to free up time for part time studying?

LabradorGalore Tue 11-Aug-20 10:05:09

Small children cost a lot less than teenagers in most respects so if Mary were to do this, I think doing it at an earlier age is better than waiting until their older. Look at the finances now - can —you— Mary create a savings buffer between now and when any course would start? I’m assuming it wouldn’t be this September but next, giving time to make the appropriate applications etc. Which may also give Mary time to save. Also how is the new degree being funded? What is the eligibility of a loan - is that possible or does Mary have £27K for the 3 year degree sorted already.

Really research it, and work out what will and won’t be funded, how that will apply to the circumstances and if easier, can be be done part time. It will inevitably take longer but may mean Mary can continue to provide a semi decent income in the interim. Most professionals who switch careers either do so with a chunk of savings or part time, because they can’t afford to just give up their income.

Hercwasonaroll Tue 11-Aug-20 10:05:54

Right now with rising unemployment I'd say keep the steady job. Make sure its the job that's making you unhappy and not something else.

The PP who mentioned a creative writing degree is right. No way should you quit your job for something like that with no employment prospects.

I'd also consider if the new job was child friendly.

zafferana Tue 11-Aug-20 10:06:42

In such precarious times as these Mary should stick with her secure job. When you become a parent you really have to put your DC's security first, not your own half-baked dreams. Sorry Mary!

romeolovedjulliet Tue 11-Aug-20 10:08:27


If her children are young and it's a drastic life style change sorry Mary you owe it to your children to stay safe once they fly the nest or at least leave high school then yes follow your dream but no you are a mum they must come first

saves me rehashing, but i agree with this to an extent, is it possible to look for another job, retrain etc ? vets train for about 5 years, that is a huge chunk of your childrens lives for something you might end up not liking. when i went into nursing, several people dropped out because we were told we'd be watching pms and related films, they couldn't do it.

Scattyhattie Tue 11-Aug-20 10:11:37

If Mary doesn't have a support safety net presumably it would be difficult to do vet school as tends to need work experience placements to be able get on a course and then bound to work placements during study too. There is a shortage of vets but wouldn't think job is particularly family friendly, but that maybe just as my vets a workaholic,

My friend is retraining for a new career & has younger kids but the course is 1 day a week so has been able to continue job PT & has help from ex + family to cover care.

Suze1621 Tue 11-Aug-20 10:12:02

I think life is too short - surely Covid has shown us that. If Mary researches and has a good plan, then go for it - children are adaptable. I wouldn't be too worried about a 'basic' lifestyle provided time with the children wouldn't be in short supply.

dayslikethese1 Tue 11-Aug-20 10:12:40

I'd say work out the finances; would financial help/student loans could be applied for (career development loan or similar?), how much she has in savings, how long it would take to be earning, what the job prospects were and so on. If all that seems feasible then do it. Also consider as previous pp have said; is it just the job that's the problem? Consider moving sideways or into a different sector first as this might be more fulfilling (accountancy can be done in a variety of settings after all) or find ways to stretch herself at work (are there any projects she can become involved with, other positions she could go for internally etc.) If she really hates it and there's no prospects for improvement, then start making plan to leave (as above).

burnoutbabe Tue 11-Aug-20 10:15:08

the issue is more the new choice of career, vets is a long training period, even assuming you get onto the course (need very high academics) and then what sort of hours are involved afterwards/salaries - dont you have to own a practice to make decent money?

as an accountant, you could move jobs to a ton of places where you are doing a job you enjoy more - like for a animal charity? or other sectors that interest you more, but still doing same job.

HugeAckmansWife Tue 11-Aug-20 10:16:41

I think the vet thing was just an example so we needn't get to hung up on specific training details. I agree with the pp who said that it depends what 'basic lifestyle' means and the age of the kids. Much younger kids can be easily and cheaply entertained locally much more easily than teenagers. On the whole I think assuming she's not risking losing the roofbover their eads she should do it. You don't / shouldn't complete subsume yourself into just a parent, lone or otherwise. Where is the sad in all this? Is he paying maintenance, having the kids anytime?

HugeAckmansWife Tue 11-Aug-20 10:16:53

Dad not sad!

emptydreamer Tue 11-Aug-20 10:31:01

Thanks all for the responses. Mary is only loosely based on me and a couple of my friends, and I used "accountant" and "vet" as proxies only, to illustrate the situation. A more common "destination" dream seems to be human, rather than animal, medicine, but I also have wannabe robotics engineers and pilots in my circle grin. In my case "basic" lifestyle means - for example - no holidays, no extracurricular lessons, and in the longer term - decreased ability to contribute to the children's own university fees or help with the house deposits. But I definitely should be able to provide essentials such as roof over their heads and food.

I found myself judging a good friend who told me about her own desire for change (in a "had she thought about the impact on her children!" way). But, objectively, she is in a very similar situation to myself (she's even my colleague!) and I have a very, very similar yearning for a drastic change. I was quite unpleasantly surprised by my own reaction to her disclosure, and even quite ashamed. Thus this thread.

OP’s posts: |
emptydreamer Tue 11-Aug-20 10:35:15

I may or may not be writing this from my own early onset midlife crisis.
It is weird but now, when I catch up with old friends post lockdown, the conversation (after a glass or two) almost inevitably turns to this topic - how unhappy everyone is doing what they are doing, and maybe it is the right time to pursue old dreams.
I don't know whether it is only in my circle or a wider phenomenon.

OP’s posts: |
Areyouactuallyseriousrightnow Tue 11-Aug-20 10:36:39

Completely depends on what financial situation this will put Mary in- not being able to pay bills- this isn’t a good plan obviously, but if it’s not being able to afford foreign holidays Or having less disposable income- then yes Mary should invest in herself and her family’s future and do this now.
Why not? Life is short, it’s a sensible career choice, the time will fly by and she’ll be set up with a great new career.
Some day the kids will older, much more independent and eventually as okay will move out altogether- this is the time when she’ll need a career that she is fulfilled by.

Dozycuntlaters Tue 11-Aug-20 10:37:31

I think it depends on whether this new training/job will actually make Mary;s life any better. What if she does all that and still feels unsettled.

When my mum was dying I went through a stage of really wanting to re-train as a physio (I was 39 at the time) and I did look into it but I would have had to give up my job to do the adequate qualifications. I have a son, I can't do that. I'm not going to put my family life in jeopardy on a whim and hence 10 years later I have no regrets. it was a pipe dream, I'd just have swapped one set of issues for another.

Mary needs to find inner peace and peace and acceptance in her life as it is. Sure she can make changes but no I don't believe major changes should be made when you have kids reliant on you, time for all that when they're grown up.

Areyouactuallyseriousrightnow Tue 11-Aug-20 10:38:51

Sorry didn’t read your update you’ve answered my question. Mary/you should go for it!

ilovemyrednosedaymug Tue 11-Aug-20 10:41:53

What you describe as a "basic" lifestyle is a normal lifestyle for lots of people. Nobody I know can afford to put away money for their DC's university years or a house deposit and I know lots of kids who don't do clubs/music lessons/sports etc as the parents can't afford it.

So if that is the sort of lifestyle change you would undergo, then maybe the person should pursue their dreams.

If the DC are very little and childcare is going to be an issue, then maybe wait a few years depending on your own age.

midlifecrisisorwot Tue 11-Aug-20 10:43:56

It isn't really to do with money I don't think, more to do with time with dc, studying something like vet science would require huge chunks of your time and attention will be diverted from dc.

Unless you can study p/t in the first few years.

Or go p/t with your job and see if your life is more bearable, doing more hobbies, spending more time with dc?

I think you should be giving priority to spending time with dc at this age, time is more important than money, and you might find that more fulfilling, and you don't get the time back with them

PLENTY of time to have a midlife crisis in the future.

Viviennemary Tue 11-Aug-20 10:46:13

If the fictitious Mary wants to do vetinary then her family will be poor for a lot longer than two years. And she probably won't have any time to do a few hours accounting to earn extra cash. She should have done it when she left school.

Enoughnowstop Tue 11-Aug-20 10:46:30

The best advice is understanding why you want the change. If it is desperation to do the one job that got away because you dropped a couple of grades at A level that’s one thing, but if it’s an out of the blue, being a bet would make me happy, it probably won’t. My ex had a mid life crisis at 36 - one long affair later, he walked out. 12 years later and he is miserable as sin - so my children say, anyway - and I would hazard a guess that’s because what needed to change was him, not me. That may well have still meant the end of our marriage, but understanding your motives is absolutely key.

Join the discussion

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.

Join Mumsnet

Already have a Mumsnet account? Log in