What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is… well, mine!

I have always been of the school of thought that it pays to be independently wealthy; or at least sufficiently wealthy as to be able to be independent. As Jane Austen would attest to, even back in the day when women shared the sole goal of attaining security and comfort through the status of dependent wife, it was still a prerequisite to be wealthy, or at least with considerable dowry, in order to achieve said goal.

Having spent and squirreled away my earnings, in not always equal measure but always in whichever proportion I, and only I, deemed fit, I have now reached a juncture where the monthly joys of tearing open perforations on payslips and ranting about the heinous PAYE contributions is now just a fading memory. Our family income has fallen by 50% and our family membership has simultaneously increased by 50%. Aside from the financial freedom I have recently forfeited, comes a less tangible forfeiture – that of my emotional independence, sense of identity and self worth. My wings have officially been clipped. I am now a kept woman.  

It is by no means easy to step away from the Louboutins, give the monthly handbag habit the heave ho, and ignore the relentless beckoning of net a porter every time I logon – tantamount to an alcoholic holing up next door to an off licence. Just a click away – sigh… But, armed with the knowledge that every penny I now spend is hard earned by someone other than myself, makes me consider and consider again, before handing over the readies. Not a bad thing perhaps but when each (deeply considered) purchase is cloaked in a carrier bag of guilt, it brings a whole new meaning to the phrase guilty pleasure – in this instance the pleasure is all but dissipated by the overwhelming guilt.

Mr A is a reasonable man; not an active proponent of feminism but certainly supports the notion of equality in the household – thankfully. In recognition of my desire to hang on to my dignity (by a thread)  and fear of feeling like the big issue seller touting for charitable donations, he has kindly arranged for a monthly sum to magically materialise in my personal account. He had the sensitivity to remember my angst-ridden anecdote involving an aunt who had to ask her husband for handouts, cap in hand, and account for every penny spent (I’ve known more liberal corporate expense accounts), including precise costs associated with feminine products of the monthly requisite variety – oh the shame! What’s more, he allows me to treat him to lunch once in a while, without subjecting me to the humiliating fact that it is actually himself treating himself in a roundabout way. My deeply engrained mindset of what is his vs what is mine vs what is ours is a tough one to change.

In time I hope to accept that we have embarked on a path together as a family and that my role for the moment is primary carer of home (in which I am woefully inadequate, hence our cleaner) and child (in which I hope I am infinitely more adequate). This doesn’t brand me as a lesser person than when I was defined as a city worker; simply a different person. My contribution though less tangible is no less important.

Likewise, my priorities in life have conveniently taken a turn (for better or worse is debatable). This may just be a moment of aberration (or insanity), but for now anyway, dare I say it, I genuinely feel that one can have enough handbags and shoes. I spend most days traipsing miles round London with buggy in tow, to avoid using possibly world’s most un-baby friendly public transport system. Opportunities for fancy footwear and alluring arm candy are limited. I’m certainly aware that I may (will) not adhere to this way of thinking in the long haul and it is only a matter of time before I revert to my old ways (cf last month’s impromptu Mulberry Roxanne joining my handbag harem), but until then I’m happy for the Birkin wait list to maintain its elusive length.

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‘Tis the Season to be Jolly (or not)

It’s that time of the year again; Bonus Season – the only difference is this year I won’t be participating in the thrills of Chinese whisper-esque wild speculation in B-Day preamble, nor in the disappointment/ ecstasy (delete as applicable) and post B-Day shopping frenzy that marks the highlight (and potential lowlight in this year’s case) of a banker’s 365 day cycle. This year, I can only reminisce. 

This is the defining moment that will determine whether the next 365 day cycle will be Gucci or Gap, Porsche or Punto, relocate or renovate. Like a Sliding Doors for bankers. For the past 8 years I have revelled in the up-cycle and commiserated with the great, and the not so great, in less fruitful times. Incidentally, some years have been positively impoverished.

So with the annual welcoming of a new year, there is always the simultaneous ushering in of a renewed fervour over the imminent receipt of the proverbial fat cheque that will subsidise forthcoming school fees, tropical getaways and the like. Our bonuses were usually announced in Jan/Feb. However, the bonus pot was typically agreed and divvied up (and mentally spent) by end-December, so December (November for the super keen) was prime brown-nose season. Coinciding, rather conveniently, with Christmas bashes of varying degrees of mirth and subsequently, varying degrees of brown noses.

Approximately half of the business year leading up to last year’s bonus had been plagued by the crunch; yet, the former half of said year was a fairly jolly, quids-in type of affair. There was talk ranging from a heart wrenching zero bonus, to a rather zealous 30% up (self delusion, a wonderful thing), and everything in between. Hours of paid time were whiled away discussing the multitude of possibilities. Even more hours were whiled away inputting fictitious guesstimates into the in-house model provided for employees to calculate what amount of any imagined bonus would be paid in normal shares vs better-than-normal shares vs cash in hand.

 Finally the day arrives. Everyone is sitting primed at their desk at a distinctly earlier hour than the usual unearthly hour; all ramrod straight, staring with immense concentration at their screens without a discernible twitch. No one speaks. The desk head has been holed up in a box meeting room on the 4th floor (which was booked months ahead by the secretary who had to fight tooth and nail for it – one year, all bonus meetings had to take place in Starbucks owing to an ineffectual secretary) since 5.30am. Then the summonses begin in earnest. One by one the pilgrimage to the 4th floor is made akin to a death march and, just as quickly, they each return, A4 envelope clutched in hand, each avoids eye contact and resumes the previous pose, blank demeanour betraying neither delight nor devastation. Someone’s gone a long time and for a moment we wonder whether they have gone for good as a demonstration of their disgust, but it turns out he simply got trapped in the lift going up one floor.  

Then my phone rings – it’s my turn. Would I like to call a friend? If only. I’m in and out in 5minutes max. Cut the small talk there’s only one figure anyone is remotely interested in. Blah blah blah, bad year, blah blah, want to reward our good employees, blah blah – aaaagghhh. I assume my poker-face (I’ve never played poker) throughout the entire proceeding; automatically recite my rehearsed disappointment speech (as I did the year before and the year before that) then make a sharp exit. I make a beeline for the ladies loos as always, lock myself in a cubicle, review the paperwork (one boss told me the wrong salary figure one year – seriously), then compose myself accordingly. The first year I broke my self-imposed mental glass ceiling I jumped up and down in my cubicle doing a silent scream. This time really wasn’t so bad (in light of the hype); yes it was down, but it wasn’t a doughnut (zero). Perhaps they were being nice to me to avoid hysterical pregnant woman scenario. Then again, perhaps I shouldn’t sell myself short. Regardless, I couldn’t jump up and down for fear of inducing an early labour but I was perfectly content. I still remember it warmly.

Perhaps this year I should enquire whether I accrue a bonus while on maternity leave.

Blog virgin

My name is Mrs A and I’m an ex-banker.

To be precise, I’m an ex-stockbroker but banker serves as a convenient umbrella term. And strictly speaking, I’m not actually (yet) a banker of the ‘ex’ variety. However, I am on maternity leave, plus I was made redundant while on said maternity leave so the ‘ex’ is just a matter of time.

These days, it’s as shameful to be a banker as it is to be an alcoholic. But like the recovering alcoholic, I’m hoping to seek some reprieve given my status as a recovering banker.

It’s been 1 month shy of a year since I turned my back on the cocoon of my old life, swapping broking for baby, and simultaneously turned my life upside down, inside out, with a shake all about. Being a mother is exhilarating beyond the value of million dollar deals; it has given me a renewed outlook on, and purpose in, life. But it is also undeniably lonely on more than the odd occasion. Surrounded by nothing but the resounding sound of my own voice and the indecipherable and sometimes insatiable cries of a baby, the thoughts in my head are my only escape valve.

To those out there like me – nostalgic, regretful (not of what I’m doing now but of what I didn’t do when I could) , hopeful and striving to reconcile the dual identity of self BC (before child) with AD (after delivery), you’re not alone. Welcome to my world.