Mum of one and midwife Avril Flynn talks about her successful career change from lawyer to midwife.
I’m a Midwife. It’s a career I absolutely adore. It’s a part of my identity and I’m really proud of it. But it is certainly not what I dreamed of being when I was young.
When I was little, I wanted desperately to be a famous actress. Unfortunately, (or perhaps fortunately for the rest of the world!) the pinnacle of my dramatic endeavours was playing, at 8 years old, the part of one of the Von Trapp children in the Dundalk Musical Society’s version of The Sound of Music.
Thankfully, as I got older, things changed and I set my sights firmly on becoming a lawyer. It was something I wanted desperately.
I loved debating, read everything I could get my little paws on and idolized Mary Robinson, who I thought to be a brilliant president, a trailblazing woman and a superb barrister.
The seeds of my ardent feminism were sown very early on and like my idol, I thought I could make a difference and do some real good in the world.
While I have an inquiring mind, I am certainly no genius and I’ve always had to work and study really hard. While some people just absorb things, I have to read, read and re-read to get facts into my head.
I remember with dread sitting my Leaving Cert. Even now, nearly 20 years, a couple of degrees and countless exams later, I still have nightmares about the bloody Leaving Cert!
I thought my entire life depended on it and very nearly gave myself a nervous breakdown in the process. I thought if I didn’t get to study law, that my life would be ruined.
Thankfully, I made it up to Dublin and loved my chosen area of study. I worked hard, got my degree and got a place in Kings Inn to study to be a Barrister. I had worked the entire way through college and continued working full time, studying at night, 5 nights a week.
During this time, my mum got sick and died suddenly. She was my world, I was utterly devasted and my heart was totally broken. Over time, the thought of a career where I professionally argued with other people lost all of its attractiveness. I was pretty lost. I had spent years working toward a goal that now seemed entirely meaningless to me.
Over time, I realized that I still wanted to do something that mattered to me, but that there were lots of different jobs that could achieve that aim. I was working as a medical administrator alongside my studies and thought that while I didn’t think I had the energy to go back and do 7 years of medicine, that midwifery could be something I could love.
I had spent years in college with the sole purpose of being a lawyer, so the thought of telling my poor Dad I had changed my mind terrified me.
Other people were understandably shocked and not just a few thought I had totally lost the plot altogether! Dad was incredibly supportive. He gave me one of the best pieces of advice I had ever heard.
"In your lifetime, whatever job you choose, you’ll spend more hours awake doing that job, than you will with your romantic partner…. and you should be very picky about who you would marry so make sure you work at something that you love."
So that was that! I gave up my legal career, gave up my apartment and life in Dublin and moved back in with my dad at 26!
I’m not going to lie. It was the most difficult 4 years of my life. The training was incredibly tough, but I had expected that. The real challenge was being back to the life of a student and living back at home, just as all of my friends and colleagues’ careers took off.
It was a real challenge. I questioned my decision more than once, but I really felt that I knew in my heart it was the best decision I had ever made, and it was.
I met the most incredible friends and workmates and utterly adored my chosen path. I got to help families, witnessed the birth of beautiful babies and did something I am still so passionate about.
The wonderful thing about doing something really scary, giving up a career for another, is that it gives you the strength to take risks and not be afraid.
My new job as a mum has been the most difficult change yet. After my darling son, Felix was born just over a year ago, I had the confidence to take the opportunity to set up my own business.
I’m still very much a midwife but now give birth and baby preparation classes to families, I get to write these articles, present a podcast, meet incredible parents and be truly happy.
Who knows what the future holds? I’m open to all of it.
So if you don’t like your job, if you feel something else is calling you, don’t be scared to take the leap and make a massive change. Nothing bad will come it if you work hard and follow your heart.
I’m so lucky having had the education I have, none of it has been wasted. I continue to learn every day. Whether you are 20, 30, 40 or 50, the only limitation you have is the one that you make for yourself.
And sure look, I’m sort of back on the stage presenting live events; even my 8-year-old inner child is doing a happy dance.