Unintended Consequences

The “Law” In Action

When I was first introduced to the world of “Sociology” I read about the “Law of Unintended Consequences” At the time I remember thinking that (like many “Laws” of sociology) it was an academic explanation of the obvious. I put it down to the fact that I was a “mature” student so perhaps I was biased! Put simply, unintended consequences are outcomes that are not the ones foreseen or intended by a purposeful action!

A poster for unintended consequences with a quote from R Pascale: Unintended consequences get to the heart of why you never really understand a problem until you solve it!
Unintended Consequences

Types of Unintended Consequences

  1. Unexpected benefit: Travel broadens my mind , I met my new family and realised there was more to life than working nights.
  2. Unexpected drawback: Fitting back into my life
  3. Perverse result: The good parts of my life had to part of the changes

As I said before, nothing that we didn’t already know! However, it is in our own life experiences that the “Law of Unintended Consequence” has value.

Herstory Continues

I began this blog with “Herstory”. I knew the time would come when I would write more but I put it in the “too hard” basket for a long time. Like many women our stories are inexorably woven around and through our families. In order to write my story I have to rely on the understanding and love of my close family, extended family and friends. With a deep breathe and not a little trepidation Herstory will continue.

Unintended consequences occur when you choose a career. This photo shows nursing students in the classroom
Study Day

As an adult in New Zealand life was good. I left school to begin my nursing career. I chose nursing (as a opposed to the other option of teaching) because it provided a home (living in was compulsory) and we worked on the wards for 4 days a week and studied on the fifth day (penal rates of pay were introduced during my training) After three and a half years I was a State Registered Nurse.

This was followed by marriage at age twenty, as the social norms of the 70’s dictated. Marrying a farmer meant that my nursing days were over. Farming and marriage became my full time occupation. Driving tractors, working in sheep sheds became my new career. It also cut down on the farm labour costs. The challenge of learning new skills was something I embraced whole whole heartedly. (I’m still doing it!) However, financially, the size of the farm was barely an economic unit. When Britain joined the European Union Common market, changes in subsidies and trade tipped the balance too far and farming became one long struggle for survival.

Unintended consequences occur in marriage. This image shows a young bride photographed on her wedding day with her nephews.
From Nursing to Domesticity

It wasn’t only a financial struggle. The finer points of domestic life caused me no end of angst. Joining Womens’ Division was a rite of passage I barely passed. Why did all the apricots have to face the same way in the preserving jars? Why did, never fail, grows like a weed, “Treasures” from my friends garden die overnight when transplanted to mine? How did my neighbours gardens have concrete paths and sheep proof fences?

Unintended consequences can result in changing lifestyles. A farming scene showing four girls holding lambs in a sheep pen reading for tailing.
Family Life on the Farm

Returning to the workforce was to be a short solution in the 4 year plan to get us back in the black. It was a business plan doomed to fail. As anyone in a successful enterprise knows, your business has to be viable on it’s own merits to be a success. Making the decision to sell the farm and move into town was heart wrenching for all of us. Our children were 4th generation on the farm and moving meant loosing a community that had known them from the day they were born. Farming gave them a sense of place and continuity that couldn’t be transplanted. The unintended consequences in their lives were huge and the sense of belongingness I wanted for myself and my children seemed lost for ever.

Life in town became more regulated, predictable and financially stable from my point of view. Although working nights paid well it too had unintended consequences. As a family we were busy and involved in our new life. The children were able to take part in activities that would not have been possible before and I would like to think they would fall into the category of “unexpected benefits” . Our foray into the entrepreneurial world of tourism (who doesn’t like a new Landrover and boat in the garage) did not do much for the coffers.

When my daughter finished University her overseas travel (commonly referred to as the big OE in New Zealand) started my own serendipity moment. You can read why this happened here. To fill in the “sleepy” hours on night shift my colleagues and I exchanged gossip, lost dreams and new dreams. Many spoke of their overseas holidays………………I had never left New Zealand shores since I arrived in 1955. I began to plan for my own OE with the intention of finding the extended family that were the key to the characters in Mum’s stories. To this day I’m not sure what the children thought about my plans. In the beginning I did not plan to go alone. However, when my husband remarked that there was no point him coming with me if I was just going to visit my relatives I understood that my solo journey was going to last longer than 6 weeks!

Travel sometimes results in unintended consequences. This image shows a female standing beside a road name in England. Whipmawhopmagate!
Travel Broadens the Mind

Travel certainly does broaden the mind. During a 3 day stopover in Hong Kong I explored, got lost and had a suit made to measure. Having no one else to consult about personal decisions was a new and liberating experience. By the time I landed at Heathrow I was a reincarnation of my former self!

Although my time in “England was relatively short I did it all! I re acquainted myself with family members, found my old school, visited my home and went to a family wedding. It was at the wedding that I met someone who was to become very important in my life. He was “father-of-the-bride and his two sisters were married to my two cousins (brothers) Other members of the family shared their photographs and in one of them I could see my sister in the same photographs as his sister. We had attended the same nursery school and no doubt many family gatherings. The story continues much later and, if this was a Barbara Cartland novel I would finish the last page with…..and they lived happily ever after!

An Unexpected Benefit

2 thoughts on “Unintended Consequences

Add yours

    1. I’m not sure if other writer’s agree but writing about yourself is hard! Your comments were like a breathe of fresh air. Thank you so much.


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