I used to love going to work: I had a wardrobe rammed full of lovely garments that I’d don each day (generally a different outfit each day) with a pair of heels. I’d put on a slick of the war paint and off I would go. I really enjoyed the work I did, and at the time, I was able to travel to wherever was needed, and start and end whenever was needed. Then, I had a baby.
This isn’t actually a rant about my workplace, and how they mistreated me after the birth of my daughter because nothing of the sort happened. But I changed. After nine months of pregnancy, that wardrobe of rather lovely clothes no longer fitted me. If I could squeeze into them, they suddenly didn’t look chic anymore. Heels are a thing of the past, post children, I’d long for flats, and trotting to the tube in heels was the most unappealing thing. As shallow as it sounds, coming to terms with my change in appearance after children was a bit of a confidence-killer. I didn’t feel I looked the part anymore.
Secondly, I was not prepared for my strong love for my baby daughter. She would only be little for a while, and actually, I didn’t want to spend most of the week in an office while she was in childcare, I really wanted to be with her. Suddenly, the world of a career and combining it with trying to be mum seemed too daunting.
My husband and I decided that I wouldn’t go back again, after the birth of our second baby, my son. Jaunting into the West End for three, sometimes four days, being away from home from 8 until after 6 was no longer an option for me. I then spent a (sometimes) blissful few years simply bringing up the children. Yes, there wasn’t as much money as there could be, and at times, I did find it stultifying boring and I did long for a few hours in the workplace, for the both the mental and social aspect. The grass isn’t greener on either side, and seemingly women are often thwarted by trying to return to work and be a mother. It’s hard to believe we are in 2017 sometimes.
Last week, I was invited by Mumsnet and No.7 to their fabulous event, Going Back to Work with Confidence. The event began with an inspiring panel made up of Carrie Longton (founder of Mumsnet), Jade Parfitt (supermodel), Anna Whitehouse from Mother Pukka (vlogger and blogger) and The Step Up Club (career coaches). All five women are passionate about finding that elusive balance between motherhood and still keeping a career, which can often be a crucial part of someone’s identity.
The panel were incredibly insightful, and indeed empowering.
One key point they all stressed was pushing for flexible working conditions: Whether that is working partly from home, working hours that fit around affordable childcare or other family commitments. Simply by showing the transparency right from the beginning about your family situation can pave the way for a more fruitful working relationship. Having control of your working life, is undoubtedly going to make you a happier person.
Carrie Longton made a salient point: You can’t have it all, you choose what really matters. This could be translated in many ways; maybe you work part time, fulfill a different role or you share drop offs (remember, flexible working is also a male issue, not just your’s as the mother!) and pick ups so you are not run completely ragged. This resonated with me, as I felt giving up work was a matter of choosing what was important to me at that time.
The panel were very encouraging towards setting up your own business, which may give you the work / life balance you want. They advised to be bold, and not to be intimidated. However, setting up a business does not happen overnight, it is very much a gradual process. The panel also mentioned that working from home is not for the faint-hearted, which TMK’s very own Rosie blogged about in her post, The Truth About Working From Home.
We can all agree that working when also a mother presents many challenges, but I think Jade Parfitt as a supermodel had one of the largest challenges. On a shoot, she was still breastfeeding, and as we all know time away from the feeding baby can make our boobs have a life of their own: Imagine being in designer clothes trying to make sure the breast pads don’t slip, and desperately hoping they are not going to leak everywhere!
All these years on from leaving my job, I do now work at home flexibly, and on both the blog and my own burgeoning social media management company. I don’t always do everything brilliantly, but I am certainly doing a good enough job. I also thank the other TMK girls for their encouragement and watching how they have developed their working lives alongside their family life. Melissa wrote a fabulous post on this called A Postcard to My Past, Present and Future Self, on how she has made her business work and how she hopes that her daughters will see that working options are limitless, not limiting.
Thank you to Mumsnet an inspiring panel, and to No.7 for making me over, so I looked pretty glamourous, if only for an evening!
I’d love to know how confident you were returning to work, and if you were able to build in any flexibility to your working life.