Oh, I remember this well….
Not long after baby number 1 was born I was already “dreading” the thought of work and quite adamant I wasn’t going back to my old job. The hours, the commute, the pressure, the “absolutely” non-flexible working policy and also the not fitting in anymore because I simply couldn’t go out and play after work – every night! This was several years ago and believe me you were expected to return quickly to the same job and carry on as if nothing had changed. Leave at 5, and you were not pulling your weight or “doing a half day”!.
It was time to move on and reinvent oneself….
Armed with super confidence (haven’t a clue were this came from) and a mission to work flexibly I re-entered the marketplace with full force and a new “identity”. Well not literally, just my bundle of joy in mind and my desire to balance the act. I charged into the City to find that job and had a list of opportunities to explore.
As I delivered presentations, sat through panel interviews I was getting closer to the “mum” subject and the questions to follow…..This was to be a challenge!
Demonstrating my skills and experience was easy but to think on my feet (erm, I am sure I left bits of brain at home!) and convince potential employers I could “juggle it all” was a real challenge. I hadn’t really considered how much my perception of work had changed and my ability to convince, reassure and demonstrate what a working mum does was pretty difficult. I hadn’t prepared for it and that awkward questions around “hours”? Back then home working was a relatively new feature in some jobs and this was to offer me the flexibility I yearned for.
Thankfully my experience assisted me well and I was offered a few of the positions but with a caveat outlining my availability as and when needed. It came with the territory.
What resonates now and didn’t then was how much my priorities had truly shifted and how I meticulously had to communicate this. Being from a sales background I leapt into my pitch with some ease, but had a steep step ahead of me to convince.
I suppose what I am trying to say is that I am sure we will all find our feet and our way but for me I hadn’t factored in that within such a short space of time I had changed and I wasn’t approaching my career the same as before….I now had to perform my working life with an added responsibility…a”baby” and if I was to keep my position and my head above water I had to start pedalling and HARD!
I couldn’t resist writing about the Government’s proposed changes to update workplace regulations – additional “flexibility”!. You may have sensed, this is quite close to my heart.
Firstly, I must highlight the groans which I can already hear quite loudly from “some” employers, not all may I add. And yes, I agree small businesses will feel the pinch, however in the grand scheme of the things I feel that additional flexibility sprinkled across our society is what we so need to bring us into the modern world we all want to be part of. Some concerns have already been echoed by The Federation of Small Businesses “warning of the rule changes which may complicate current rules and may be a burden to businesses wishing to expand in a tough economic climate”.
Now before we get too excited, the Government will begin consulting on “plans” to give both parents an extra month off during the first year of baby’s life. The proposed date for introducing this is 2015. They may not actually even happen?
If they do go ahead, the way in which I interpret this is that the new flexible working plans will not only support parents with young families but anyone with “caring” responsibilities outside of their job. This would be a huge benefit to many people and their families in this country if it does become policy.
Looking at this from an employer’s perspective, it needn’t be considered a complete disadvantage for them. An example of my own experience when returning to work from maternity leave very early, as this was mainly for reasons of not wanting to impact my own career aspirations, but actually support a small business during an economic downturn. At the time, this policy would have worked a treat! I was very aware that I needed to return to work and at that time I could have concentrated on a few essential inputs to support the business and then move back out of my role to continue with my maternity leave. Perhaps this is what some businesses would actually benefit from without panicking that the world will crumble if a key employee’s skills/knowledge is absent for a period of time? I appreciate not always ideal for some businesses.
I really do think life has moved forward in our society. So many women return to work after their maternity leave nowadays and fathers do play a part in caring for children and domestic duties more than they ever did. I think the additional flexibility for dad’s is positive, however, I believe this will be harder to implement as it may simply result in some damaging their career’s. This has been highlighted from many business experts and also men’s “ego’s” may get in the way! I am not sure all men (especially if the main breadwinner) are going to take advantage of this. Again, really will depend on the father’s career, company and I think the individual. A good benefit to have though..
The first year of a babies life changes almost daily and it is a time to be enjoyed and is very precious. I guess the reason I am in full support for more flexibility is that it can be achieved, sensibly and may in fact assist some families to keep their career responsibilities on track as it certainly doesn’t need to be a “knee jerk” reaction going back to work. This new policy may just help some, not all, however it’s a good step towards supporting their family in what is quite a hectic and pressurised world we live in today…..
Single Parent……….. Double Trouble?
Being a parent is not easy. Being a single parent is twice as hard. Responsibilities, worries, bills, school runs, ballet classes, football club…. are borne by one pair of shoulders and even Mr. T couldn’t carry that burden alone.
For whatever reason or circumstance finds you in this position, it is one that is initially daunting but with a bit of support, a leap of faith and a good sense of humour, it is one that you can not only survive but embrace. You can sleep easy at night. You can still have a career. You can pay your bills.
Your life doesn’t stop; it just takes an unexpected direction that can initially throw you into unfamiliar territory with a large pinch of guilt and a sprinkle of self-doubt.
My journey began when my daughter was a baby. I have since learned through first-hand experience about everything from working tax credits to childcare, flexible working hours to making your pound go further.
From my experience, the work/home balance is a fine juggling act for every mother but once struck, it provides space, self-esteem and fulfilment as a working woman and recharged batteries, passion, excitement and fulfilment as a loving mother.
That pearl of wisdom relayed, I am no expert but knowledge is power and it goes a long way. It gave me strength to know that I wasn’t alone or some societal anomaly and that there are a lot of good organisations and websites out there (allmumkind and gingerbread to name but two) that provide practical information and support and don’t make you feel like the pip in the apple.
Over the next few months, I shall tackle a number of topics with the aim of clearing the mists of uncertainty and providing a bit of much-needed sanity. I shall be offering practical advice and support for those of you out there that need a nudge in the right direction or just want a friendly ear to listen to your problems or answer your nagging concerns. I am more than happy to answer questions or comments to my post.
Posted in Family, Guest posts, Mummy and working, Single "super" mummy | Tags: Balance, Benefits, Careers, Childcare, Employment, Financial, Flexible, Mummy, Responsibility, Single Parent, Support Network, Women, Working
I must admit I was lucky with the support from my boss when I went on maternity leave with my second baby. My bosses were equally very lucky as I meticulously handed over a smooth running operation with full instructions. Famous last words as I waddled out of the office “You can call me whenever…..Not a problem”
I always had a very open and trusting relationship with my superiors. Especially with the career I was in, I could work flexibly, hold down a senior position and enjoyed a very good level of success across the company. It was a two way street which worked.
I knew that my bosses were nervous when I announced my pregnancy, but provided support and together we planned well ahead for my maternity leave, conducted extra training and I was heavily involved right up to the minute I left. I was even emailing, replying to Blackberry messages, offering guidance after my daughter was born. I even attended a meeting just 2 months after she was born. It was what I thought I should and had to do to sustain my senior position. I suppose deep down I thought I would drift away if I didn’t keep involved. It was very stressful and part of me does regret being so consumed during the first few months of my baby’s life but I was going back quite soon and I had to be on top of my career.
Hindsight is such a wonderful thing. I look back now and I should have completely switched off and taken my full maternity leave and just let it be. I was worrying about nothing and creating unnecessary stress. I can confidently say this as I left 6 months after I retuned from maternity leave. The whole company changed during that year with a big help from the recession and many of the decisions taken I couldn’t change anyway. Lesson learned. With or without me it was never going to be the same.
So my advice is just embrace your maternity leave and be savvy enough to keep an ear open from your workplace with business updates, politics, colleagues and anything else to keep you up to date. If you can switch off and don’t waste any special moments then do it. What will be will be. You will never get the time back.
The whole purpose of launching allmumkind presented itself to me when I changed course and stepped away. So, as you can see, you never know what’s around the corner and for me I am the happiest I have been. The guilt of wasting some precious moments does surface, but I look where I am now and my guilt lessens as I am with my children more than if I had stayed put.