Ah the heady days of my 20’s…when my biggest decision revolved around whether I should stay out for another glass of sauvignon blanc or rush home for the latest instalment of The Batchelor (note to self…having another glass of wine at home whilst watching it on TenPlay was clearly always the winner!!) Oh life was stressful….a whirlwind of social gatherings and the exciting day to day drama of my “glamorous” job in fashion. I remember how I used to scoff at my sisters professed “stressful” existence…a stay at home mum of 3…what had she got to be stressed about??!! Surely her world revolved around coffee and playdates??! Little did I know….
My husband and I were elated to find out we were pregnant a year after we had married (as the ultimate planner this was clearly going to my schedule…tick!). I had recently read Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” and felt that the next natural step for me as a successful career woman was to become a mother…I would not put my maternal urge off for the sake of my career…as a #bossbabe I would easily be able to juggle the two and still have time for my weekly dinner dates with girls! Naïve I know…
Of course I’ll return to work!
Having overheard hushed conversations in the past of “Oh she’s going on maternity leave, we won’t see her again” I was keen to prove this theory wrong. Adamant that I would continue in my role with the same intensity and enthusiasm as ever before I set to work to ensure my position would be safeguarded for my return. When questions were posed about my expected return to work date I would quickly confirm that I would be back within 6 months…not for me was a life of mummy chit chat and baby classes!
Big Decisions: Career or Baby?
Fast forward 9 months and after 11 hours of “breathing” my baby out (technically some may have called it “mooing”) I had a beautiful baby girl in my arms. All thoughts of range plans, new season collections and target profit margins went out of the window….this precious bundle was all mine and it was my duty to keep her alive.
As any mum will tell you, the first 3 months of your little one’s life is pretty much a blur – the monotony of feeding, sleeping and changing alongside a rollercoaster of emotions all supercharged by an incessant lack of sleep! In this dreamlike (some may say nightmare) state I flip flopped between my desperation to get back to the office and rediscover “me” and a deep pitted, internal ache that I could never leave my baby in anyone else’s care!
At 6 months I realised that I wasn’t ready for my maternity leave to end. No longer a newborn, my daughter was entering an exciting stage of development and discovery and I didn’t want to miss out! Mentally deciding that I would extend our time together to a year I was able to fully immerse myself in “Mummy World” however time flies when you’re having fun (although not it seems during that witching hour before bed!) and that year quickly drew to a close.
It was then that I started to think about the offices I had worked in since graduating and it suddenly dawned on me that there was an obvious decline in the number of women over 35 in any of these memories…as an ambitious, career minded young woman it clearly hadn’t alerted me to the fact that my career choice and babies weren’t a great match! Realising that I couldn’t return to my previous role without taking on full time hours and frequent travel it was time to go back to the drawing board…
The March of the Mumpreneur!
Don’t get me wrong, many companies make excellent provisions for working mums and offer flexi hours or the ability to work from home, some even offer job share options enabling women to return to their previous roles whilst also caring for their child. Unfortunately, in some positions this is just not workable and so for these mums there is a big choice to make…either give up the career you’ve worked so hard for or give up the precious time with your child. It’s a very hard decision to make and no one can prepare you for how this will make you feel or what will be the best decision for you and your family.
I decided that after 12 years in the fashion retail industry, it was time to rethink my options. How could I best utilise my skills whilst also being there for my child? Having felt alone in my internal struggle it quickly became apparent that so many other mums felt exactly the same.
The rise of home based, online brands and businesses is testament to the fact that so many women feel in the same position as me. Speaking to my own circle of mummy friends, two are currently retraining in jobs to suit a flexible lifestyle and one is miserable in their full-time job desperately seeking an alternative. Looking wider afield, it’s clear that this is a global phenomenon! Mum Bloggers, social media groups such as @likemindedbitchesdrinkingwine and @bloomingfounders and recruitment websites aimed at mums www.2to3days.com and www.puffling.com.au all demonstrate that there is a growing demand for flexible work options for parents.
Technology means that it is now easier than ever before to work outside an office, no longer must we be chained to a desk in order to run a successful business! Mumpreneurs the world is our oyster!
The Working Mum Juggle
All mums (and dads) are juggling lots of balls at one time and we’re desperate not to let any of them drop. For those of us who take the plunge to reach the “promised land” and have the best of both worlds this juggle is particularly taxing – can we really have it all?
As a freelance mum I now have the flexibility to work the hours that fit in with my childcare arrangements. I can take my daughter swimming, to singing and dancing classes and hopefully in the future I’ll be the mum who’s at the school gates on time! This however comes at a price, no security of a pay check at the end of each month (meaning this season’s fashion “must haves” are now infrequent treats rather than essentials) plus no guarantee of a consistent workflow. For a perfectionist who thrives on feedback this can be an extremely hard game to play.
But this is the path I have chosen, as for me having the ability to spend time with my daughter and enjoy all those special moments and “firsts” whilst also being able to have something to call my own seems worth fighting for! so I label myself a #bossbabe once more!