Six years of baby groups, teething, weaning, sleep deprivation, nappy changes, playdates, Cbeebies, endless snacks (for the kids…and me), potty training, coffee gone cold, epic meltdowns (for the kids…and me) and cuddles. LOTS of cuddles.
I have loved my time away from the workplace, embracing the role of Mummy. It’s never been an easy task, nor one that I instantly felt secure in, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I left my full-time job as Head of Communications back in February 2012, to have my daughter, Daisy who is now six. I was more than ready to ditch the 9-5, and the gruelling 90 + minute commute into central London (I had a ‘triple event’ commute, encompassing a 45-minute train journey, a tube ride and a significant walk). Making that mental shift from enjoying a professional full-time career, to becoming a stay-at-home mum definitely took a while to get my head around. Suddenly, strategy meetings and photoshoots were replaced with Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star in a village hall with a bunch of strangers and a crying baby.
I had intended to return to work once my maternity leave ended. However, life had other plans for us, and our little family of three ended up swapping the hustle and bustle of Essex for rural Northamptonshire. I instantly loved our new surroundings, and relished life being mum: the world of work seemed a lifetime ago. I soon fell pregnant again, and in September 2014 our little hurricane Henry was born.
It was when Daisy started school that I started to wonder: logistically, how would I return to the workplace again? Without family close by to help, will the numbers stack up once we’ve paid for childcare? Are my skills, experience and knowledge still relevant? But, just as that particular psychological shift took a while, so has the shift from being a stay-at-home mum to working mum of two. You can find your way back.
Over time, I briefly flirted with the idea of going freelance, but my heart wasn’t really in it, and with two young children, there were just never enough hours in the day. And so an acute lack of confidence started to creep in. But (and this is where the sisterhood really comes into its own), over lots of coffee, wine and conversation with some brilliant women I’m proud to call friends, I realised the following:
- I still have those skills, I’m just not using them at this moment.
- I am capable and intelligent.
- My kids won’t hate me for returning to work.
- Sometimes, you just have to jump in and see what happens.
And so I did!
The opportunity to work with Helen and the team at 9-2-3 came up, and I knew it was too good to miss. Working flexibly, over three days with some home-working, has allowed me to roll up my sleeves and get stuck into a job that is varied and interesting.
First day nerves
For us mums, the return to work can be nerve-wracking and overwhelming. However, I couldn’t have asked for a better first day back. The team were welcoming, friendly, and inspiring. There was hot coffee and chocolate, and I even managed to set up a gmail account! From chatting to other mums in a similar situation, I know that a fear of technology is something many struggle with when contemplating their return to work. I can honestly say that it hasn’t been an issue. Your standard office and email systems are all pretty intuitive, and they really don’t change that much, regardless of how many years it’s been since you last set up your out of office. Importantly, if you’re unsure, it’s OK to say, “I need help!”. Even if you do make a mistake, or get in a muddle, it’s rarely a disaster and there’s always some support available. I’ve managed to get to grips with a database that I’ve never used before and navigate MSOffice without too much drama - proving to myself that full-time motherhood had not rendered me completely useless! In fact, it’s the ability to juggle and project manage a dozen things at once (a daily requirement with children and a household to run) which makes mums and dads returning to the workplace so valuable. We’re not phased by much, and know that given an hour or two, we can blitz whatever is in front of us!
Driving home from the office that day, I felt exhilarated and so grateful for the opportunity to be working again. Job hunting can feel depressing when everything is the standard full-time, 9-5 gig. It excludes so many talented, enthusiastic, and skilled individuals. A few months ago, I was beginning to feel a little defeated as I knew those hours and rigid approach to working wouldn’t fit in with my family life.
I’ve now been back at work for a month, and it has been fabulous. I love using my brain in a different way and have realised that those skills from my ‘previous life’ in PR are still there; a little rusty maybe, but alive and kicking nonetheless! Returning to work has given my self-esteem a huge boost, and I can still take my children to school and pre-school. I was able to attend Daisy’s celebration assembly, and I can even squeeze in the odd early-morning run before I start work for the day. Flexible working has enabled me to contribute ideas, be part of a brilliant team, and champion a cause that I truly believe in. All of this, and I still get to spend enough time with my children for them to drive me slightly nuts - because that’s part of their charm!