After 15 years grafting a career in the media, Sophia took time out to have a baby. Being a working Mum has been her greatest career challenge, and finding part-time jobs even harder.
Much like you, I spent the best part of 15 years grafting, fighting and carving out a career for myself. Late night’s in the office and far-too-early morning meetings, missed lunch breaks and unused holidays. Standing on a tube in rush hour in unforgiving heels. Available 24/7 on my blackberry-come-iPhone, even responding to emails on the toilet! Having to reapply for my job a hundred times and being overlooked for promotions a hundred more. And proving myself as a business woman and not a bitch, in an industry that spews you out as quickly as it takes you in.
Yet of them all, my hardest challenge is right here, right now, as a working Mum.
I see you’re nodding along, because you know exactly what I mean. It’s happened to you, it’s happened to me, it’s happened to every woman who had a career and then became a Mum.
That’s when it changes.
My career was my baby, prior to my baby. In fact, I had given very little thought to ever having children. Then I hit my mid-30s, realised I had achieved everything I set out to and needed a new challenge. That’s really when I started to think about it.
Being a Mum is an incredible leveller. It forces you to change your priorities, to see the world differently and to truly cherish every day. So when your maternity leave is up, and it’s time to stick or twist, it’s a bloody hard decision.
Deciding to be a stay-at-home Mum is SOOoooo appealing, yet it’s a full-time job with no respite. As your toddler grows so does the task of entertaining them from the crack of dawn until In the Night Garden ends. It’s a bloody long day!
However, return to work, and you’re lucky to spend more than 45 mins with your baby a day, it’s a wrench.
In the end I decided to have it all <chuckles like a madman> and return to work part-time! I was fortunate to have an understanding boss and having done more than six years in the job, I didn’t have to ‘prove myself’ upon return.
In many ways, returning to an old job is like sleeping with an ex. You get what you want from it, but ultimately the passion has gone!
It was almost the same as it was… almost. Because now you’re Sophia the ‘part time help’ – the lady with the baby that can’t go out for drinks without 8 week’s notice. The dullard who says ‘nothing’ when asked what she did at the weekend. And the girl who picks up all the jobs no one else wants, because it’s genuinely impossible to lead a team or take on any project when you’re only half doing a job. And as much as it sucks, that is the reality. It’s not discrimination, it’s not unfair – it’s just the trade-off.
So yes I have a job, and one I like (*note, not love) and yes I get to spend the best part of my week with my baby. So I’m winning, right? Hmm not sure. You see I can never do either to perfection, yet I’m unable to do anything else. I’m in some weird Motherhood limbo!
The job market
I decided to update my CV and ring around some recruitment agents. The reality check was humbling. I was told to be ‘thankful’ for even having a job, while others told me no-one would employ me part time when there’s 400580235253532 younger girls willing to do seven-days a week at half my day rate.
And that’s a real shame. While we have got it so right in Britain, with so many things, we are in fact light years away from being progressive.
The handful of part time roles for parents out there is shameful. Fine if you don’t mind being a waiter, promotions person or sales person. But if your career doesn’t fall into those, what choice do you have?
It’s saddening to see so many of my good friends with so much to offer side lined. I’ve seen it happening over the past few years now. Sent to the scrapheap of PR and journalism, traded in for younger versions of themselves snapchatting away on their pittance pay.
If you work in HR and you’re reading this, I urge you to be the brave one to make a change. Create more part time roles for people with families and see what a loyal and hard-working work force you’ll create. Because if I’ve learnt anything in the past year, it’s that if you want something done – as a busy Mum! They are multi-taskers like no others, they will get s*it done and they’ll do it to perfection.
All said and done, ask me what my greatest achievement is and Ill tell you honestly – it wasn’t the 15 years of hard graft. It’s my baby.
This is dedicated to all working Mums. You’re amazing.
This post was originally written for The Huffington Post in January, however it created such interest that I decided to post it to MDD too!
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