Tag Archives: careers

All change please!

29 Aug

Life changes

A few months back I made a momentous decision. I decided to leave the company where I had worked for 12 years (ie since I was young) and set sail on the choppy seas of being a freelance. This is my first week of living that decision. Whilst my head is spinning and I’m rattling between excitement and fear, sometimes you just have to grab life with two hands and have a bit of a tussle.

Since the brood arrived, I’ve always worked: full-time after my first then part-time after my second. I never really considered not working (aside from if I won the lottery obviously). I know that I don’t have the patience or organisational skills to be a stay-at-home-parent – and lashings of credit to those that do. It wasn’t until after my second child was born that I started to have pangs about missing out on spending more time with my rapidly growing kids. When we started to look at primary schools last year it suddenly struck me that the school years were really, truly, frighteningly close. No longer was I simply looking backwards at what I achingly thought I had already missed but I was suddenly conscious of what I might miss in the future.

Although I know most people manage it, the thought of having to organise pre- and after-school care for my eldest filled me with horror. I realised how important it is to me to be able to drop my daughter off (and pick her up of course – really, what kind of parent do you think I am?!) and to be there to help with reading and homework. Perhaps I am too idealistic. In reality I may end up cursing the school run, scuttling away from the gates because I can’t fit into skinny jeans or because another mother has looked at me in a funny way. Visions of sitting at the kitchen table doing sums together may turn out to be running battles over the TV remote and whether it’s okay to substitute a packet of Haribos in place of tea. Do you know what though? If I don’t try then I will never find out. Life is too short.

Continuing my current career as a freelance allows the flexibility I need as my daughter skips off into the education machine without a backward glance at me. Her brother will follow her in two years’ time but until then I am looking forward to spending more one-to-one time with him – something he hasn’t had over the last two years. He will continue to go to nursery three days a week to give me some ‘work time’. I believe strongly that nursery is a great social environment for children and that my two have benefited enormously from it. Yet I still struggle with the guilt that I should be doing that job, especially now I have opted to work from home, and wonder whether advocating nursery simply serves to make myself feel better. When I drop my son off at nursery and return home to my desk I know I will feel an overwhelming urge to go back and get him and wrap him in my arms (gorgeous little chunk that he is). It seems that parental guilt is never ending even when you’re aiming to do the best for everyone.

Now I just have to persuade my husband that it isn’t acceptable to guffaw when I say I’ve been working. But that’s another post and another strain of guilt entirely …

Mayer have a career please?

24 Jul

Mums get it in the neck. Sometimes they just can’t win. Debate is raging around Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO, and her assertion that she’ll only be taking a few weeks of maternity leave and plans to pretty much work through it. Naive? Yes. (A newborn is bloody hard work.) But with lots of cash to throw at the situation? Well, yes, maybe it is possible to resume your career the day the baby and mother are booted out of the private hospital followed by a gaggle of muslin-clutching nannies ready to mop up every posset. Three cheers for the woman with a successful career! Hooray for the woman who’s having a baby! But a woman trying to have a career and a baby at the same time? Boo hiss!

Marissa Mayer is an amazing example of what a woman can achieve in business. What? Even wearing heels and lipstick? Well, yes. Patronising as it may sound to mark her out as something extraordinary, that – unfortunately – is the world we live in. Women at Ms Mayer’s level are still an exception rather than a rule. It’s still odd. It is even more odd – as the debate around her comments would suggest – that a woman could choose to have a baby and choose to continue her career at the expense of the precious time that not being at work allows a mother and her child.

Yet if you’ve already made sacrifices and worked flipping hard why would you want to give up any elements of what you’ve achieved? You’re still a mother regardless. Your child still needs you and in amongst the conference calls and PDA tapping you’ll make sure you meet that need. Many women don’t get the chance to spend a long maternity leave with their child and for reasons very different to Marissa Mayer’s. She may not need to go back to work for the money but plenty of women do and need to do so quick smartish – a sad reality, like it or not, of a world driven by filthy lucre.

A woman shouldn’t have to choose a career over parenthood (or vice versa). The midwife doesn’t send you out of the hospital with a placard saying “I’m a Mother and I aspire to nothing but burping my baby”.  Equally, if/when you do return to work you don’t wear a badge saying “Opting out – I’m just here for nappy money”. But  in a society where women are still the primary carers for children, making sacrifices (intentionally or otherwise) is inevitable. Even when you attempt to strike a work/life balance it can, speaking from experience, feel like you’re failing at both. Should you be able to have your cake and eat it? Of course, but for most ordinary women it isn’t possible to be Superwoman – and let’s face it Marissa Mayer isn’t ‘ordinary’.

Marissa Mayer would probably love to take a year off if she knew for sure that things wouldn’t move on without her and set back her achievements. Bringing up a child alongside the pressures of her career will be another achievement that she can be proud of. To me she doesn’t sound like a woman who would do things by halves.

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