Leaving on a highI’d worked hard for over 3 years to get where I was before I got pregnant. Learning on the go, adjusting, giving things a stab, taking ownership, travelling on business, forecasting, working late hours, weekends, multitasking and managing – clients and internal. I was giving it all…
The last week at the office before maternity leave was really great - all the flowers, leaving parties and cards, office baby showers, best wishes, the genuine congratulations and the assurances how I'll be missed. Then I headed off into the unknown, wearing pink glasses and thinking that maternity leave was going to be like a year-long holiday.
The fear of the fearless
Fast forward and one year had gone by and suddenly it was time to go back to work.
And personally, I was ready to go back, and I was looking forward to it. But even with my working mum attitude I had to keep telling myself this is in the baby’s best interest & development. And in mine.
If you are working the job you love, and you do it because you’re passionate for your cause, you create a childhood where little girls grow up to achieve their dreams and little boys see their moms (and future women in life) as equal.
Then the first day back was due, and I can remember the fear I felt. I didn’t feel guilt or worry OR that I would rather stay home but I was scared. And for those who know me I’m not that easily scared – this felt like I was about to start a new job.
The team was pretty much all new, processes changed, company/team structures changed, client’s names changed, and I wasn’t even sure if I still remembered how to write a client facing email.
On top of things – I’ve changed too. I’ve had a new priority and her name is Florence.
x3 times lucky
When you’re going back to work, first you need to work out a plan with your other half and if the other half can be flexible with working hours that’s great! If not it’s much harder. I was lucky.
Then baby settled in at nursery well. Again, lucky me.
3rd time lucky came with a good boss, who understood the fear, helped me paddle through the paperwork, flexible working hours & the rest of the return to the office set ups and even sent me links to blogs & Instagram stories of mothers who went back to work at creative agencies including Kimberly Gill, the Creative Director and Partner at BBH, who Pioneered Mother of all Meet Ups. Don’t think she realises how much it helped.
After week 1, I knew I could do it… and my ambitious, achiever, competitive self-kicked in again. And I never had to run to the bathroom to cry, not even once.
Teamwork with capital ‘T’
The smooth return to work would not be possible without the support of the whole team here at BBD. I will never underrate the value of teamwork, ever again!
For a new working mum, teamwork is like a lifejacket. It sounds cliché but when I break it down, for me teamwork means:
- No 24/7 work emails and requests
- Fridays off made possible. Friday is now Florence and mum day and they are more precious than gold
- Peace of mind and confidence that if I leave office at 5:30pm and am out on Friday, things are being taken care off. Priceless
- Knowledge that there’s someone in Senior management that truly cares and that I can talk to in case things get overwhelming
And I hope all my colleagues who had to go an extra mile can read this as a big thank you. No one ever complained or made me feel like a burden. #BBDlove
But I realise the teamwork should work both ways, and when I leave the office early I can’t help but feel guilty when I know others in the team are still at work. I work really hard to make sure that me being a mum isn’t a thing, that’s it not seen as a problem and doesn’t affect the projects I’m looking after.
Highs and lows of a Superwoman
If you think you live your craziest years in your 20's – once you’ve had a kid and gone back to work you will change your mind. It may not be the same as raving on the Thai beach from dusk till dawn but every day is different for sure with new highs and lows.
At lows I feel like failing both: motherhood and my job. Sometimes if feels like I’m at my full capacity and beyond. But admitting the lows don’t come easy to me. I don’t send any warning signs I just crash and reset. I wake up at 3am in morning to clear up emails backlog to then be ready for nappy change/breakfast/dress up/nursery run from 6am in the morning – and that’s before I actually start work. I’m often sleep deprived, but I don’t think I worry as much, I don’t have time to get tired or panic.
At the highs I feel like I’ve mastered the routine, and nothing can stop me in taking over the world. It’s usually the small things for example when I had no choice but set up a client call at 11:00am and managed to get my baby to go for a nap just before dialling in - that’s a win.
And something that mustn’t be overlooked is the freedom at work to go to the shop, café for lunch, or toilet by yourself, and to have a conversation with adults that doesn’t involve drawing a teddy. These feel like such a treat since I’ve returned from maternity leave.
Working mothers VS industry
Advertising/Creative industry is a fast and busy one, and there a lot of working mums sharing their bad experiences online which quiet often can be a one sided stories.
In a world where the expectations about maternal roles are only just beginning to shift with media campaigns calling for change, BBD has been ahead of the curve with their approach to working mums since I got back from maternity.
BBD has given me opportunity to fulfil my ambitions of being promoted and to progress in my career and when baby gets ill and I have to take a sudden sick day I’m not being diminished for it.
BBD has given me an opportunity to try flexible working and project sharing so that I can balance it all right. And make sure I don’t miss seeing my baby growing up.
Baby will grow up eventually
With the support of your colleagues, work place and other half and nursery it’s all achievable and I wouldn’t change it for anything. But I also understand that modern life doesn’t combine very well at all with having a family, but we have all got so used to accepting that it has to be this way – we keep at it.
ONS figures show 4.9m mothers in England with dependent children are in work in 2017, up from 3.7m in 1996. This means that only 1 in 11 mums are a stay at home mum! And going back to work is no longer a choice only very few can afford.
Even if the economy doesn’t value mothers as much I believe companies should – not only can it improve their attractiveness to prospective employees, but fairly treated new mums will be found to have higher morale, being more engaged and productive and resourceful with their time.
Then eventually, baby becomes a toddler and then a school kid busy with their own social lives and everything gets back on track ... naively she hopes.