Can working mums have it all?

It is the start of my second week as a working mum. My clothes for the morning are hanging up and my lunch is packed. The children’s clothes are laid out and their meals are in the fridge, ready to be heated up. (Not by me though.)

Last week, fresh from the shock of leaving my babies for the day while I got on the tube and went to the office, I wrote about how hard this is. But today, at the start of a new week and at the end of a weekend spent making the most of my precious time with them, I can write about the other side.

I don’t expect leaving my babies for the day to ever get any easier. But, there is much about returning to the office that I’m glad about.

Two months ago, on a ticket I’d won through Mumsnet, I went to Workfest - a one day careers conference for mothers. During the course of the day, I listened to a careers coach, to a headhunter, to a recruiter, to mums who held positions at the top of their field, and to other mothers like me, who were feeling a little lost. I went home at once excited and daunted. I loved working, and I was looking forward to going out to work again – but would anyone hire a woman who had spent the last two and a half years making babies?

In the month after Workfest, I rewrote my CV and spent hours asking myself what it was I really wanted. Workfest dared me to dream that it was possible to have the work and family life I wanted –  but first I needed to be clear about what that was. What did I want for my family, what did I want to do all day when at work, and how did I see the balance playing out?

I have always told myself I wanted to wait until Jasmin was at least one before going back to work. I also only wanted to work part time while the children were very young.

Workfest made me made me realise that in addition to this, I want to work for someone who values me as a mother. I want to work for someone who understands that if Milin has his summer performance on Tuesday afternoon, I need to be there. I want to work for someone who knows that my favourite part of the day is having cuddles with my children before they go to bed. Getting home past bedtime is not an option.

And so Workfest made me confront the realisation that I didn’t want to go back to the newsroom. Not now, not yet.

It hasn’t been an easy decision to come to terms with. Newsroom are what I know and love. The thrill of nailing a front page lead or an exclusive, the buzz of presenting a cracking news list for the next day’s paper. My career has been spent working at a manic pace against deadlines and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

But right now, with my two-year-old and one-year-old the most important people in my world, I don’t want the 12-hour days. I don’t want the stress of managing a team of reporters who are all going to file late. I don’t want the sleepless nights about how the front page will be received in the morning.

Workfest gave me the courage to look at the skills I have and to value them, and it made me seek out what I need for me and my family. The newsroom might be that thing I want again one day. If it is, I hope I’ll be able to work my way back in.

But now, I’ve started work at Wauwaa, an online retailer which also provides multi-media content for parents. It’s a community management role with scope for writing – and about a million miles away from a newsroom. I am working three days a week and once I’m settled, two of these will be from home. What that will mean in practice will be that I’ll save two hours of commuting time every day. Those two hours will be spent with my babies.

I’m going to keep freelancing too, because I’ve earned a small but steady income from writing since Milin was born and it’s something I love doing. That work will still be done once the little ones are in bed, and I’ll still be wishing there are more hours in the day.

Three years ago I would have scoffed at this departure from the newsroom, this stepping off of the ladder, this waving goodbye to a management role. I wanted, you see, to ‘have it all’.

But having it all, right now, means working for an employer who values my skills and experience as a mother. It means doing a job which I enjoy but which offers me flexibility. It means doing a job well, yes, because I won’t ever work any other way.

Am I annoyed that I’m leaving the newsroom to do this? Am I angry about not being able to find a way to progress my career in a male-dominated industry? No. Not at all. This is all my choice. I love the news industry for what it is, but right now, I’m turning my back on it because it can’t give me what I want. That’s ok.

Having it all means knowing my children are well looked after when I’m at work. It means having 90 minutes with them in the morning before I have to leave for the day. It means being back for stories and cuddles and bedtime every night. It means being there for all the things which are really important.

Having it all is about finding the things that matter, and then finding a way to make them happen. Now, more than ever, I get this.

Milin, six months, comes to the newsroom to see me, acting head of news

Milin, six months, comes to the newsroom to see me, acting head of news

9 Thoughts on “Can working mums have it all?

  1. Really enjoyed reading this. I can relate to so much of what you have written. Glad you have found a new job that suits you.

  2. So pleased that you’ve found a job that suits you. Mothers will never ‘have it all’, but having the right balance is the best thing. I hope you can inspire other mums with your experiences.

  3. I think you are right; we need to work out what it is that we want at a given moment. I know I am not well enough to return to work and yet, after the best part of 4.5 years at home, I am desperate to use my brain and had a fear of being bored once Harry starts school in September. So for me, having it all right now, means furthering my education through OU. I will still be around for Harry before and after school and during the holidays; something that wouldn’t be possible through a traditional Uni and there would be no guarantee I’d be well enough to attend each lecture anyway.

    With us living and working longer we are now able to restart or retrain our careers once we have a family and more employers are opening up to that, albeit slowly.

  4. Oh lovely, this certainly sounds like you’ve got it all to me! I’m pleased o hear that you were feeling better about the week ahead than you were this time las week. What a fab return to the workplace! I’m thrilled for you xx

  5. I’m always so envious of mothers who find something of a balance, as much as one exists. I went back to work full time when my baby was 9m, and I’ve missed out on so much. It eats away at me, but it isn’t something that can be changed. I’m making a way for myself in the hopes of earning enough that I could go part or term time, but it will probably come too late.

    Congratulations for finding something that works for you, and being happy with that solution.

  6. Oh how I relate to this. I came to the same conclusion: you can’t have it all. Well, at least I couldn’t/wouldn’t. My only option was to return to full-time employment (as a cardiac nurse specialist). This in turn would mean leaving the kids with childcare all day, five days per week and apart from each other. That seemed way too harsh for words. It is wonderful to be at peace with letting it go and looking forward. Sure, life changes, but sometimes it is for the best, and sometimes a hard shove in a different direction is what it takes to make new discoveries about yourself and your abilities. I wish you all the best in the future. x

  7. Right there with you Kiran ;) x

  8. Well done on your job Kiran. You highlight very well here that as working mums, we can have it all. We can a little bit of ‘us’ back, while our little ones can ‘find’ themselves with someone else for that time that we have a ‘little bit’ of us. I didn’t want to return to work after my maternity leave but we had no option. We were very fortunate to find affordable, quality childcare which our little bear absolutely loves. Not everyone is so lucky, I know. But yes we can have it all. That sense of extra achievement when we juggle so may things going round our heads (meal planning mentally while on hold on the phone at work!). I for one wouldn’t have it any other way!…

  9. oh man! you have been able to put into words exactly how many of us feel… Mum to a 2 yr old, I went through hell too when I returned to work… only to leave after 4 months … I realised during this time that if u are not respected for being a mum, for wanting to be with your lil one and giving time to the most important one in your life… its better to move on.

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