For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted a career. Of course, as a child the actual career path was yet to be defined, but I was determined to be successful. I class myself as a feminist and I am proud to be one. My parents encouraged me and I entered university believing the world to be my oyster.
I worked hard and I did indeed get my career. I was proud of it. I climbed the ladder and I was a department manager, managing large budgets and projects by the time I was twenty-seven.
At 31, I had my son. I still believed that the world could be my oyster. I knew it would take a lot more juggling, but the idea of not going back to work at that stage was unfathomable. I was lucky to get a manager’s job part time and I went back when my son was ten months.
Little was I prepared for just how hard this would be. I missed him terribly, but I did enjoy the challenge of using my brain again. However, it soon became apparent that juggling was much more difficult than I thought it would be. My son got sick so much – from stomach bugs that went of for a week, burst ear drums, to hand, foot and mouth you name it, he got it. I ended up taking so much time out to care for him. I used to feel sick before I needed to make the ‘dreaded phone call’ and there were days when I sent my son to childcare, knowing that what he really he needed was another day at home with me.
Couple that with commuting, juggling child care drop offs and pick ups, a growing workload, my husband’s business travel and there were weeks when I thought my life might implode. I felt like my son was always moving to the bottom of the pile, to his detriment.
After discovering I was pregnant for the second time I knew something had to give. Giving up work in some respects was easy by this time, in others immensely hard. I felt like I was abandoning my feminist principles. At the time I had a rough plan of what I hoped to do after, but I was essentially for a while at least, giving up my career to become a stay at home mum.
I took a year out and soon discovered that being a stay at home was valuable and rewarding. I was lucky that my son had an amazing childminder, but I watched him flourish through the one on one time we had together after I stopped working. My daughter was born and she has had some (mild) health issues, which has meant that she needs me way more than my son did as a baby. I knew in my heart it was the right choice.
A year on and my brain was in need of another challenge. Financially, as a family, we could also do with me earning some money. So at the beginning of this year I set up my own business and it is slowly and very modestly growing.
I’m still learning and this is a new path, yes I have already discovered it can be tricky at times. I try to do most of my work when my son is at pre-school or my daughter is napping. But for a lot of time they are about. I split my time between doing activities with them and doing work – be it seeing clients, managing files, client calls and messages, book keeping, or marketing and stock management.
I have been surprised of the clients I have started working with how accepting they have been. When I offer them an appointment time and say you can come in the evening when my children are asleep, or in the day when my baby daughter will be present (and my son is at pre-school). So far, not one client has asked for an evening appointment. Although they are sincerely welcome to one.
I have also been pleasantly surprised how good my three year old son has been with this development. As long as I make time to play, cook, do craft or go to the park with him. He is happy for me to spend time at the computer or at my desk while he plays with his toys. For me as a mother, I love being able to do the school run, to be able to drop everything and go to the park if we feel like it, if I need to do some work in the evening – so be it. It is my business and I can flex things however I need to.
Which brings me back to original point – feminism. I believe there is a quiet revolution going on. Of empowered women who had careers before children, but realise that the modern workplace is no longer flexible or adaptable enough for them. Perhaps it’s the all too persistent stay-late culture, the need to be seen to be working extra hours, the time you waste commuting when you could be with your children or even actually working, or because they do not wish their children to be in full time childcare, for cost or other reasons. Maybe just simply they do not wish to miss those precious years that are all over far too fast as it is.
Sadly, it seems in talking to some women researching this post, everyday sexism is still quite commonplace, and most prevalent with women who are mothers or of childbearing age. I found the following article in Fortune.com quite pertinent I’m sorry to all the mothers I worked with. I applaud the author’s honesty and I am heartened by her revelation, but it still makes me sad. How can feminism prevail if women themselves are discriminating against other women?
But, I do truly believe there is a silent revolution going on. Women, as they always have done, are fighting back. If the work place isn’t working for them, then they will make their own. Working from home, starting their own business or freelancing. There seems to be a very exciting growth in often small, but still wonderful home businesses. This allows mothers the opportunity to work around caring for their children. Doing so enables them to achieve two goals – that of their own careers and those of nurturing and being a mother.
As Sara Pritchard, Co Founder of FYI Kids told me:
“I have four kids and starting our own business is the best thing we ever did. When I had twins, a manager told me my career was over. I got fed up of juggling the cost of childcare, attending Sports Days and assemblies. Plus being overlooked for promotion. Life is loads better, I work when I want to, it fits around my kids. I am getting to watch my kids grow up. That’s priceless!”
Emma Firth, former Telegraph journalist and now freelance journalist and copywriter (Word Squirrel) agrees:
“I think working while at home as a mum, really is as close as it gets to the perfect balance of the personal and professional.
I’m doing what I love-writing-around being with my children when they’re awake as much as possible. They see me fulfilled and earning, but we have huge amounts of time together for fun adventures every week.
I wouldn’t swap it for the world, and more and more friends are seeing past a life that’s either fully at home or involves commuting and childcare. I feel very lucky to have the life I do.”
I think there are lots of businesses who are missing out on this strong and hardworking workforce. Give a work at home mum a task, as long as you don’t care that she might end up doing it at ten at night, I promise you it will be done well, on time and you will have her dedication and loyalty. I bet you she will work harder than half your office workers and cost you less in office space too.
I for one am the happiest I have ever been and do not regret my choice in the least. As I watch my friends and also my Twitter feed I see more and more women are making this choice and it brings a smile to my face. When I need to buy something, if possible I like to search my Twitter timeline to see if there is a mum out there making it, so I can spend my money with her. Because feminism in more ways than one begins at home.