By Nina Tovey
When I first fell pregnant, I declared proudly to anyone who would listen I would never be one of ‘those mums’ who answered a work call with children detectable in the background. I would work out a way as the head of a busy public relations consultancy run from home to avoid that *ever* happening, because.. well, if you really want to know it’s just not professional!
The mums reading this will no doubt be nodding knowingly, and will easily predict how that story ended. When my little girl arrived, I learned no matter how hard I tried to control my new reality, there was no way I was winning that particular battle. It was just one of the many things I miscalculated when it came to my new role as a 24/7 juggler. Here are a few more of my biggest surprises so far about life as a working mama:
It’s easier for me to connect with people at work
When it came to how parenthood would impact my work prospects, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had noticed anti-mum sentiment in some workplaces and remember actively avoiding ‘family planning’ conversations as I didn’t want to be pegged as less committed to my clients or career. When I noticed one long-term contact suddenly stop referring me for work soon after I announced my pregnancy, I prepared myself for the worst.
However I’ve experienced the complete opposite since my little bundles arrived. I’ve never had more work enquiries than during my two maternity leave ‘breaks’. And as a consultant who works off-site to my clients and misses many of those everyday shooting the breeze conversations, it can give me a way to connect with people I work for through shared experiences and understanding. It humanises me.
People rate a working mama
After I took on a major project when my son was five months old, I had this moment of clarity during a client meeting. I had just presented to the CEO, and I thought of how surreal it was I hadn’t once shared with him the fact I was such a new mum over the weeks we’d spent working together. Why hide the fact I had a tiny baby at home waiting to be fed on my return? So I told him right then! His head spun a little, yet I felt nothing but support and respect for my juggling skills – it was a girl power moment.
The notion that women become somehow ‘less than’ career wise after becoming mothers is being debunked all around us. I salute the mothers who take extended breaks from work when their children are very young – it is a beautiful thing. But it is not the right model for every family. As a small business owner I chose to return to work quickly, and I’ve never felt more driven than since my babies arrived. I can do more with less, I’m more focussed and I bring a fuller perspective to the table.
When it comes to many of the women in my life, it is a similar story. I have never seen them fiercer and more fuelled to create and grow their own businesses and careers than since becoming mothers. And I can tell you it is because of the great strength they draw from those little muses in their lives.
Elsa was right – sometimes you have to let it go
On the occasion everything turns to baby poo, which it inevitably does from time to time, I’ve learned it can be best to surrender. One week a bug took out both kids and my husband, and I was burning the candle at both ends working days and nights trying to look after everyone, including my clients. So instead of cancelling a work meeting in the city early one morning, I pushed through in a haze and was rewarded with a self-inflicted ding in my car on the way in. My work meeting, finances and sense of wellbeing all suffered that day because I pushed too hard.
This one is a work in progress, but I’m slowly getting my head around appreciating the power of release. It can be the smartest option for everyone involved. Being a mum has taught me there is only so far an elastic can stretch, and sometimes the best option for our work and family is to be kind to ourselves.
About Nina Tovey
Nina Tovey is a thirty something writer, proud as punch mama, seachange enthusiast and founder of communications consultancy Yoke Communications. She’s also excitedly cooking up a new website for mums called Mamasay.