Back in October I returned to agency life at Realia after my maternity leave. I enrolled our little one at nursery and embraced the next phase of my life. I was lucky to have enjoyed (and survived!) 18 months with our awesome blue bundle – but it was time I returned to support our family agency. And so, the balancing act began!
I do not see myself as a ‘working mother’ in the popular sense of the phrase. All mothers work, and they work hard. Be that at home supporting their children, or in a working environment, and I’m not sure I recall hearing the term ‘working father’? Motherhood is a privilege and an amazing experience; a lifelong career. To bring a new life into this world and create an environment where that little person can flourish (and ultimately be responsible for keeping them alive!), is in itself hard work.
So, nearly 6 months in, here’s my (very honest) reflection of my own, personal balancing act:
To the younger me, the idea of a part-time role was one of luxury – of an ideal balance of work and home, and of being able to have the best of both worlds. For me, I’m still working to achieve that balance, but for now it’s a feeling of being torn between two camps. First and foremost, I have priorities with my son, and I never switch off from that and I wouldn’t change it for the world. But I then have priorities in the office, and although I can switch off from those when I’m not physically there, there is a pressure that I’m not able to progress things. Opening my laptop at home can result in a little helper bashing at the keyboard and chewing the mouse! And that’s just not fair or advantageous to anyone.
I’m a true completer-finisher, I’m thorough and I enjoy detail. I always have been, and it’s been a strength in our team. So, the challenge of never feeling like I’ve quite finished something that day is a tough one to handle and adjust to.
My commute used to be a necessary pain to get from home to work with empty time spent driving when I wished I could already be working. Now, my 5-minute drive from nursery to work, or back, is my haven; my time to eat snacks, drink coffee, listen to my own music and generally gather my thoughts – and switch myself into either work or mum mode!
Guilt features highly every day; guilty for leaving my little one at nursery when he’s upset, but then guilty for leaving work at 5pm to pick him up again when I have unfinished tasks that I won’t be able to review until next week. Guilty that on a ‘work day’ I can’t go into the office as my little one is poorly; but not wanting to be anywhere other than offering comfort and feel-better cuddles.
Hilariously, going to work sometimes feels like I’m going ‘out-out’ – I dress in smarter clothes and make an effort with my appearance – after all, I can’t really get away with random stains on my top when I don’t have a little one with messy paws to point the finger at!
It’s such a rewarding feeling to bring value to my team and our clients. It’s a good feeling to be a part of something that’s about myself again. As much as I love precious time with my son, it’s good to swap ‘Iggle Piggle’ for brand propositions and opportunities to engage too.
I’m realistic about what I can achieve in the time I have – and on a time constraint, I find I just get things done! My role has now taken a new direction from my previous client-facing and account management role. Whilst that’s what I love to do, I could never give it the time or devotion it takes to be a great account manager. It wouldn’t be fair to my little one, our team or indeed our clients. Instead, my new role is focused around providing support and sharing expertise with the new talents in our team who are rising in the agency. I’ve always believed good management is about understanding the skill sets of your people, their characters and passions, and utilising those to the best advantage.
For the first time in my career I will always be leaving the office on time (nursery pick-up doesn’t wait for anybody or any deadline!) – and I am guaranteed that my little one’s face will light up when he sees me.