I recently came across this LinkedIn series that is going to be discussing all things work and maternity. Published every Tuesday from the LinkedIn Editor's page, the series is designed to be a collaboration of viewpoints, encouraging women and men in the UK and beyond to share their experiences of maternity and paternity, and how it has impacted their work. This prompted me to share my own experience.
Working for Chameleon for the past 2+ years has been great. It was the agency experience I had always wanted but didn’t think actually happened in real life - the team are lovely, the clients are great and the work life balance is on point - we even have a Holmes report award to prove it. It is an inclusive, friendly and empowering place to work and I love it. Yet, when I found out I was pregnant, I was still massively concerned about having to tell my bosses and what it meant for my career. In fact, I felt really guilty when I told my boss, having been recently promoted. In reality, I had nothing to worry about, they were really nice about the entire situation and had already guessed as the biggest pisshead in the office had suddenly decided to extend dry Jan indefinitely. But I realised that I still had a negative perception about what having a baby means for a woman’s career.
Although I really wanted this baby and we had been trying, when the line came up that I was pregnant and the initial euphoria died down, the panic I suddenly felt about what this would mean for my career prospects was as startling as if I were 15 and concerned about finishing my GCSEs.
There have been so many things to think about and it’s a complete minefield! Putting aside the natural worries about the pregnancy itself - sickness, hormone rage, constantly feeling hungover without the fun of drinking, cankles, teenage acne, back ache and hot flashes (you’re not glowing, you’re sweating!!), you then have the post-pregnancy bit to worry about. The whole raising a child and keeping it alive bit. If that wasn’t daunting enough, there is how you can afford to keep it alive. I hear these little humans demand quite a lot of subsistence and don’t even get me started on nursery fees. So if you are like me and have no handy grandparents nearby who fancy babysitting for free, working out what to do* is really scary!
(*I have signed up to NCT in the hope of buying friends that might decide to be stay at home parents and willing to take on a spare child when the time comes to go back to work...it’s a longshot, I know)
However, I was aware of all this and chose to get pregnant anyway (and I fully appreciate how lucky I was getting pregnant in the first place) and just when I thought about going into pure panic mode, I remembered that my entire career has been filled with amazing women, shaping the world of PR and that I was not the first to embark on this journey. Many have paved the way before me.
I have always been very motivated to get to the top of my game and have been incredibly fortunate to have met and been mentored by some of the best women there are. From my incredibly successful aunt who got me into PR in the first place, to my company owning first female boss. I have had powerful female line managers who have shown me the ropes and wonderful work wives that I have loved dearly and been heartbroken at leaving when I moved jobs. I have had more female clients than male, many of which are mothers as well, and I have surrounded myself with successful women that I call friends rather than colleagues, who have helped shape me into the Account Director and woman I am today. Some had children, some didn’t, but they all without fail have believed in a woman’s right to decide.
I also know it’s not just women fighting the good fight - my dad brought me and my brother up back when that was completely unheard of, so my mom could go back to work in the career she loved after just 3 months. Some of my friends have chosen to split their maternity leave with their partners 50/50, so they get to be at home with the child too. Others have taken the full year maternity and thoroughly enjoyed it. Regardless of what you decide to do - the point is you should have the choice and not fear your career will be dead in the water upon your return.
We have two mothers on the books at Chameleon so I know that I will be in good hands when I decide to come back to work and I am lucky that my workplace has a great flexible working policy (I had not grasped how unrealistic it would be trekking into London in the height of summer at 8 months pregnant!) and are very accommodating - but I know that that is not the case across the board, hence wanting to contribute to the conversation. I have high hopes for my career and am going to ensure I fully explore the best way to make it work for everyone - me, my child and my career, because I refuse to believe that in 2018 one of these should circumvent the other.
So check out the LinkedIn series and any advice would be greatly appreciated! These are the topics the videos will focus on in the coming weeks:
- Pregnancy symptoms and how to manage them at work
- Telling work you're pregnant
- UK maternity and paternity rights
- The emotional rollercoaster that is going on maternity leave
- Returning to work after maternity leave
- Flexible working and how to negotiate it with your employer