During my first year in business, I tried stupidly hard to never let motherhood impact on my work. Ignoring the exhaustion, over-compensating for small-person illnesses and working every spare moment I could to juggle the demands of family and self-employment.
It couldn’t continue, though. I was feeling the burn, dropping plates left, right and centre and always, always coming last on my to-do list.
Crying tears of frustration as I somewhat manically rocked my infant son back to sleep, praying for another hour to complete a near-deadline project was not how I wanted to live.
How had I got here? And how could I find my way back?
It had started like it had for many mums or mums-to-be. I was freelancing before our second child was born and had given notice to all but my two regular clients, deciding I could manage some work while the baby napped. Maybe it would even be good to have some time away from the intensities of a newborn, whom I’d secretly always thought of as more hard work than heavenly. (Give me some giggles and positive feedback, baby, then I’ll start enjoying you.)
And ultimately, I had considered the reality of shutting up shop completely: about my future – about my way back in.
So, while barely scraping five broken hours of sleep each night, I trudged on with the days, saying yes all of the times I should have said no. I refused to acknowledge the tight knot in my chest with the ping of each email notification; carrying stress around with me, just like I carried my baby.
And when I eventually stopped – it’s a sweet story involving losing my phone and having the best day ever without it and with my children, I learned something.
I didn’t need to have it all, or do it all, or constantly struggle. It is completely normal for motherhood and work to overlap, I just needed to be honest about my current reality – both to others and myself.
I’m proud to be a woman, and of the irrevocable changes motherhood has brought about. I have been wholly altered – why was I hiding from this inevitable truth?
We should be able to be honest about every part of parenthood, both the triumphs and the challenges. In a time where flexible working and gender pay gaps are rightly newsworthy, we need to be open about the realities of work and parenting in order to find solutions. We need to not dismiss practical circumstances as weaknesses and feel no shame for wanting flexibility or reduced hours.
Once I stopped apologising for being a mother and acknowledged all the positives I offer to the businesses I work with, it became apparent they welcomed working differently: they recognised my strengths and fresh approach. I was open about having priorities other than work – and nothing bad happened.
I don’t work Fridays, and I don’t want to. I value the time away from my laptop, and enjoy the balance. I treasure the unhurried walk to school and heading to the park after pick-up. And I love the trip to toddler music group before curling up on the sofa with picture books – just being, just enjoying motherhood.
It’s my time to build a different kind of tower, using different blocks to strengthen a different foundation.
Life is made up of more parts than business, it shouldn’t have to be a choice of career or time with children, and a healthy working relationship is always two-way.
So, my fellow women and fellow mothers. I have this to say :
Shoot for the stars, should you wish – this world is equally yours. Just remember you don’t have to be superhuman to shine.
Because you show up, you work hard and you’re good. At both of your jobs.