On having another baby: “But what about your career?”

Annie Ridout - The Freelance Mum

Motherhood may impact a woman’s career but it doesn’t have to destroy it. In fact, The Early Hour’s editor, Annie Ridout, found hers blossomed after giving birth. Here, she argues against the idea that babies are a barrier to your career…

I want a third baby. Not now, not any time soon, but at some point in the future. There’s a major barrier: my husband isn’t keen. But this is a decision we’ll make together, when the time is right. However, there’s also a perceived barrier that I’d like to discuss: my career.

Why I want a third baby

When it comes to having children, it seems the heart reigns supreme, not the head. We know that babies cost money, use up the world’s – apparently waning – resources and zap our time and energy. And yet something inside makes us want them.

For women, the mention of a ‘biological clock’ can be infuriating. Knowing the fertility period is finite might already be a source of anxiety but also, within this window there can be physical issues preventing conception, or circumstantial – eg. not having found the right partner.

When the time feels right to start trying for a baby and there is a partner – conception can dominate your thoughts. The longing to become pregnant and have a baby is a physical yearning. It’s easy to quickly become obsessive about menstrual cycles and the ‘fertile period’.

That’s how I felt about becoming pregnant the first time, and the second. I’m in no hurry to get pregnant right now but at some stage, I will probably begin to fixate on it again. I’m one of three children, a family of five feels – to me – complete. And I can’t shed this idea.

But what about your career?

I was chatting to my mum about the idea of having three children and she said what she always says: it’s up to you. You will make the right decision for you and your family (along with my husband, of course). But she asked how it might affect my career.

“You’re really enjoying working,” she said, “will another baby get in the way of this? Will you have time for both?”

These are valid questions. I felt very anxious, at points, after the birth of my son, as I was attempting to look after him full-time, work full-time and care for my daughter all but two days a week. It was too much. But I learned from this; I learned that it’s imperative to take time off and slow down after giving birth.

However, the idea that having a baby might detrimentally impact my career is interesting, as really my career has blossomed since becoming a mum. When a friend asked, during my first pregnancy, if the subject of my writing would change when I gave birth (from feminist stuff to mum stuff), I said: absolutely not! No way.

But it did, massively.

I launched The Early Hour when my daughter was one – a digital magazine for parents – and wrote about this for the Guardian. Red magazine commissioned me to write a piece on postnatal sex. I was recently asked to write about body shaming during pregnancy for Stylist. If I hadn’t become a mum, none of this would have happened.

I’m now writing a book – The Freelance Mum – to be published early next year by 4th Estate. It’s a guide to setting up as a freelancer after having a baby, helping other mums to find a career that fits around family life. I can only write this book because I’m a freelance mum myself.

I’ve established a career that allows me to do the preschool drop-off and pick-up, hang out with my one-year-old son every day and catch up with ‘mum friends’. Work and life blend, though not always smoothly, it should be said. Big fat lumps can appear and leave me fretting. I find myself thinking:

  • Will I have time to finish this article and send it off before my son wakes up?
  • ?Should I feel guilty about sending emails while pushing him on the swings?
  • ?Is it bad to let my daughter watch telly so that I can do some social media?

But on the whole, it works.

I feel since becoming a mother my career has been like the sea. When I have lots of work on, the waves are big and crashing and lapping up over my family time. There are periods when work and life feel balanced – like still, calm waters. When there isn’t enough work; the tide does out, and I panic: will it come back in? But I also enjoy more time with my kids.

Ultimately, I wouldn’t be on the career path I’m on if it wasn’t for my children. And for this, I’m so very grateful. It means that adding another baby to the mix wouldn’t just complete my family; it would also continue to provide inspiration for my work. My husband may not agree to it, conception might not happen – but if we do have another baby, my career will be just fine.

How has your career changed since you became a mum?