The narrative around new motherhood and work is that a woman can only be a good mother if she forfeits her career. If she continues working, it will damage the mother-child bond. But this needs to change; motherhood and careers don’t need to be mutually exclusive…
When I was 24, I moved to the countryside. I’d simultaneously completed a journalism MA and fallen in love with a guy who lived in Somerset. Having always dreamed of living in a cottage, keeping chickens, making jams and chutneys, I used my sweetheart being based in Somerset as an opportunity to live out this dream.
We had the cottage, the chickens, the homemade chutneys and jams. We went for long walks in the beautiful countryside and lit the log burner each evening, while I played guitar. We drank beer in the garden as the sun went down, cooked delicious casseroles and had friends to stay. It was idyllic.
But work-wise, it was a disaster. I did a stint at the Western Gazette newspaper and then didn’t secure any journalism for the remainder of the two years. I worked in tele-sales, then volunteered at a gallery before finally landing a job running an art space. It was fun, but not my dream: I wanted to write.
Two years later, we returned to London. I was now freelance (or: JOBLESS). I didn’t know how to secure freelance journalism work so I did the odd PR job, some copywriting, bookkeeping for regular income, pitched crap article ideas and wrote a crap novel.
It wasn’t a good period, I felt like a failure and I couldn’t see a way out.
Then I saw someone had posted a copywriting job on Facebook. The day rate started at £150, which felt like a LOT back then. I went for the job, and got it. I negotiated a higher fee (£185) and a year later, went up to £250. I was earning great money, and liked most of the people I worked with.
A year in, I discovered I was pregnant. I was elated; I’d always wanted kids. Now, I had a career and a baby on the way. Life complete. Except, I was then told that as soon as I had my baby, my contract would be terminated. Oh. I left the HR meeting and cried. Suddenly, life was quite stressful.
I left, gave birth and my life was consumed by my beautiful baby girl. But I quickly realised I also wanted to work. I was used to getting a nice chunk of cash in my bank each month. I didn’t want to rely on my husband for income, and as he was self-employed, his income fluctuated so that wasn’t going to be possible anyway.
I wanted to give freelance writing a proper go, so I really went for it – and started to get commissioned to write articles. A year later, I decided to start my own business – a digital parenting and lifestyle magazine; The Early Hour. It took off, and led to a book deal and an online course business.
Now, I help other women to become their own boss, and grow their businesses. I write online courses that are creative, practical and accessible. And this work is both fulfilling and lucrative. I’m now earning double what I was as a copywriter, while working very part-time around my five-year-old, two-year-old and five-month-old baby.
After having a baby, it can feel like you’ve returned to the beginning of your career: what do you want to do, and how are you going to do it? Often, there are work-life balance issues, like needing flexibility or part-time hours; not wanting to have a long two-way commute each day.
But my career is just one example of how having a baby doesn’t need to signal the end of your career. The work I’m doing now is so much more varied and exciting than the Ground Hog Day office job work I was doing pre-kids. I’m happier, more relaxed and no one can tell me another baby will cost me my contract.
If you’d like help working out what career would suit you, as a mother, I’m running a two-week online course called Becoming your own Boss, and it starts 3rd February. This one has added email consultancy, so you can email whenever you like during the course for reassurance, guidance, ideas-sharing – I’ll be your pocket consultant.