Becoming a Mum
My story is not unusual or unique, but it does highlight a much-needed positive switch in the landscape of work for women.
I gained career success in my thirties. I reached the level of the highly paid, successful and burned out! And realised that I was hurtling towards forty at an alarming rate.
I’d always wanted children and it never felt like a compromise to make the decision to have a baby, I’d just been working too hard and having too much fun spending all the money I earned to do it sooner!
I enjoyed pregnancy and looked forward to being a Mum. I read the books; I went to some cringey classes (You’re pregnant and proud ladies, eeuuuk!!)
So, I wasn’t really daunted about the actual reality of being a Mum…… until we drove our son home from hospital, when I suddenly realised we had absolutely-no-idea, at all, about what we were doing!
As a woman who’d had a successful career, I found it difficult not to deal with every aspect of motherhood as if it was a professional challenge! Reflect on what went wrong, research, rethink the approach and try again (repeat!)
I remember the looks I received from all the pitying Mums, when I rocked up to our first music class, with my…. 10 day old son!! Yes, of course he slept the whole way through the music class, but I’d managed to get both of us dressed and out of the house by 1pm and shaking tambourines and singing nursery rhymes was a major achievement in my week!
As I walked home, the reality of the emergency c-section and utter exhaustion finally hit home…… I felt like I’d been in a car crash!
I’d finally got the message as to who was boss (my son!) and realised it was time to let it go with applying the professional approach to mastering motherhood!
Who am I again?!
By month 9, I really did get the hang of it and found I was getting a bit bored. I needed to be challenged in different ways and most of all I needed to get my independence and identity back…….. I thought I might go nuts if I was to be forever referred to as “Finn’s Mum”
But hang on, who the hell was I these days anyway?? I definitely wasn’t the determined, focused, ambitious woman of old, I didn’t want to go back to working crazy hours in a relentlessly stressful environment. So, I was left with the question, who was I now?
Work doesn’t work for me anymore..
My partner works away for half the month, so I need a lot of flexibility.
I was approached about many, many roles…permanent, interim, to all of which flexibility was a filthy word.
Even the most outwardly facing “forward thinking” businesses are stuck in the dark ages when it comes to flexibility, and there are few people within them who are prepared to be brave and stick their necks out in support of experimenting with new ways of working.
So, the only option I had, was to go it alone, be my own boss, make up my own rules, make work, work for me in the life I wanted now.
So I followed the set-up rules, I got clear on my niche, I got my marketing messages together and off I went to start networking, to get myself some clients.
That first networking event I attended was the most terrifying thing I’ve done since my first day at school. I couldn’t get my words out in a natural flow, I was terrified of anyone asking me questions!
I carried on with these terrifying networking experiences, approaching who I thought I ought to approach, saying what I thought I ought to say. Overly apologising for being a Mum who had been out of business action for a while.
But, hang on, I hadn’t been out of action for a while! I’d just undertaken the most challenging role in my life… being a Mum.
Every day I need to problem solve, negotiate, entertain, think on my feet, be creative, be organised and deal with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Aren’t these the skills most CEO’s would rip of their right arm to master?!
Getting back on my feet
But, regaining confidence is not as easy as just waving a magic wand and hey presto it reappears!
A combination of things helped me to regain my confidence, be successful and most importantly, to start enjoying business life.
I got myself a Coach. I’d had Coaching throughout my career and it had always had a transformational affect on me, and the results I achieved. And, it certainly has had the same affect for me this time around.
I realised what it is I’m brilliant at, my passions and values. I’ve now focused my business on these things and quelle surprise! I now love what I do.
When you go it alone, you need to find new ways of collaborating. Finding the right networking groups for you is vital when you set up your own business. And I’ve done that now.
And finally, cutting myself some slack! This was a big new journey to take and part of it is experimenting and finding out what doesn’t work as well as what does.
Maybe work can work..
For a while I was disillusioned with the landscape of work, would it ever change?
I’m happy to tell you that there is a quiet revolution going on out there.
Women are successfully changing the landscape of work to suit them and their values.
There are three things driving this; Digital is enabling us to work where and when we want, our Values are changing and we don’t all want to compromise family for success. Finally, thanks to the last recession the job market is changing.
Since 2008, women accounted for 80% of the new self employed.
Some go it alone and set up their own businesses (17% of business owners in the uk are women), some have portfolio careers.
Some work with businesses, such as Mumpower, that provide them with challenging flexible work they can do at home, when it suits them. And finally businesses are considering how they can use flexible resource.
It doesn’t have to be the old guard’s way or the highway! You can make work, work for you!