Juggling the realities of work with the practicalities of parenting is a very real challenge. Career-wise, you want to deliver the very best for your clients and for your team. You also want to be totally present for your children.
But meetings get switched. Deadlines get pushed back. Kids get sick...or clingy. Or they have a sports' day, birthday party or swimming class that needs to be attended. And when you're not carving up those responsibilities with another appropriate adult, or when childcare falls through or costs become unmanageable - the result is often a conflict of priorities.
So yes...being a mum is tough. Being a working mum is tough. Being a single working mum is tough. But so much of the narrative around being a working mum overlooks the combined joys that taking on both roles can bring. So much so, that I wonder if a 25 year old considering her options today would think: 'Nah, that doesn't seem an appealing life choice. I'll opt for a career, or motherhood...but not both, thanks very much.'
For me, being a working mum has made me do things and be things I am not sure I would have previously. It has certainly made me a much better person and employee.
So, here are my 10 reasons why being a working mum is amazing:
I am more creative:
You want a bedtime story, made up off the top of my head, featuring a troll called Dylan and pixie called James, set in a jungle that also includes a tea party? Not a problem...coming right up. There is nothing that fires up your creative juices more than entertaining a small person, whether it is creatively tackling a car journey or a bedtime story, my creativity has deepened and widened. Now you want me to be creative with your business and campaign with a 6 month lead time and a budget of £3m? Piece of cake.
I can negotiate:
Anyone who has ever convinced a toddler to put on their shoes or to brush their teeth knows that the Middle-East crisis would be effectively ended if it was negotiated by a parent.
A client is the most rational of all beasts to have a conversation with in comparison and pushing back on a deadline, an un-reasonable brief or difficult internal politics has moved from something I used to face with dread to something which is easily navigated.
I earn more money:
Really, I hear you ask? Considering the cost of childcare, the gender pay-gap widening post children and general evidence supporting the opposite? Let me be clear: nothing makes you evaluate your worth like having something else you could be doing. I am very clear on what is needed to compensate for not being with my children and consequently I have found the courage and chutzpah to ask for it.
I am more ambitious:
Suddenly comes the realisation that no longer am I just working for a paycheck to spend on things for me. Instead I am building a life for my children, and if I want to be able to provide them with experiences, I need to work hard. There is nothing quite like an 8 year old's burning desire to go to Disney World to encourage you to step up and take on that promotion.
I invest in the projects I care about:
While I am ambitious I am also more discerning. I no longer work on glory projects and fancy brands hold no sway. Instead the appeal of working on business with a clear ambition, on internal projects which promote values I care about appeal so much more and I am confident enough to be able to put my hand up to support them.
I am less coy:
Blowing your own trumpet is terribly crass and un-British. And yet having children has meant that I am more prepared to stand up for myself and speak with pride about my work and what I have achieved. Because if I am going to be away from them, my children should be proud of what it is I am going to do instead.
I am more organised:
Of course it's hard, but one of the easiest way to make it a tiny bit easier is to be organised to the extreme. When time and patience is limited, knowing where the document is that you need, what meetings are in your diary and what a deliverable deadline really is means that you can keep the train running on the tracks.
I am more appreciative:
The media industry is a wonderful industry to be part of. There are exciting partners, technologies, individuals and training available to you at the drop of a hat. But drowning in so much opportunity can make you blind to it. When you struggle to use the bathroom without having someone accompany you (as a parent), being invited to the Ivy, go on an in-depth training course or to talk to the people that make your favourite TV programmes feels like the gift it really is.
I listen more
As a parent you learn quickly the art of 'active listening' - not just listening to the words but the intention behind it. We all know that the simple words of 'I don't feel well enough to go to school today' could easily signify another conversation you need to have, not just taking their temperature.
Transferring this skill into the workplace is invaluable in being an effective manager and creative leader.
Last week while brushing our teeth, my children asked me an innocent enough question: "Mummy if you need a boy and a girl to make a baby.....how do two ladies who love each other or two men who love each other make a baby then'?
This is a quicksand question with each answer opening up further and further questions until you are drowning in complicated anatomical diagrams!
Being bombarded with questions like this means you become adept at simplifying a problem or scenario into its basic terms.
In an industry that still over complicates everything, it is a skill to be able to cut to the quick and understand the problem at hand.
So of course it's hard being a working mum, and you'll need to choose carefully to find an organisation that is committed to actively supporting flexible working. But I tend to think that all the things worth doing are a little bit hard, or they wouldn't be worthwhile...and also of course, huge fun.Suggest a correction