Please don't stop at dreaming. Do something about it. There really are loads of opportunities out there which will help you to change your life for the better. I've distilled some of these ideas into a handy list for you. This is your 'what I could do after maternity leave' list. Read it, pick out a few, and develop them into your own ideas.
I was 16 when I first fell pregnant (accidentally, of course), and again at 20. I didn't want my first two children. "Daddy, I have changed my mind," I cried big tears when I was being wheeled into the delivery room. "I don't want a baby!" In the beginning, I never felt that I was a good mother. In fact, I have always believed that I was a bad mother, blaming my youth for my shortcomings.
When we think of 'work life balance' it can give us the image in our heads of two separate things that compete with each other for our time and attention. Pitching 'work' versus 'life' can give the impression that 'work' isn't part of our 'life' when in fact, for many of us it is a big part. So how do we strike the balance?
Ellie's piece resonated with me on a lot of levels, and I am so proud of her for advocating for something that ALL women and babies, of all socio-economic levels, everywhere, need and deserve. But it also got me thinking that something continues to be missing from this conversation. (I can say this, knowing that Ellie will have my back!)
I remember a work colleague of mine from some years ago, who regularly told me that work was easier than looking after his kids. "The office is a break for me," he used to say, "I'm heading home now to the real job". I didn't have children at the time and I assumed he was exaggerating. In fact, as the work we were doing at the time was very challenging, I thought it was a form of self-praise - a humble-brag of sorts.
Let's be frank, some people thrive in the role of full time parent and I'm totally impressed and sometimes envious. In my case it was never an option and whilst it's been tough at times, I'm so incredibly grateful that I'm busy and loving my job - now that my babies are huge teenagers and need me rather less than I need them!
Since retiring from international sport, I didn't think an emotional drive that had enabled my accomplishments, would ever absorb me again. But the day my baby boy was born and I became a mother, something even more powerful enveloped me. It's impossible to describe this overwhelming feeling, but every mother will know it.
Lack of support can leave women "faced with the feeling like they're not enough at either home or work" and prone to dropping out, says Chivers. "These are women who know they can deliver great things at work and raise happy, normal kids if only their and their partners' employers would trust them enough to crack on in flexible fashion."
I hate days like this because I don't want to do this anymore and I dislike myself for not wanting to do this anymore. I miss my old life, not because it was more fulfilling, not by any stretch, merely because it wasn't this; it wasn't 'today'. I miss the life I took for granted whilst watching repeats of programmes I didn't even enjoy very much the first time I watched them.
Pumping breast milk is a part-time job on top of the full-time job, not to mention that other little thing about going home and raising a baby. So it's no wonder that working, breastfeeding women are vertiable magicians when it comes to hacking their jobs, their breast pumps, and their surroundings to make it all work.
For 4 weeks I had no job to go to or even think about; and no babies yet. For the first time, probably since I was at university, I was completely free to do what I wanted for days on end. Of course, what I wanted most of all was to sit on the sofa like a beached whale - I was huge and had no energy. But still, the feeling of freedom was starting to take hold.
Nobody should ever judge mothers on the choices they make when it comes to balancing work and family life; it should always be a personal choice. But this choice needs to be a meaningful one, not simply picking the least worst option. Unfortunately, this still isn't the case for far too many women. We can and we must do better.
According a web survey by insurance company Aviva, 18% of couples split childcare responsibilities evenly, with 6% of men now the primary carer of their child. Pushing the figure from 6,000 in 2000 to 600,000 in 2010. And in a less scientific survey done by myself sat in the window of my front room at 3:30pm, more and more Dads are at the school gates.
So you have been through pregnancy, childbirth and the early months looking after baby. And when it is time to return to work you feel completely inadequate. All that occupies your mind is milk feeds, washing clothes, routine, and where the next unbroken sleep might be coming from. Fear not. Once the fog has cleared, you will go back a better worker. And the fog will clear within days of returning... For some the need to be flexible is paramount. The traditional 9-5 (or 8-7 which is quite normal in many jobs) is not conducive to looking after little ones.