When Louise Redknapp bravely revealed in an interview recently that her life had taken a backseat to her family, it struck a chord with many of us. She proudly welcomed back her recently revived career, which helped regain her sense of purpose. It's something many of us can relate to.
While any parent I know would agree that having children was the single best decision in their life, they would also admit that they've had to say goodbye to the life they once had. This isn't always a bad thing, and in some ways, I secretly revel in the thought of not having to make an effort on Saturday nights anymore! But the one thing that is hard to accept, is how your career and your sense of purpose changes.
Speaking from experience, after a year of maternity leave, I returned to work part-time. At first it was great, but I soon came to appreciate that it's impossible to have it all. If I returned full-time, I would lose precious time with my child I'd never get again, but my career would be on track. If I remained part-time, the opportunity for growth in my role would remain stagnant, but at least I'd have no regrets as a mother. I chose the latter and took the trade-offs that came with it.
I have seen many talented friends and myself, lose their sense of who they are after having a child, and can understand Louise's plight.
It's not selfish to want that.
If you spent your entire career building up your reputation, only to have to start again, it's depressing.
It saddens me that in this day and age, more isn't done to help parents get back to work. Sure, there are part-time roles, but many of them are low paid and not taxing enough. All the while, there's this great resource of untapped talent singing the wheels on the frigging bus every day!
Some parents and brands however are getting behind the #FlexAppaeal - a well supported campaign to help mums and dads get back to work, fronted by blogger Anna Whitehouse.
It got me thinking, many people describe parenting as a 'full time job' - if it had its own description, what would it look like? I think something like this:
"DEDICATED CARER WANTED FOR FULL TIME ROLE. MUST BE FLEXIBLE, HARD-WORKING AND DEVOTED.
We're looking for someone to fill the full-time position of 'Parent'. You will be required to devote your entire time to the upbringing of a child, which will require unpaid overtime and a 24 hour 'on call' flexibility. You will be rewarded with unconditional love and may find a revival in your hair condition, since you no longer have the time to destroy it with straightening irons. This also means, you are willing to give up your personal appearance for a limited or potentially ongoing period.
You will be compensated for up to 39 weeks - the first six weeks will be at 90% of your pervious salary, the remaining time you will receive approximately £136.78 per week.
• Must be able to read and write, since you will be filling in lots of forms and reading bedtime stories, a lot.
• Must be willing to work 24hours, including night-shifts - sometimes this means as little as four hours sleep a night.
• A tolerance to small talk is preferable, especially during NCT meetings and health clinic visits you will be attending
• You must be resilient, since the lack of sleep will make you prone to arguments with those around you. You must also be able to withstand constant unsolicited parenting advice from people you come encounter, including questions such as 'when are you having another child'.
• We will supply a state-of-the-art travel system; however, you will be expected to open and close this in under a minute, at any given notice. You will also be expected to keep up to date on your nearest lifts and ramp access.
• You will be provided with at least 30 minutes a day of free time, where you are expected to complete washing duties.
• Ability to cook, sing or entertain useful but not essential, since you will learn on the job
• It is useful if you can drive, since you will be required to attend endless parent and baby classes, as an added expense to this role.
You may, or may not, experience a number of occupational hazards, including but not limited to:
• Exhaustion and tiredness
• Weight gain or weight loss
• Loss of interest in sex
• A non-existant social life
• "Baby brain"
• Nutritional deficiency
To be a parent
Don't get me wrong, being a parent is a gift and blessing and I feel beyond lucky to have my family. But the sacrifice and toll it takes on your career is not to be underestimated, and there is more, much more, companies can do, to help parents find their purpose once again.