1. Don’t feel guilty
This is a two part issue.
Firstly, as a working mother I felt guilty for ages when I went back to work, especially as I had to return to work before my son’s first birthday. I would express milk in the staff toilets, crying. I was filled with guilt for missing feed time. I was so worried about missing his first step or a new word that I forgot to cherish the time I did have with him. So I started focusing on creating our own memories and I would plan special days and make our time special rather than focusing on the times that I could not be there.
Secondly, don’t feel guilty for needing to look after your child! At a Young Women’s Trust panel event I spoke to one of the panellists, a lead engineer on the Crossrail project – and a mother. While talking about feeling guilty about needing to take time off to look after my son when he was ill, she said that as mothers, we are quick to be apologetic when we should take an assertive pragmatic approach. We should use words such as ‘unfortunately’ instead of ‘I am so sorry’.
Her advice was key - remove guilt and don’t present your child as an inconvenience.
2. Engage with your child in a creative way
I always found it frustrating that my son wouldn’t share much about his day when I would ask him what he had been up to. Asking how school was and what he did, I was always met with ‘good, I played with my friends’. This was frustrating as I wanted to know more about his day because I already felt I was missing out.
I was given some great advice from YWT Trustee, Tara Leathers, who said that rather than asking questions, I should tell him about my day and in return ask him to share his day with me. Now when I tell my son that ‘I went to my desk and I typed a report on my computer’, he relates it to his day and tells me more about what he did.
3. #MeTime is crucial
Just because you work and spend long periods away from home doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to personal time. This tip is pretty simple, I have to make a conscious effort to have ‘me time’. My time is important, the issue I found was that I was always fulfilling a role. At work I am the Research Manager and then at home I’m in my mummy role. I was a person before both of these roles and I need to make time for that person and doing the things I have always loved keeps me happy.
4. Connect with other working parents
The nursery / school gates can sometimes feel like the high-school playground. If you’re a working mum and you can’t commit as much time to drop-offs and pick-ups you can sometimes feel left out. As mentioned in point one, don’t feel guilty! It’s okay to bring shop bought cakes to the cake sale, it is the children that matter.
To deal with this I would try and seek out the parents that are in similar positions to me. By connecting with working parents I didn’t feel as left out and it was comforting to know I am not alone.
5. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain
I have chosen to have a child and still have a career, I choose to still go for promotions and to develop my education and there is nothing wrong with that. That was the vision I had and that is the mother I am. Being a career mum is not a dreadful thing. My ambition, strength and drive comes from my son and I am ambitious because I wanted to be the best version of me for him.
I have been called selfish, irresponsible and I’ve also been told that my’ hard work’ will have a negative impact on my child. I can safely say that that couldn’t be further from the truth. Jayden is now independent and fully understands that I work, that is all he has known. To get through this I have stayed focused on my ambitions and those I have for my son. I focus on the life I want to provide for him. I am the mother I want to be not the mother they think I should be.