A few weeks ago I went to a talk about careers in journalism post babies; the challenges us female journalists face when we become mums.
The talk was held by the lovely Women in Journalism (WiJ) group. I would recommend all female journalists join this fabulous support group. Just spending company with these ladies can be inspiring and give you a whole new take on your career. There’s a link at the bottom of this blog.
But enough about that,
The talk reminded me of the challenges I’ve faced since my first child was born nearly nine years ago. I don’t need to tell other mums that once you have a child things change, physically, emotionally and financially.
My biggest thing was my career. I had nurtured it like a child in many ways. But it so happened that when my oldest daughter was born my industry was in the middle of a tough recession.
I went from having enough work to keep me busy seven days a week, to barely enough to pay for the bills each month.
My ambition didn’t die though. In fact mine got stronger. I wanted the works, the family and the fulfilling career. I knew staying at home with my children was not going to be an option for me. Even if we could have afforded it, and we couldn’t, I would never have given up my career.
Over the last nine years I’ve been in both staff and freelance roles. Largely my career has progressed but I’ve had to ditch jobs that didn’t allow me some kind of work/life balance.
I know I can work 40 hours a week, from an office, from home (and even from the gym where I’m currently writing this blog) and even a train.
The enlightened employer(s) who let me do this, let me because they don’t care that I’m a mum or I have to break off (which I make up at 6am or 7pm) in order to do the school run. As a freelance journalist my deadlines are all I have to worry about.
My experience of being a working parent has been a journey to say the least. If I can condense it down to these five lessons.
- Max your catch-up time. If you are on Maternity Allowance you can do up to 10 catch up days. I would say use these if you are freelance because they can help you keep your contacts and portfolio going.
- Flexible working doesn’t always work. I have taken on contracts where I have no choice but to do normal hours (because colleagues do). In this case it may be better to bite the bullet and arrange for wrap-around childcare. Often these gigs are only for short periods of time (such as shifts to cover another journalist’s maternity leave). Accept these and embrace them; take that lunch hour in the office gym, meet friends for a coffee. You will soon be working your own hours again.
- Take time out. Even if it’s a relative who can look after your little one for an extra hour each week to get admin done (or even get your hair cut of have a facial), do it!
- Be brave. I left a staff role (as an editor) on a prestigious publication because it wasn’t working out. I’m already on my way to earning more than I did, simply because I don’t have huge travel expenses any more.
- You are part of a team. This was one thing the WiJ ladies brought up. Although I appreciate some of you reading this will be single parents. If you have a partner, then they have to help too! Build your support network because as they say, it takes a village…