So far if an effort to explore different career paths I haven't mentioned the one job available to most women, which is in my opinion the hardest of them all - motherhood! The salary is awful, you NEVER get a day off and sick days come as part of the job.
It’s true that for most, working, instead of being a full time parent is not a choice but a necessity. Therefore the majority of my friends have, like me, returned to full time jobs after having kids. But when it came to resuming their jobs after maternity leave they exclaimed that “time had gone too quick” and they lamented that they wished they had longer to spend with their child. I, on the other-hand, leapt back to the nine to five routine with vigour and enthusiasm. I longed for structure to my day once again, having something tangible to show for my efforts and some adult conversation that didn't revolve around the contents of my son’s latest nappy. I also felt that I was able to lavish my son, Dylan, with a higher concentration of love and had more energy to play when we limited our time together during the day. Work was my saviour!
This realisation came with a certain amount of guilt though and I spent the first year feeling like a bad mother for needing to have my job to feel whole. Shouldn’t being a mother be enough for me? Shouldn't I be longing to be spend the days with my son like my other friends? Can you really balance work and family and “have it all”?
The trust industry in Jersey is very female orientated with a higher percentage of women in firms, but more senior positions are still held mostly by men. Gender inequality does unfortunately still exist so upon returning to work I was very careful not to ask for any concessions from my employer, despite being on offer, and ensured that being a new mother didn’t impact on my work as best as I could. Myself and my husband balanced our role as parents without asking for flexible hours, and when I was needed, I worked late.
Whilst some way behind UK legislation on parental rights, most Jersey firms do support working mums to some degree and I was fortunate enough to work at firms who were happy to offer me flexibility. But sometimes taking advantage of these concessions means that you are placed on a shelf in terms of career progression. I have had first hand sight of successful women being labelled “mothers” in the work place and the assumption made that their focus had shifted from the job and so overlooked for promotion or progression. This was not a box I wished to be placed in.
In stark contrast, I also did not want to be a career mum who always puts work before her child, who works late or travels so often that you miss the joy of your offspring's childhood. Finding a balance remains a difficult and constant task since both me and my husband are ambitious, driven individuals, not quite ready to take our foot off the gas in our jobs.
Motherhood is such an unknown adventure, you simply can never predict the way in which it will change your life and alter you as a person. I am comfortable now that I know so much better what makes me tick, and that is having a successful career along with a happy family. I have come to realise that I'm not a freak of nature and that every family needs to find what works for them. The guilt will always be there, especially as we debate whether to have more children. It makes you question, can women really have it all?
Here are some top reads on the subject of motherhood vs career:
- Guardian - Working Mothers Don't Need to Feel Guilt
- Bounty - Golden Rules for Happy Working Mums
- Working Mums - Guilt and the Working Mum