What a difference a year makes… These photos were taken a year apart at work conferences – on the left I am heavily pregnant, on the right, a month back into the swing of a full time job after my second maternity leave. Sadly the necklace on the left is no longer, after the baby finally succeeded in breaking it free from my neck. I was wearing it when he was born and he took great pleasure in grabbing, growing slowly stronger until the day when he finally destroyed it. But I digress…
Things have been super busy round here. I kept toying with the idea of requesting some flexible working when I returned to work and I just kept putting it off. I felt like it would be my responsibility to find a solution to find someone to cover the extra work, or I’d end up doing 5 days work in 4 days, but not being paid and so I returned full time in January when Buster was 8 and half months old. Things have obviously been quieter round here as I got used to being back at work and juggling childcare commitments, alongside being a wife and a friend and an upstanding member of the PTA with cake sales and promise auctions and car boot sales to organise, and then work pressures have built up, and I’ve been staying late where possible, and going in early every morning, and then came the evening events, and it was on the bus home last night after the second evening out at International Women’s Day events, and I realised I’d spent about 30 minutes with the children all week, and even though I’d managed the school run on Wednesday as per my slightly shifted hours agreement once a week, the balance still isn’t quite right.
And yet, I don’t know what the answer is, either. I love my job. I get to write about interesting stuff (and even make the cross over between this blog life and work blog life because my connections are intertwined. About the only thing I can confidently list as a skill is networking, connecting and joining up people, so it is no surprise to me that I can connect with people in a professional capacity that I met whilst in my wedding blogging era, or that I can write things about flex, baby, for my work blog after meeting Anna in the cafe at the V&A back before she was on panels at feminist things.) I like volunteering at the school, being on the PTA, getting involved with the school community and so on. But I also love my kids, and surely even an event with the Lord Chancellor isn’t worth missing bedtime for. Or is it?
Is flexible working the answer? Maybe… would working from home more often help. I don’t know. I feel like my contribution to the #beboldforchange campaign is to raise this, and try and work out how to address this disconnect. Because I can’t be the only one questioning it. I wouldn’t go so far as the doctor who thinks she isn’t doing a good job at either being a mother or a doctor because I’m actually on my good days pretty confident that I am doing just fine as a parent, and an employee, but perhaps that is because I’ve deliberately stepped away from my previous role as a solicitor and took a conscious step a few years ago to seek something less stressful whilst I had young children. But seeing as I’ve now had my last pregnancy (I think!) I technically don’t need to remain in a junior, less stressful role for more than the next couple of years. Giving up work for the next couple of years is also something I could never contemplate, for many many reasons. Not just for me but for the example I set for my children, not least of which is that earning money is both a male and female responsibility and opportunity. It hasn’t escaped my attention either that Buster loves nursery, is progressing much faster because of his social interactions – how much good nursery did Pip and how well she settled into school. Neither of us see childcare as purely necessary so we can work; to a decent degree, I work so that I can afford to pay for it, as well as working so that I can have half a chance of having a fulfilling future career by not doing irreparable damage by stepping off the ladder altogether.
Last night I sat with a room full of other women in law and listened to Liz Truss calling for more senior women in law to make themselves visible, to be role models, to tell their stories. She asked for senior women including judges to remember that as long as they aren’t discussing their cases or their clients, they can speak publicly about their job and their history, their story, their experiences. And I got thinking that perhaps it is not just senior women that need to do this – we need role models of all generations and experiences, that we can relate to now, not in 30 years time. Not that I am saying I am a role model, of course, just that this is what I am up to, and how whilst I am happy with each individual decision, the whole answer seems to not quite work, and if I’m questioning things I am sure others are too. There is not a straightforward answer mind you, of course there isn’t, or we’d all have shut up about this long along. But whilst it probably doesn’t achieve anything other than adding more noise to the conversation, somehow, just sharing seems to help.