Parenting: Reviving a career after a period of being a stay at home mum

It is fair to say I was a very career focused young woman. Highly ambitious, driven, good work ethic and continued studying and volunteering to push myself along the career path.

When the time finally came when I was lucky enough to have a family, much like many women, I had obsessed over the precious bundles I would hold in my arms and I guess assumed they would slot into our lives. The details would be figured out later, between nurseries and family support.

But that support quickly changed as our family's health deteriorated or circumstances changed resulting in them working full time, and I found myself discriminated against at work due to my pregnancy. When you lose the back up of paid work, it becomes a chicken and egg situation as to whether you pay for childcare when not bringing in a wage.

I don't think anyone really talks openly about the monumental changes you experience when you have  children and how your career will be affected. Perhaps because women in the generation before us rarely had careers, not at least until children were much older. They were full time stay at home mum's, which is the THE most important job in the world. And believe me, it is a job, in fact the hardest one I have ever had. Including when I worked full time whilst doing a Master's degree and working my side hustle.

So maybe this is why the conversation about how my identity and professional life I had built until the age of 30 odd would massively change didn't really happen, and it caused difficulties as a result. After facing the pregnancy discrimination, the next worst thing after the harassment itself, was realising that the professional person I identified with was gone.

I managed to freelance around naps once my first baby was born and felt like I was maintaining an old part of myself, but once I was pregnant again 9 months later and a full house renovation was underway, I couldn't maintain it without everyone seriously suffering. Then when I had two babies under two at home who hated sleep and never napped at the same time, my working window disappeared.

Then after I was emerging from a second newborn period and we found our groove a little more, a global pandemic hit, and it was all about survival and making sure my husband's job didn't suffer.

Fast forward another couple of years and finally both of my children are at an age and stage where they can attend nursery or school. But I still do not feel wholly sure how to revive my career. 

There is still the matter of all of the drop offs, pick ups, school holidays, sickness and every household duty that keeps our family ticking over. I am the default parent and household manager, it is always my plans that have to change to accommodate our family, and we do not have a lot of support with family members between them working or being unable to due to health.

When I talk about my worries and concerns, I am told vaguely 'it will work out' or 'we are here to help' but inevitably things crop up, as of course things like paid work and health take priority, and so it is my shoulders things fall back onto again. We have no real village to rely on, which leaves us with no real option unless we turn to paid childcare.  Even that is fraught with difficulties as most working mothers will attest to and until the money is coming in, paying for childcare is an expense we could do without.

Even with a supportive husband, he does not and cannot really understand how massively women are impacted as their lives are not impacted in the same way. It is not his fault but we have been polarised into our respective roles - his job is paramount as it pays the bills - and as a result, I pick up all the rest of household and childcare duties, which does not leave time or energy for pursuing career goals.

I always wanted a more flexible career and this is an opportunity as well as a worry, but right now the latter is taking precedent. I do wonder if any employer will take me on with my flexibility requirements which almost leaves me with no choice but to pursue self employment.

Making enough money, future prospects, reliability and employability, pensions, all swirl around my mind. Whilst the answer must be out there, right now it all feels a little overwhelming. I spend countless hours thinking how I will make it work and researching options.

For now, and the last few years, it is all been about the well-being of my beautiful, long wished for family, and my priorities are unlikely to waiver. But I miss the career driven woman I was and grieve a little for life I built. I prized my independence so highly and loved the feeling of accomplishment it brought. I worry about mine and my children's future and financial dependence on my husband. But it has been a great lesson in learning to trust and rely on someone else, as someone who was so independent my whole life.

There are a few things I have taken care to do over the last few years, in anticipation of eventually figuring working motherhood out. 

- I have kept up to date with CPD and completed my Master's degree and other courses.

- I can put a sizable house renovation on my list of accomplishments

- Of course becoming a mother has given me a whole host of transferable skills (I only wish employers appreciated these things more)

- I set up as a freelancer and picked up contracts to ensure my CV is up to date and has no major gaps

- I kept my position as a Director on a charitable Board to keep my hand in

I'm hoping with this, when the time comes, I will be able to find something that works around my family. My beautiful children are my priority but I also want to provide for them and use the skills and education I poured blood sweat and tears into. Surely such a thing exists?

If you have any other tips to share about reviving a career, I would love to hear them and I'll  share them on this little community....

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