When I was pregnant I lost count of the number of times I came across a certain myth. “Your career ends when you become a mum” was right up there with “babies sleep through the night by the age of six months” and “if your tummy sticks out at the front, you’re definitely carrying a boy”.
I became pregnant with my daughter when I was 26 years old. It was a planned pregnancy, despite what many people assumed. I was not married. We did not have a mortgage. I had not reached the “right” stage in my career to “take a baby break”.
But we wanted a family and it felt like the right time to create one.
I knew then that I still had things I wanted to achieve in my working life. But I also knew that wouldn’t change when I became a mum.
I still worried though. With every raised eyebrow at my swollen belly and, “But it’s still so early in your career to have a baby break” I worried. I didn’t have a rigid plan. There was no definite timetable of what I had to achieve by a certain age.
When my daughter was born I looked at her and knew the world had changed. Former priorities crashed away from me. Everything else melted but her.
That ambition to get to national news by the age of 30? That no longer seemed like the high point of happiness. I still wanted to achieve, but I knew the thing I wanted to get right more than anything else was being this child’s mum.
And that leads me to where I am now.
When Frog was nine months old I decided not to return to my former job. With the benefit of space, I realised I’d done everything I wanted to do in my three years in that role. I was ready for something else.
Having time away from work doing new things helped me see other opportunities I was blind to before. Becoming a mum actually opened doors to avenues of work I had never really considered.
And so it was my baby that spurred me on. Still is.
I started a blog, started pitching to editors, started getting commissions for writing work. I spent many long nights building up a portfolio, hitting brick walls, trying to make new contacts. I did interviews while my baby slept and wrote and wrote and wrote. But that wasn’t enough. I started contacting other radio stations. I had meetings. I booked myself for nearly three weeks of shifts without a day off, right up to the day before my wedding.
The responsibility that came with being a mum and providing for my daughter was enough to light the flames of ambition once again.
Now I want to achieve for her AND me. Any work that’s going to take me away from spending time with her has to be both fruitful AND rewarding, otherwise what’s the point?
I think I have more ambition now than I ever did pre-baby. I have a drive to succeed, to show her what a woman can do if she wants. I have the freedom to know that if it doesn’t work out then it doesn’t matter, because being her mum is the most important job I will ever have. And that is liberating.
It’s that drive that gets me out of bed at 3.30am every day. It gets me through the commute when most people are still asleep. It keeps me up late writing and pitching new ideas and setting up meetings with new clients. It stops me taking any job for granted.
And you know what? I NEVER had this urge to get on when I wasn’t a mum. I was ambitious, yes. But I couldn’t have coped on 5 hours sleep a night. I couldn’t have been so efficient with my time. I couldn’t have been so resourceful.
I know I won’t always work these long hours. One day there may be more children. But I do know one thing: the hopes of your working life don’t HAVE to fade when you become a parent.
In fact, for some, parenthood will signify the beginning.