Who: A 40-year-old Digital Marketing Consultant
What: Working from home with a toddler made one woman realise how resilient she really is
Becoming a mother was life-changing for my career. I had spent two decades working for other people, and didn’t feel like I had an outlet for my passions and creativity. After my son was born, I realised that I wanted to have the ability to work around him. When I was made redundant not long afterwards, this gave me the push that I needed to start my own business, where I could balance following my dream of working for myself with being a parent.
Before the pandemic things were going well. My digital marketing consultancy had enough regular clients that I was able to afford childcare, and I was hoping to grow my business over the coming months. I was at a point where I felt like my career was finally on track.
But as COVID began to impact marketing budgets I started to lose work. Although I didn’t take it personally I felt guilty – as a mother it’s important to me that I’m earning enough to support my family. My partner and I couldn’t afford childcare anymore, and inevitably my son’s nursery soon closed anyway.
Things were really difficult. I was struggling with experiencing a big blow to my fledgling business and trying to replace lost clients, all with a toddler under my feet. For at least three months I was working full-time hours whilst taking full responsibility for my son. My husband worked in an upstairs office, and I was left to deal with my son alone during the day. I know how unfair this was, but ultimately, I just had to get on with it and take care of my child. My kitchen table became both an office and a changing station. Between tending to nappies, tantrums, and tears it was tough to get things done.
Being a working mum during a pandemic is incredibly tough. My son is a gregarious bundle of energy, and I’ve ended up doing lots of Zoom calls with him sitting on my knee. Understandably, he doesn’t understand that mummy is working, and so he also likes to climb up onto my lap and draw while I try (and often fail!) to type. At other times he can be inconsolable, and needs constant attention. I know that in order to give him the life that I want I have to make sacrifices, but he is my everything and it can be incredibly hard to keep working when I know that he needs me.
This challenging period has shown me just how resilient I am. I sometimes feel superhuman, but at other times I can feel defeated. I feel guilty when I look over at my toddler entertaining himself whilst I work, or when he cries for me when I’m in the middle of trying to send important emails. The ups and downs have forced me to understand my limitations and to accept that I need to find a balance.
Sometimes the struggles of parenting and working full time during a pandemic has made me wonder if I’ll ever achieve a healthy work/life balance, but at the same time it’s reminded me that everything that I do is for my child. If I hadn’t become a parent then I would probably have continued in the same kind of dead-end job. Instead, he’s awakened my potential, and made me realise how important it is for me to feel fulfilled in my career.
Before the pandemic, I wouldn’t have entertained the idea of working at home with a toddler, but now I know that it can be done, at least to some degree. My son is the most important person in my life, and the work that I’m doing is laying a foundation for our future. I want my family to have a great life, and being able to balance running a successful business with being there for my child is crucial. I now understand how important flexibility and empathy are, and as I continue to give my business everything I’ve got, I’ll also be focusing on building this into its structure. I know that this will be a massive challenge, but the pandemic has taught me that I can do the impossible.
Advice from Calli Louis and Nichola Johnson-Marshall, Co-founders of Working Wonder.
Bring Your Whole Self To Work
Working parents often feel pressured to keep their work and family lives separate, which can cause unnecessary stress. Be yourself and be honest about family pressures and commitments to your manager and colleagues so that they know best how to support you.
Share The Physical And Mental Load
It’s important to evaluate what is realistic and achievable for you in both a work and parenting context. Think about where you need help and support, and don’t be afraid to ask. Remember that this is not a sign of weakness or failure, but a sign of strength and confidence.
Remember That ‘Perfect’ Doesn’t Exist
Women often feel pressure to be the perfect mother. Remember that there is no right or wrong in how you parent, or how you fit your professional life around your caring responsibilities. Try not to set unrealistically high standards for yourself, and remember that your best is good enough.
We have launched the Digital Sisterhood to provide women everywhere with the community and support they need at the moment. Be that a safe space to ask questions – and receive honest answers – or somewhere to find a digital event that will offer you the information, or perhaps the encouragement, you need to get you through the coming days and weeks. We’re here for you, so please do head to digital.allbrightcollective.com to claim your 14 day free trial and join our community.