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Can a Working Mum Really Have It All?
I have been trying to come up with an honest answer to this since I went back to work after my first maternity leave three years ago.
A typical day starts at around 6am with a whirlwind of showers, tantrums from kids, dressing, breakfast, coffee, tantrums from me and the hectic nursery run. By 8:20 I am at my desk. When 17.30 arrives, it’s home in time for bath, stories and bed, a quick dinner then maybe a bit more work or catching up with my other half or friends.
This is what I do 4 days of the week.
I am a Partner in the Medical Negligence Department of McMillan Williams Solicitors, and my job is to help adults and children get their lives back on track after suffering injury as a result of poor medical treatment.
I fight for the vital compensation so that they can have the medical treatment they need, pay for aids and equipment to facilitate their recovery or makes their life easier which at times is often stressful and unhappy.
Being a Medical Negligence Solicitor is challenging but both interesting and rewarding. I am lucky that I get to do this job in Brighton, a city that I adore and one that my partner and I have chosen as a home for our young family.
Most days I feel incredibly fortunate to have the chance to at least try and balance all the important things in my life. My partner is very supportive and we ensure that childcare is evenly split between us.
My employer is also incredibly supportive and has an enlightened view of flexible working. I’m also lucky that I have a host of friends that are at the same stage of their lives and can share my experiences with them.
But the Question Remains, “Have I Got It All?”
The honest answer is “no”, but that’s not to say that the whole experience isn’t enjoyable or worth the effort.
Speaking to other mothers, it seems that guilt appears to be hard-wired into all of us.
I don’t think any parent ever feels they are doing enough for their children. My husband and I are always forgetting birthday parties to which our children have been invited, frantically cobbling together a fancy dress costume at 2am which bears little resemblance to what it should and feeding our children dinners that would make Jamie Oliver frown.
For me, the idea of buying “dry clean only” clothes now seems a luxury, I haven’t been to the gym in months, I can’t remember the last time I managed to sit through a film without falling asleep and any hobbies I once had are almost a distant memory.
As I said previously, I am incredibly fortunate in that I have the opportunity to try to “have it all”.
So many employers are stuck in the dark ages when it comes to workforce flexibility and nursery school fees are prohibitively expensive so even giving the juggling act a go is something that is not readily available for all.
So many of my mummy friends have seen their careers go in a direction they did not anticipate or want simply because they had children. Before I joined McMillan Williams, I too was overlooked for promotion or felt “out of the loop” by not attending after-work drinks.
As a society we have so much more to do.
I have realised that 'having it all' depends very much on your definition of ‘All’. I don't have all the things I had pre-kids and that, some would consider, is the 'cost' of a woman choosing to have a family.
I accept that this is the reality for many and am sad that we live in a world that is not yet fully equal for both men and women.
However, ultimately I feel that my family has allowed me to reassess and as a result, I've had to work hard (and change jobs) to find the perfect fit for us all, and not just for me.
I am pleased that I can say that I now have a job I am passionate about, I am grateful that I work for an employer who is fair and progressive and above all happy that I have a family that is thriving and happy.
So whilst I may not have any time to myself and have an awful lot of maternal guilt, I am happy with the balance that I have achieved and continue in the hope that it will get easier.
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