Guest blog post from our Inspiration Guru Susan Odev – writer, trainer, performer & co-author of Mum Ultrapreneur.
Last month I was inspired to write by a song by Tina Charles. This month I turn to one of the most famous working mums on the planet – Madonna. And no I’m not about to launch into a blog filled with terrible Madonna lyrics. No, my beautiful stranger, this material girl can get you into the groove, encourage you to open your heart, express yourself and offer you a ray of light to cherish and live to tell the tale on La isla bonita without falling back on tired tricks like that!
No, this is all about playgrounds. School playgrounds, like the one I deposited my youngest two children in this morning. As I stood with all the other mums watching my darlings chasing each other around and dirtying their crisp clean uniforms, I felt sad.
Not sad that I was there but sad that I wasn’t there for my eldest two. My first born son is now 18 and when he started school I worked full time. At first I waited for him to go in and then ran to catch the train. Flexi-time, in theory allowed me to do that but in reality just meant that I started the day an hour behind my colleagues, wasn’t able to join them for lunch because I could only take half an hour, and worked late to make up the time. A neighbour picked my son up and cared for him until I got back – rushed, tired and feeling guilty not just for not being there for my son but the backlog of work I hadn’t, despite my very best attempts, managed to get through.
By the time my eldest daughter, now 15, started school my neighbour was taking them to school as well. I, like many women of my generation, believed I could have it all. Then with house prices soaring we had no choice – we had to do it all. At the time I thought I was doing the right thing but then I fell pregnant again.
Maybe because I was older, maybe it was the idea of dropping three kids off at three different places because the eldest two were at different schools, or maybe because my husband had his own business and things seemed to be more secure, but I was less easy with the idea of going back to work and played with the notion of becoming my own boss. I chickened out though and recall going back to meet up with my manager to discuss the terms of my return but, on the journey back felt extremely unwell. At first I put this down to the idea of going back to work but the next day realised I was pregnant again. So the decision was made for me.
There was no way I was putting two children in day care; there was no way I could afford it for starters. So I became self-employed.
I had dabbled with my own freelance work before but I worked part-time or full-time alongside it. Now I was out there, on my own and loving it!
I loved the time I had with my babies. I didn’t bake cakes and make mud pies, I’m not that kind of mummy but I was there to kiss them better when they fell and to cuddle them as they went down for their afternoon nap. And I was there to do the school run with my eldest two.
I was poorer but less tired. Some of the bills weren’t paid on the due date but I felt less guilt. Now they are all at school and I have time to really concentrate on building my business and taking it to the next level. I am working hard but I am there, most days, to drop them at the playground. And most importantly to pick them up.
I may be frozen (sorry I promised no more Madonna tracks), soaked or wind-blasted by the time they are released from their class but the smiles of their little smudged faces as they race towards me melts all the pain away. I didn’t have that with my eldest two until the birth of my 8 year old and I missed so much.
For a brief ten month period I went back to work. I commuted for 2-3 hours each way but as Hubby was between roles I felt it my duty to get a proper job. I wanted to take the day off to settle my youngest into her first day at school. No, there was no one to cover me. I asked for the afternoon off to see her first school play. No. Same reason. Next day I resigned. And it was the best decision I have ever made.
If you are a mum thinking about whether or not you should return to work or set up on your own I hope you give self-employment real consideration. You will work long, hard hours whichever route you choose but the benefits of chosing your own hours, working on your own terms and being there for your children will far outweight the pros of a regular salary. Being a business mum is not the easy choice but being a working mum isn’t either.