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When it came time for me to start thinking about having a baby, the thing that was first and foremost in my mind (even over childbirth, breastfeeding and nappies) was what I would do after I’d had the baby when it was time for me to return to work.

 

For some that decision is quite straightforward: You take maternity leave (paid for by your employer, if you’re lucky), you have your baby and then when you’re time is up, you and your employer come to a mutally beneficial agreement and you return to work. Lucky you!

 

 

 

 

But for me, that was never going to be an option. At the time we started trying to fall pregnant I was in a manager’s role in a creative, deadline-driven industry that could not be made part-time and could not be job shared. I am a graphic artist and I always enjoyed most aspects of my job (even the stressful times) but hours were long and the burn-out factor was high. My days were spent managing everybody’s time plus my own, dealing with deadlines that changed every five minutes, sometimes I worked through the night and on weekends, often “urgent” work landed on my desk at 7pm as I was about to leave for the day that had to be done by 9am the next morning.

 

Over the years I’d seen many of my co-workers go on maternity leave and try to come back “part-time”. Some lasted one day and others stuck it out until they (quickly) had another baby or were given a redundancy. None of them ever got promoted or were given any responsibility. And their “part-time” hours due to childcare restrictions were just an inconvenience to the company. In fact, to this day I do not know one mum who does the job I used to do.

 

When my time came I knew I could not come back to my job and do it in the same capacity my company was used to. “Full-time” for me meant minimum 12 hours days and no scope to “work from home”. I also did not want to commit to my work only to let them down and eventually be made redundant. Plus I was always stressed. I knew I would not be able to cope with a demanding job and with being a mum.

 

When I was 18 weeks pregnant, after a particularly stressful week I quit my full-time job to begin freelancing again. Of course, money was the main thing I took into consideration. My employer at the time had no policy of paid maternity leave, so all he was guaranteeing me that he would hold my job. I did not have a part time option to come back to either. So I figured that at least if I freelanced I would be able to earn money while I was on “maternity leave” and dictate my own hours. I knew I was making an unorthodox decision at the time but I always say “Leap and it will appear” because it just about always does.

 

The first thing I did was re-train. I was (and still am) a graphic artist who specialised in print and advertising. I learnt how to design and build websites and jumped into the most overcrowded market on the internet. The first website I ever built was my own and when I went live with it, I sent the link to every single person I knew. I told everyone I was freelancing (and pregnant). I actually got enough web and print work to get me through until I was 40 weeks pregnant! My son was born a day and a half later.

 

My only goal at that time was to establish myself on the freelance market. My stipulations were that I could not work in a company that needed me “full-time”, I had to be able to stop working at 5pm on the dot, and as often as possible I had to do the work from my home office. I had a dedicated office set up in my house and I dressed for work every single day. No TV, no couch breaks and no shopping trips. When I wasn’t doing paid work I was teaching myself new skills. My expectations after I had the baby were that I would start taking on work after six months and see how things went from there.

 

And you know what? It worked out. I kept in touch with my regular clients while my baby was very young. I took him to meetings for future jobs. He was welcomed into corporate offices with suits who got clucky halfway through giving me a brief. I have been able to build up my client base to keep me busy enough to work five days a week.

 

I have the flexibility to manage my client’s jobs outside of normal office hours and they are happy for me to do that. I still have to meet tight deadlines but I get to do it on my terms.

 

The one down side of this is, I don’t earn as much money as I used to when I was employed full-time. But I’m not working anywhere ner the same hours. I’m not stressed out anymore. I still get to be creative and the people I work with on a regular basis are flexible, like-minded business people. It’s amazing how many people you meet who are “family-friendly”, once you step out of an inflexible environment.

 

My story might not be an option for everyone. I’m not a mumpreneur nor have I made loads of money doing this. Money will always be the defining factor in these decisions and you need to be sensible about it. But if you are in a position to use your “maternity leave” to change your work circumstances, you should think about it. It might be the best thing you ever did.

 

 

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  • Hmmm, very interesting, not my situation but interesting to hear other peoples views.

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  • I could never go straight back to work after having a baby i believe it is very important to spend as much time with your baby when they are a baby. You need the time to connect with yourgo child. You can’t just have a baby and then dump them in daycare and back to work. That’s just my opinion you want

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  • Sometimes earning less is better than earning none, and spending time with bub is priceless.

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  • Thanks for sharing your story, it is good to get other points of views and opinions on work/life balance.

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  • Good story ,we all need options ,some of us never stop carers of children ,but if u can manage work &children go for it !

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  • It’s hard to find a job with the flexibility required when you’ve got kids.

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  • Thanks for sharing. Your situation was so similar to mine snd after having to resign I atill haven’t found the right role. It is so hard for mums to find the balance in today’s fast paced environment

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  • Thanks for sharing. We need more baby/ toddler friendly workplaces.

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  • Thanks a lot for sharing. I enjoyed reading it. Great ideas

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  • Enjoyed reading – thanks for sharing.

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  • A very interesting article to read thanks for the share :)

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  • This is very interesting :)

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  • Interesting article to read :)

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  • Thank you for sharing :)

    Reply

  • I’m stop working after having baby. The best way for me is be housewife look after and seeing my son growing.

    Reply

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