27 September 2016

By Daniel Godsall

Our Views

parenthood, parenting, working mothers

The show must go on

Empty spaces – what are we living for
Abandoned places – I guess we know the score
On and on, does anybody know what we are looking for..

I don’t think Freddie Mercury had working mothers on his mind when he wrote those words but for some reason the lyrics came to mind when I was thinking about the choices women have to make when deciding whether and how to return to work after having had a child or two. Or even three or more.

Going back is tricky. You have to find and pay for the right childcare. Negotiate working hours that mean you can both work and see your children once in a while. Cling on to some semblance of a career even though you are now “part time”. See your peers march ahead while your career stalls because you can’t travel or put in the hours that you once did.

So is it worth it? Is it worth the fight to stop your career becoming one of those abandoned places?

We think so.

Lives are long, complex and messy. Who knows what your physical, emotional or financial future holds. Having work not only provides income, but it also gives people a sense of self esteem and a network of contacts and friends that balance all the other demands in their lives.

You may not need to work right now, you may need to in the future. Sometimes the cost of childcare is prohibitive. But it goes down as children get older. Taking a career break might seem like a sensible option in the short term, but take care that your market value doesn’t fall in line with those falling childcare costs.

Empty nest syndrome is no joke. Whoever heard of a teenager wishing they could spend more time with their parents? Take care of your self and your own needs. Have your own life and own goals.
Those intense, immersive days with young children don’t go on for ever. You may feel like there is no life beyond this. Trust us, there is.

Like it or not, we all need to take more responsibility for our financial futures. The list is terrifying and endless: boomerang kids, dependent parents, cost of higher education, a pension time bomb … Denial is not going to help, sadly.

What sort of role model do you want to be for your children? Both girls and boys.

Those are all the “push’ reasons but what about the positives? Work can be brilliant.

Personal growth. Who doesn’t like learning new stuff, being stretched and having your brain stretched. It’s a good thing, it makes you feel young.

Keeping up. There are thousands of people doing thousands of interesting things and you only find out when you’re out there doing some of those things with them. Modern working life can be dynamic and exciting
Work can be fun. Enough said.

At work you can be you. Not someone’s mother or partner or daughter.

A place in the world. Work can provide structure, meaning and a sense of community.

Financial independence. There is nothing as satisfying as earning your own money

Deciding whether and how to return to work after a baby often feels like a binary, short- term decision. It’s not. It’s part of a much bigger equation. One that encompasses decisions about what you want from your whole life.

Babies grow. You can too.

Lisa is the founder of She’s Back. Prior to taking a career break, Lisa had a 20 year career in professional services. She joined Arthur Andersen and trained as an accountant, before moving to the Business Consulting practice. She became a partner in 2001, specialising in leadership, communication and change management.

When Andersen was acquired by Deloitte in 2002, Lisa was on maternity leave with her first child and returned to the newly merged firm, where she led a programme to address the challenges of merging two very different cultures. After a further break to have her second child, Lisa became Director of Brand and Communication, delivering a major advertising campaign and working for the team leading the firm’s bid to become tier two sponsors of the 2012 Olympics in London.

Lisa founded She’s Back in response to the lack of clear opportunities for women who reach a senior level prior to taking a career break. Research undertaken early by She’s Back and the University of Edinburgh Business School, sponsored by 5 blue chip organisations, highlighted the scale of untapped potential in this particular talent pool and the challenges to be overcome if business is to fully avail itself of that potential.

She’s Back works with organisations to help them understand how to retain more women at all levels and how to re-engage with those who take a break.