The Parent Trap
I worked long, long hours, weekends, Bank Holidays – in previous roles it was like a competition where the more hours you could work in a day equated to your dedication to the business. For many years I would pull every moment I had into work and happily so. The work/ life balance I had was especially off-skew, as if I had Noah’s Ark plonked on the opposite end of the seesaw. Work came before drinks with friends, dinner with family and even sleep. No one can exist like that forever. That metaphorical candle does not last long when being burnt at both ends. There must be balance eventually.
My epiphany about the importance of work/life balance came like a ten-tonne truck when I found out I was going to become a Mam. No longer was work my priority. I was going to have a wee bab who would need the best of me, my energy, drive, and focus. We were so happy and finding the right balance between my work and home life had become more important than I ever thought it could be. Like all parents, we wanted the best for Spud.
The pregnancy was difficult, and my recovery was long. I was not prepared for my return to work whatsoever. I was terrified and the guilt was sometimes overwhelming. My Partner found it difficult to leave us after his paternity leave was spent. He exhausted himself with emotion. I spent every morning sobbing in my old office carpark as I missed the Spud so much. I would replace my mascara and cover up my worries. I would also go out of my way by working over or at home every evening as I felt I had to give more, so I could justify my new professional balance.
In my first return to the Sales meeting, I could not escape the label of ‘New Mum’. After all the niceties, it was soon the meeting of my nightmares. A new client asked to borrow my pen, which sat at the bottom of my rusk-encrusted bag generated some eye-rolling across the table. In my tiredness, I’m pretty sure I heard the term ‘baby-brain’ more than once. A few closed jokes for those in the know. When I left to fetch the group drinks my MD pulled me aside to point out that I had milk-stained, wet patches where my breasts had leaked into my top. I was mortified. He was furious. “It’s like a parent trap,” he said under his breath. “A mother’s meeting. They haven’t come here to talk about babies. They have come here to talk business!”
Safe to say, I was not invited to join a Sales meeting again.
Experiences like that condition your ways of working beyond compare. It can be confidence shattering. As a parent you are often faced with guilt – from both your home and your workplace and that is tough on anyone. You become trapped within the parent trap!
“You’ve got yellow stuff on your skirt,” said my new Director on my first day in Jobsworth.
“Oh, that’s Spud’s nappy cream. I must have got it on me when I was changing him this morning.”
“Argh, I know that stuff. You can’t get it out of anything. You got him to the Childminder okay?”
Boom! With those few seconds of conversation, I was not alone. I was not the only one spinning plates. It was okay to be a parent and be proud to be a parent.
Fortunately, there is no such thing as a ‘parent trap’ in our wee office. Each one of us has responsibilities outside of the business and what is important about that, is that we all recognise that in each other. And to be shocking (and so unlike my first post-partum workplace) that is a bloody positive thing! We appreciate each other’s experience and advice. If your toddler is having nightmare tantrums, someone else had that happen too. If you’re struggling to sleep due to your nocturnal newborn, we can empathise and make you a strong coffee. As a parent you are no less dedicated or motivated than others. In fact, what I see in these parents who juggle being amazing fathers/ mothers/ carers whilst bossing the world of Recruitment is dedication beyond compare.
I have met some amazing people in this world of Jobsworth, and I can say one of the many things I have learnt here is that having a happy work/ life balance is important. It is not glamourous to work yourself into the ground. It does not give you immediate kudos. It is not necessary. For us, a happy Recruiter makes a better Recruiter, and for many a huge part of people’s happiness is found in great work/life balance.