Friday 30 August 2013

C for Career

I always thought that I'd be one of those women who had it all – the career, the baby – with ease. As an IT consultant, before baby, I used to travel a lot. I'm talking being away from home for over half a year. When I met Mr Fork, I was working in Sydney and coming back to Brisbane on the weekends. The first year of dating, we probably really only spent a couple of weeks together all up. When the travel lightened up and we started to cohabit, things got really interesting. I'm the die hard vegetarian (vegan at home) while he's the raging carnivore. I like to curl up with a good book and he likes to watch TV and mindlessly flip through the channels. I like to cycle, he turns green at the thought of getting on a bike. But we bond over a shared love of dancing, noodle dishes and The Big Bang Theory to name a few things.

We weren't trying to fall pregnant, but we weren't not trying either. We were delighted to find out we were going to have a baby and our little bean was loved as soon as we knew she was coming. In fact, our dogs knew I was pregnant before we did, morphing into clingy little furballs who couldn't get close enough to me. When I started to show, they loved lying against my tummy and taking turns with my daughter to kick each other through my tummy. That was fun, but they loved her before she was born too.

Happy family, Mr Fork remaining mysterious

I went back to work part time after 7 months off and things definitely changed. I'm not the dedicated worker that I once was. My company has never had titles for employees, so over the years I've been whatever I needed to be to get the job done: tester, project lead, senior consultant, trainer. Now, the title that brings me the most satisfaction? Mummy. I often tell me colleagues that I have a full time job and I come in to paid employment to have a break from it. It's a real treat getting to eat my lunch without sharing, leave the room without anyone screaming and use the bathroom whenever I want to!

My eyes have really been opened coming back to work though. It's not as easy as I thought it would be. I get lots of looks as I pack up to leave at 5pm so that I get home in time to have dinner and cuddles with Ellie. I put up with comments like "she's a great consultant BUT she only works three days a week" or "so you only work 3 days a week and do nothing the rest of the time?" It's very hard to bite my tongue and not invite them over to do "nothing" with me.
Pumping at work was a challenge. It's difficult to find clothes that look business like but don't flash milk engorged breasts. Many businesses don't understand the legal requirements of breastfeeding mothers too, and often the facilities provided are not adequate or you're left with only a toilet as an option.

So yes, my eyes have been opened. I suppose also my priorities have changed, but being on the other side of the fence, I understand how hard it is to be a working mother. There is very little flexibility or understanding of my new life, especially in my very male dominated industry. With the election approaching, politicians are trying to win votes with their maternity leave policy, but that's only for the first six months of a child's life. If I ever win the lotto, I want to start a company where women are encouraged to return to work. With flexible working arrangements, a child friendly office location, onsite day care, and generous company maternity leave and return to work policies.

What about you? Does your workplace make it easy to be a working mum?

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