On the one hand, I look back and think, gosh what an achievement, and on the other I think, like many others, I must be mad! But in many ways this has just been a natural next chapter in my particular story. I was ready and willing to take it all on.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the pressure of competing expectations on me, not only as a woman, but suddenly as a mother. I wasn’t ready for how hard it would be to lose the mental and social activity of a workplace. I wasn’t ready to lose all the spontaneity in life, and I certainly wasn’t ready for the guilt and judgement I would feel when I decided to start a business.
For some women, their goal in life is to be a wife and a mum, but I was never one of those women. That said - I love being married and being a mum. My little family is what motivates me, supports me, and where I get all the security I never had in my early life and don’t have in my chosen career path. My home is the place where I have nothing to prove, no deadlines or pressures, and where I have solace. It’s a happy place – most of the time, bar the odd (ever-increasing) toddler tantrum…. enough said.
My struggle as a new mum
Saying I love having a child, is true, but it certainly isn’t easy. Not because having a baby is mentally taxing - quite the opposite. When you’ve had a baby after building a career, an education and a busy social life – it can be a massive change to lose the buzz and sense of achievement you get from those parts of your life. Getting stakeholder buy-in or solving a complex business problem is worlds apart from the achievements you get as a new mum. Having a shower, sleeping for more than 2 hours at a time or eating a hot meal – that’s your new milestones for the day. How about getting through the day without crying? Or getting dressed – maybe?
Then your partner goes to work, and you’re jealous. He got to sleep all night, and then go and do something he knows how to do. He gets to talk to adults, to shower, put on clothes, eat lunch at the usual time. And you have no effing clue what you are doing with this tiny creature that is totally dependent on you. You’re literally left holding the baby.
The first 9 or 10 months of my maternity leave were a blur of getting through days. I loved watching my little boy learn new things, and have his personality develop – these are the achievements that can never be matched. I loved not having the constraints of an office work place. I loved meeting other mums and developing new friendships, but honestly I was bored, tired, frustrated, and really felt like a failure most days.
I got asked by well-meaning individuals whether I loved home life. I couldn’t even fake an answer that would please them. When I would respond – no – I would watch their faces fall, as if how could you not love being a homemaker and a mum to that beautiful baby?
To work or not to work?
Some stay-at-home mums seemed to be insulted when I would say that being a full-time mum wasn’t for me. Then there were the questions from my working friends, “When are you going back to work?”. That question equally burned, because going back to work felt like I was abandoning my baby - leaving him with strangers, the dreaded nursery, and missing all the moments that I would never get back with him. Going back to work meant giving up both my vision of starting my own business, and the pleasures of being a mum and watching my little boy grow up. I was unhappy at work, yet being a stay-at-home mum was equally uninspiring. It was the wrong choice for me personally, from both angles.
It’s worth mentioning that the concept for This is Milk, was already born and underway before I fell pregnant, however due to various life happenings it had been shelved, its future undecided, but never far from my mind. I’d also grown tired of the inflexibility of 9-5 office life.
Finding my balance
For many parents, choosing self-employment is a way to achieve more balance between parenting and work. In some respects this was a motivation for me. The truth is, for the moment it hasn’t worked out that way - I’m building a business, working onsite with a client, plus being a mum and maintaining a social life. However, instead of feeling like a failure, I feel like I’m achieving again, at being a mum, a wife, and an entrepreneur.
What I am building is a life of balance that works for me – a happy place where I can build a future for my family and the team I work with.
I’ve started to ignore the negativity from those who doubt my ability or judge me for wanting a career outside of my family. I now focus on the looks of pride from my family and friends at what I have achieved in a short space of time.
For me, choosing to start a business and have a baby in the same year was the right decision. There have been sacrifices of course but I certainly haven’t had to choose between a career and a family. I’ve made the choices I have in order to build both.
Most importantly what is right for one woman, isn't always right for the next. My choices, whilst unconventional, were the right ones for me. What I hope for is that we all judge less, and have more belief in our ability to create the futures we desire.