As I wrestled the giant supermarket shopping trolley through the sliding doors I glanced at the woman walking in, she did the same. Even after a decade, she hadn’t changed a bit, at least in my eyes.
Blondie and I worked together in broadcasting when the TV industry was revolutionising itself for the digital age. This was pre economic downturn days when marketing budgets were fat and we were encouraged to be bold and innovate. The hours were long but the can-do spirit of the mostly female team meant that it didn’t feel like work a lot of the time.
“Sometimes I just look at myself and I wonder what I’ve become,” Blondie said. We met for coffee today.
Sitting in front of me was a fresh faced, intelligent, funny, go-getting woman who wants to get back to her marketing career. “I met a recruitment consultant the other day who only left university two years ago, what must he have thought of me?”
During the 4 years she has been raising her children, Blondie worked on ad hoc campaigns for local businesses and charities, kept up her trade publication subscriptions, volunteered at a drop in centre and attended digital marketing courses.
I have every confidence that Blondie will find a job now that she’s put her mind to it. She knows her worth economically but from talking to her I could tell that going back to work was huge leap of faith emotionally which I could relate to.
Shortly after returning from maternity leave I attended a company conference – after many years of practice I was ready for the relentless work hard play hard agenda of the week. I’ll never forget one of the male interns saying to me one morning, “I love it when you mums come to the conference and let rip on the dance floor.” I keenly pointed out to him that ‘we mums’ were behaving exactly the same way at the conference before any of us had children. There were dads on the dance floor too. He didn’t mean any harm but whether I liked it or not, some of my colleagues had stuck a new label on me.
Society tries to beat the sassiness out of women when they become mums, the assumption is that you’ve lost your edge and are incapable of playing the same game as everyone else i.e people without kids and men. It’s sad when women start to believe it.
I’m not going to go all Sheryl Sandberg on you and start preaching the virtues of leaning in, but as someone who has recently left full time corporate life to build a freelance business, I’ve learnt that confidence is the single most important attribute to a mother wanting to re-enter or stay in the workforce. You have to believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who feel the same. If you can’t physically surround yourself with those people, you can certainly do it online.
Since I started this blog 3 months ago, one of the greatest rewards has been to discover like minded women who’ve reinvented themselves since motherhood and are creating opportunities for other women to do the same, business clubs hosted by Mothers Meeting and the social media training and recruitment outfit Digital Mums spring to mind. Women helping women to be happy and succeed is one of the key narratives being played out on my thread.
Blogging whilst mothering has forced me to take advantage of the web to build my skills from home. I’ve attended virtual workshops, participated in twitter chats, invested in online toolkits and design software and taught myself basic coding. With every new follower, every reader comment or Facebook like, I have grown in confidence. I’ve curated a social media list of influencers to keep myself up to date with industry trends and genuinely feel that I’m as plugged in as I ever was, albeit in my sweatpants.
Thank you women of the internet for inspiring me to reach for the stars, for teaching me new skills, for making me laugh, for listening, for accepting and for bringing us all together.