Sunday, October 30, 2005

Work: how do I love thee? Let me count the ways

Last week heralded a new era in the Yummy London Mummy household.

I've been working as a freelance PR consultant for a while, mainly on a part-time basis, sometimes full-time, but always with an end date in sight and often from home. While I've enjoyed the flexibility and autonomy of freelance work, I've also missed many of the things that come with working for a company.

I've always known that when I went back into full-time permanent work it had to be with the right PR agency. And by that I don't mean the biggest international most-soul-sucking spin machine I could find, I mean a company that works to a similar ethos to mine; no-bullshit PR delivered with passion, intelligence and a sense of humour. So I was quite happy to wait, thinking that if it took me six months to find the right role in the right company it wouldn't be much of an issue.

As it turned out, the job hunt picked up speed as soon as I started putting myself out there. The first company I interviewed with asked me back for a second interview but I declined - it didn't feel like a good fit, too staid, too stale. The second company I interviewed with, a start-up with great credentials, offered me a job a couple of days afterwards - I was tempted. The third company impressed the hell out of me, brought in the MD for a second on-the-spot interview, and flattered the hell out of me when they offered me the job thirty minutes after I left their offices. I accepted.

Alpha Male tells me I was unbearable to be around for a couple of weeks, such was the impact on my ego.

And so on Wednesday morning, feeling only vaguely queasy, I offered Firstborn and the Small(er) One bribes if they held back on their plans to torture the nanny, kissed them goodbye and caught the train into Central London. And from that moment, an almost imperceptible but incredibly important shift occured. I became 'me' again.

I would love to hear some of your opinions about work and how you feel about it pre- and post-children. Personally, I am of the opinion that the skills you develop managing a chaotic household of rug-rats prepares you for all but the most complicated workplace challenges. I will expand on this soon.


Manhattan Mama said...

I know exactly how you feel.
Although I still freelance -- there are the days when I grab the subway off to an interview, off to a place where I am myself again.
I love it.
Still, an office place for me is a difficult choice. It's not one I ever loved even before the rabbit.
But being around my colleagues -- even via email -- around the people who I collaberate with, who value me for my work, ideas, --- wonderful.

Bec of the Ladies Lounge said...

Oh I don't know where to begin. I recently said to my boss - after having to carry out a rare but highly justified bollocking of an out-of-line journo - that the entire combined force of the Fourth Estate could not match up to one of my kids as a communication challenge. The skills in negotiation, discipline, compassion and endurance I have gained as a parent are professional benefits that far outweigh the occasional time off for chickenpox or school holidays.
As for the personal benefits of being in gainful employment, Manhattan Mama says it well in the comment above...
It's never easy, but for some of us it's the only real option. The biggest thing, in my humble experience, is to have kindred spirits to share the road.

Mommygoth said...

I felt horrible guilt for going back to work when Miss K was only 2 1/2 months old. And sometimes I still do. But the fact that I work is and always has been a huge part of who I am, and I think my daughter will benefit from having a mother who hasn't been driven mad. Some women are really good at being home with their kids. I'm really good at it as long as I also have work, separate from that. And I find that the time I spend with my girl is much more intense, concentrated, and enjoyable because I know I have to make it count. Every minute she has me, she REALLY has me.

Yummy London Mummy said...

thanks for your comments, guys. Bec - what do you do? I'm assuming you're a media-chick but in what capacity? And I totally agree. It's all about who you work with, especially the ones who hopefully value the exceptional inter-personal skills we learn as mothers.
mommygoth - Totally. We can't all Mommy saints, and I think that she is a media creation anyway. Most of the full-time mothers I know are harrassed, bored and desperate for adult interaction. Don't feel guilty - one day you will be an inspiration for your daughter.

Suburban Turmoil said...

I work from home now and honestly, I can't imagine leaving my baby and going back to work in an office. The thought leaves me breathless. Add to that two older stepdaughters who need rides to every activity all afternoon long and it doesn't make sense for me even to consider a 9-5 job.

But honestly, I think it's different for every woman. I think that's what feminism really should be about- respecting a woman's choice, no matter whether she decides to stay home with her children or go back to work. I'm just glad you have a nanny who can give all of her focus to your kids.

And I often wonder if I wouldn't miss working more if I weren't able to still do at least some freelance from home.

I just know what's right for me.

Bec of the Ladies Lounge said...

Hi Yummy Mummy - the answer to your question is media/issues management for a relatively high profile government body. I deal with a lot of the political stuff, writing and media training/coaching plus being the main spokesperson for print and electronic media (other than our glroious leader). We can expect to be in national news about once a week and State and local news daily. There's a seasonal element that means I get more time with the kids in school holidays, which is great. The rest of the time (it's high season now) is pretty full on but a lot of the work is after hours anyway and radio producers are pretty tolerant about me briefing them while my kids are in the background!
I'm an adrenaline junkie and whenever I've tried to take lower profile roles I'm bored to tears and making mischief in no time.
How about you? Are you in a consultancy now?

Krisco said...

I used to be both a lawyer, and then worked in senior management in software development companies. I am not home full time with two little girls.

I personally love it but also find it really hard to be at home full time. I think if I could have a little bit of me back, it would be better. Like the ability to freelance or work part time or just do SOME something else would really help.

I admire those moms who can go back to work fairly easily; that would have been hard for me too. Likewise the moms who love it at home; I'm really not there either. Huh! No answers from here.

Kim said...

I freelanced for almost 7 years while the Odd Couple were young(er). I went back to a full time employer in November 2004 and could almost feel the oxygen flowing through my body once more - it was/is so utterly wonderful having that space to be the 'me' I see myself as, not the haggard banchee in tracksuit pants or the wife trying to avoid sex. It has made me such a better parent. Plus I think - in my case - it's important for my kids to see their mummy is defined by a range of things in her life. There's a whole issue of chronic depression for me as well, which is basically held at bay by a) financial stability (now if only wealth would flow from that point...) and b) being kept busy by a multitude of things - when its all in one area (whether that is work or home) I fast become chronically OC and well, that's just ugly for everyone.

That said, after the arrival of the New Recruit barely four weeks ago, and 14 weeks left of my maternity leave, the thought of going back to work and putting our newest family member into care is breaking my heart big time.