Speaking at the 2016 Office* Show, author and blogger Kirsty Smith spoke of the ups and downs of motherhood, flexible working and juggling children while working.
The seminar, entitled ‘It’s a mum’s life: Tongue in cheek guide to being a working parent’, looked at how to maintain confidence in your professional abilities when working post baby.
During the session, Smith spoke of the importance of flexible working and increasing its availability to women as well as introducing more job shares, part time roles and portfolio careers.
With regards to flexible working, she said, “It’s up to you to make that work – that’s the scary part. Flexible working is a nice idea, but you will find that it doesn’t exist in your company or you can’t find such a job.”
“It is up to us to start asking, and then ask again and again and keep going.”
Continuing she said, “We should be visible as parents in the workplace. There is the idea that we have to remain professional at work but you can still be professional and let people know that you are a parent.”
“I’m hoping that when my daughter grows up that these challenges won’t exist.”
Before starting her family Smith worked as a TV producer, creating programmes for the BBC, Channel 4 and Sky. She had also worked with well-known names such as Vic Reeves, Russell Brand and Derren Brown.
However, after becoming a mum she felt that she had lost some of her identity. She said, “Suddenly I was at home and I was a mum and I went to sign on at a new doctor’s surgery. The receptionist there asked me, ‘shall I put you down as a housewife or a mum?’ I thought, ‘what have I become defined as?’
“I needed to go back to work, I thought it was time for a change and now I have a portfolio career.”
She also spoke of the balance of a mother and a father’s role in raising a child. She said, “Having a baby affects women more than men and I was quite angry about that. I saw him carrying on with his life. It used to really wind me up, but then I cheered up a bit and realised it was a good thing.”
“I’ve seen people use that little time to do amazing things they wouldn’t have done without having a family.”
It was at this time that she decided to create a blog and now runs the successful, EehBahMum, taking a comedic look at being a mum. In 2013, she won the Indie Chicks Mommy Blogger of the Year award and was a finalist in both the 2014 MADS and the Blog North awards.
During her seminar, Smith also spoke of the struggles of being a mother but also wanting a career. She said, “Having a family and being a working mum has changed my life completely – and for the positive.”
“All the things you want to achieve in life don’t disappear when you become a mum – they just shift a little.”
“I thought for a long time that I could have a family and just a job but I lasted about a week before I realised I needed more than just a job – I needed a career.”
Smith took four years out from work and speaking of the leap back into it she suggested not being too hard on yourself, saying “everyone struggles with work; everyone has had that moment.”
“But you’ve had a career once and you can have one again.”
The seminar followed with a question and answer session from the audience. When asked how she mentally adjusted to leaving a glamourous lifestyle and becoming a full time mother, Smith replied, “A lot of Jaffa Cakes and crying!”
Continuing, she said, “I do miss work. I miss that part of me and I didn’t realise what work gave me. It gave me a purpose.”
“Being a mum is a massive gear change but you can still maintain that career part of you.”
After being asked about feeling guilty as a working mum, Smith said, “You are always questioning, have I done the right thing for my child? But you make that decision at the time and work with it.”
Offering some advice to the audience, Smith talked about the transferable skills that being a mother allows you to put on your CV. Problem solving, work ethic, negotiation skills, the ability to work under pressure, organisation and team work are all things you become an expert at as a mum which you can relate to the work place.
She also highlighted the need to ‘tap into’ the networks available to mothers, saying “you should all be building a network of friends who can support you in this.”
Finishing, Smith advised, “Be open to change and use parenthood to channel that. The future might not be what you expected.”