Some of you may have seen my post a few weeks ago where I talked about making big life decisions. My big life decision recently was to leave my job as a Business Director at a London media agency to work on Surrey Mama and to have more time with my girls.
It was a very difficult and one of the most scary decisions I have ever had to make – wave bye bye to a full time salary anyone?! BUT so far I am happy with my decision and I think it was the right one for me.
When I wrote about my decision to leave my job on Instagram I was overwhelmed by the comments I received, both of well wishes but also from Mama’s in a similar situation; some about to leave jobs and some who had taken the plunge and decided to make a change for them and their families.
I was really inspired by some of the stories and in my current situation wanted to hear more so I have decided to start a weekly series on my blog called ‘Mama you can’ so I can share these stories with you all.
This series will share stories from Mama’s who have been in a similar situation to me – after little ones came along realised that their jobs just weren’t going to work with their new circumstances, so they either re-trained, started a business or went freelance.
Now, I am not saying that everyone should quit their jobs, that might get me into trouble! However I want to show that there isn’t only one route in life once you have children and most importantly it’s about having the confidence to make a change, the confidence in yourself to believe that you can do something else / ask for flexible hours / run a business from home.
My biggest challenge throughout life has been confidence and it’s something I continually have to work on, so reading these stories has given me a little boost and I hope that this series is inspiring to others as well.
Mama You Can with Kelly Pike
First up in the series is Kelly Pike aka @bristol_mama. Here is her story.
Hi, my name is Kelly and I’m addicted to the media. It’s practically the fifth member of our family. And whilst my husband is a bit put out by it, it’s a good thing I am because for the last 14 years I’ve been an arts an culture publicist and it’s an industry where knowing your Stella from your Style is pretty important. The media needs to be in your bones.
Before I had children I specialised in book publicity and worked for some of the most respected publishers in the land. I started work at the tail end of the glory days of publishing. 11am champagne launch parties galore and long, long boozy lunches. It was 2004 and operating the fax machine was still an important part of my office skill set. After trawling London in the standard fashion of the recently graduated, I ended up at HarperCollins, unpaid at first but eventually working my way up. I got to work with some brilliant household names: Phillippa Gregory, Tony Parsons, Cecelia Ahern. I’d be driven around the country buying Whisky for George RR Martin or shopping in Harrod’s with the crime writer Alex Barlay. It was great fun; an office based version of university. Maybe someone will write a book about it one day…
In 2007 I followed my then boyfriend to Hong Kong and spent the best part of a year working in comms for a Hong Kong based NGO but by the start of the recession in 2008 I was back in publishing again. The landscape was different – followers, bloggers; Twitter, Facebook. But the books were the same. Grittier, straightened times. I ended up at a brilliant indie publisher called Granta. It felt like home, I had my own office and I loved it there, which made it all the harder when I rather preemptively became pregnant with Number One Child. I said the same things I imagine most expectant first time mums say; ‘ I’ll be back in 6 months’, ‘motherhood won’t change me’, ‘we’ll still go to festivals/all the parties/see our friends’. *Delete as appropriate…
And actually, for the first few months, I still believed that. But it quickly became clear that renting + creative job + childcare + London = financially unworkable. I couldn’t afford to go back to the job I loved. It barely covered the childcare and rent was unaffordable on one income.
It was a wrench but when we made the decision, it happened incredibly quickly. My husband was from Bristol. It had an independent arts and culture scene and, crucially, he could get a job there nearly as well paid as London. Oh. And we could buy a house. Perfect, right? We made the decision to leave when my son was 2 months old. 3 months later and 4 days after Christmas, we were in our new house in Bristol. Shivering from the damp and hearing things go bump in the night.
It turns out, moving cities with a tiny baby is hard. Way harder than I thought. And the first few months were very, very lonely.
After my maternity pay ended I only had one option. Freelance. But it was terrifying. I was used to being part of a team, bouncing ideas around. The buck ultimately stopping with someone else. Going back after maternity leave to any job is hard. Things have moved on a bit in your absence and your life is unrecognisable. Your confidence is altered and going back freelance is harder still because you need to go out guns blazing but it’s difficult when you only have 6 hours childcare and have to breastfeed during Skypes to keep them quiet.
I was terrified no one would hire me, but I was really surprised that finding work and people to pay me was actually quite easy. Getting the work done was the hard part. In the 3 years I’ve been freelancing I’ve barely had time to catch my breath. There was a short 4 month hiatus when I had Child Number Two but now she’s older I’m finding my schedule is increasingly full. And with more stimulating projects. I’m also, finally, able to contribute meaningfully to the household. After three years of doubting myself, my confidence is creeping back. I’ll always wish I had a team to sound against but freelance parent forums and some other freelancers in my industry are gradually filling in that gap.
To start with I thought I’d just do it to keep my skill set ticking over. But actually the flexibility working in this way is worth the extra stress and juggling. I get to see quite a bit of my children. I can be there for important things. I am my own boss and really I can’t see how I would exist now if I had a traditionally salaried job working for someone else, having to be at my desk for 9. I read people like @motherpukka’s blog campaigning for #flexappeal and realise I have it already. In abundance. Don’t get me wrong freelancing is hard – I never know quite how much money I’m going to make, childcare is a constant juggle and somehow you are always available but the rewards of my children and no commute will always make it worth while.
So, should you leave your job too? Yes! Yes you should. Because it’s trite but you really do only get these years once. If you are in anyway thinking about setting off to do your own thing, it’s the right decision. Don’t fret about finding work. You already have all the skills you need. And as a publicist I can tell you that if there is one thing social media has done its make putting yourself out there easier and less intimidating than ever. Prepare for more juggling and a different kind of stress but also for more cuddles and bedtime stories. Because it’s right there for the taking.
For more from Kelly see:
I’ll be back next week with the second Mama in the series, look out for it.