I was very excited to be asked to join Radio DJ Harriet Scott and Olympic Gold Medalist Anna Watkins on BBC London 96.4 to talk about going back to work after having a baby. In truth, I was slightly star struck to chat feeding, sleeping and shopping with an Olympian and her lovely baby William in the Green Room at Broadcasting House while a very obliging Ava slept in her buggy because I didn’t have any childcare.
You can Listen Again to the interview and here are a few of the highlights from what I had to say on my working life after having a baby.
“I’d changed as person during maternity leave…”
I was due to go back to work when my daughter was a year old. I did go back to work but I only stayed in my job in the Civil Service for six months because I definitely felt that I’d changed as person during maternity leave in what I wanted from work and what I wanted from family life. If anything I think I was a bit braver. I’ve always written but before I had a baby I needed the cushion of having that monthly paycheque.
“We didn’t get the book deal offer until three days after I handed in my notice.”
It was a real gamble leaving work. During my maternity leave I wrote a baby book with my mum [Sarah Beeson MBE], it’s a first year guide to a baby’s first year which will be published in 2015. We got an offer for the book from HarperCollins for that and two memoirs of my mum’s life [‘The New Arrival’ out on 27 March and ‘She’s Arrived!’ out later this year]. Which was amazing but, we didn’t get the book deal offer until three days after I handed in my notice. So, I’d definitely reached a point where I felt we had an amazing Nanny, she was doing an amazing job but I wanted to be the one painting with my child, I wanted to be the one taking her to the Science Museum. I didn’t want it to be somebody else.
And was very difficult. I worried about how we were going to pay the mortgage, even now it’s nail biting month after month but I feel more like myself when I am home with my daughter, writing which is a big part of who I am, rather than being away from seven in the morning until seven at night just to pay a Nanny and to pay the bills and keep my career going so we could have that comfort zone.
Being a good parent isn’t easy
I don’t think any decision you make as a good parent is easy. Parenting isn’t about quick easy decisions – it’s about doing what you think is right for your child, and your family and yourself within the parameters you have. Finance really impacts on that. I think people’s expectations impact as well. I had a daughter, I didn’t want to send her the message that women just give up work when they have children, but I think if women do want to be at home with their children they should be supported.
There’s not a one-size fits all solution to childcare
What’s really sad is when it’s divisive and it’s Working Mothers versus Stay at Home Mothers. Actually, they’re all just doing their damndest and what they really need, and what all parents need is more support – whether that’s Wrap-around care or maybe more women should be enabled to work part-time which means Wrap-around care isn’t the answer. There needs to be more flexibility in the provision, it’s not a one-size fits all solution.
With our Nanny, she was really lovely and I spent the last two weeks of my Maternity Leave working with her side by side so the transition would be easier for my child and easier for the nanny. And in some respects that was a sacrifice but I think it did make a big difference and we always treated our nanny Elizabeth as part of our family, and even now we don’t have her anymore because I can’t afford it and because it seems like a bit of luxury when I’m only working part-time, she still comes and sees Ava all the time.
And for us it was cheaper to have a nanny than it was to have a nursery. London Nurseries are off the scale in how expensive they are so I worked compressed hours to afford childcare. I used to get in at eight in the morning and work solidly until six at night, and I did feel pressure to show that I was working when I returned to work. You feel like you almost have to demonstrate that you can still do your job.
Mums are so organised they could run military operations
I’ve found since I’ve become a mother that I’m so organised, I could run military operations I’m so organised, to get here today even. If you look at most women and dads, they are balancing a lot. One of the reasons our life works is that my partner is incredibly supportive. Everyday there is a lot of variables, and all you can do as a parent is influence what’s happening – you give up control when you become a parent. You cannot control the outcome of every situation, you just hope it works out – my child is asleep right now, I’ve walked round London Zoo all day to make that happen.
“It’s very political having babies”
I felt when I went back to work it’s like everybody jabs your wound, asking you if you’re missing them. You just want to say, ‘Yes, I do. Can you just be quiet!’ And everybody constantly asking you if you are having another baby, implying that’ll you be off again on Maternity Leave soon – people used to say that to me as a joke and I used to not find it funny. It’s none of their business. It’s very political having babies, it’s almost like you become public property in the things people assume about you.
You can listen again to the interview on the BBC website. The New Arrival by Sarah [and Amy] Beeson is available for pre-order in paperback and Kindle. Amy Beeson works as a Freelance copywriter through her limited company Wordsby.