Are you a mum with a professional career?
Are you juggling family life with your career? Or are you thinking about having children and wondering how it will impact on work? What you can and can’t do? How you will ever fit your children around your work and vice-versa?
I’d like to share with you my experience of being a mother of 2 small children and working as an equine vet.
When I became pregnant I was the first vet in our practice to get pregnant and so I had no guidance, no one else’s experience to go on and I found it hard to find anything about what it was going to be like, what I should be careful of, what I should consider when I went off and came back from maternity leave, how would I fit it all in.
So for that reason I’m happy to share my experiences with you. They are only what I have experienced, either personally or through friends in a similar situation, but if they help you then I’ll be pleased….
Returning to work after having children can be fulfilling and rewarding but it isn’t easy, resulting in the situation we often see of professions losing highly skilled females. The nature of their job, the expectation and flexibility (or lack of it) of bosses and the natural demand of children has led to many women choosing to leave work as it doesn’t work for them and their families.
So, to start with…
When is the best time to have a family?
I don’t have the answer but here are some of the things I think are important to consider.
Have you finished all your study? In other words, are you where you want to be in your career? Sure, there will always be other things to do but have you finished the internship, residency, certificate or diploma? Do you want to work abroad? Do you want to gain experience where you need to commit yourself 100%? What else do you need to do for yourself that will be all encompassing?
If you haven’t done what you want to do, do it now before you have your children!
I’m not saying put off having children, and there is no right or wrong time to have them, but what I’m saying is make sure you feel fulfilled in your career, that you have ticked the boxes that are important to you careerwise so far.
I’m not saying that you won’t ever achieve anything in your career again, but, in my experience, your perspective of what is important and also the time you have to do things is altered dramatically, things are harder than they were before (both logistically and mentally).
Change is certainly not a bad thing, but we must be in a position to accept and embrace that change. Friends who have taken longer to adjusting to motherhood have been those who weren’t quite mentally ready; they felt they weren’t settled enough or hadn’t achieved what they wanted to before starting a family.
From personal experience, I was very ready to start a family. I had worked in New Zealand doing a stud season and reached a position in my practice where I was respected and needed by my colleagues and clients, I had published a research paper and I felt ready. Looking back, I wish I had done my stud certificate because the reality now is that I will never have time to do the study that I need to. I have the knowledge and experience to warrant it, but won’t get the piece of paper! I have learnt to accept this fact but every now and again it grates on me, so my advice to you is make sure you have done all the ‘big‘ things first.
Make sure your relationship with your significant other is strong enough. Having a child puts a lot of strain on a relationship: the tiredness, the extra demands and responsibilities, the inability to do what you used to do.
I, and many friends, have found the thing that has worked for us is to have couple time together, whether that is a night or weekend away while the grandparents look after the child, do something you enjoy doing together, have a laugh, everything seems a lot better when you are having fun.
It’s important to remember why you were together in the first place and continue to have shared experiences and fun together.
The most important thing for me is having family support close by. We have both sets of parents living close by and having that support has been absolutely vital to us, in particular to me: a) to keep my sanity, and b) to know that someone is close by. I may not need to see them but the knowledge that I can see them within 10 minutes is great. Being at home can be very lonely and relentless, having someone you can pop in on without feeling a burden is vital.
In every part of our lives, and especially during times of change, I believe we should be asking ourselves:
- What is important to me in my life now and in the future?
- What steps can I take to ensure those important things are cared for?
If you would like to take control of your life and career, my online personal development programme MyLifeStrategy can help you to overcome the personal and professional challenges you face on a daily basis and learn practical skills and techniques to make a real difference to you and your life.
I’ve developed the Get Your Life Back and the Live Your Life by Design Rather Than Default modules to support you in achieving what’s important to you in your life, helping you can clarify what you want and showing you how to focus on the important things in life so you feel more in control and get what you need from the time that you have.