Work life balance – does it exist?
Starting out as a legal secretary in Hobart, Tasmania 20 years’ ago I used to think the part-time mum legal secretaries I worked with had it made - oh how nice it must be to spend a few days at home playing with your children/watching movies/shopping. 20 years later, with several legal secretarial roles, two positions as a recruitment consultant, 3 state moves within Australia and one re-location to London in 2004 later and I find myself experiencing life as a working mummy for myself.
Is it a constant juggling exercise? Yes. Is it rewarding? Yes, but often I find myself feeling that I am doing both jobs in a constant frazzled state of adrenal failure and not really doing either of those jobs particularly well. My daughter Sophie came along in 2012, and after a 10 month maternity leave from my busy Legal Recruitment Consultant position I went back to work on Monday, Tuesday and Friday and I do feel I have the best of both worlds. Effectively I have two weekends. My daughter is the love of my life, she is a joy but she is also very spirited and very busy. She plays by herself well and bless her the dog picks up a lot of the slack up on those days I have bits of work to do but since she started playgroup 4 half day sessions a week, she has become more into activities and role-play that involve mummy being a pilot on a flight to Australia complete with my co-pilot Ozzie (the long suffering dog) and ten teddies sat alongside me on our economy flight sized sofa. Put your phone down mummy, you are not looking at me mummy, stop working mummy. Oops Sorry Soph.
On my days off I find myself working in between swimming and varying kiddy classes (yes I am that parent who is sometimes on her phone mid class – judge away). I am a bit of a control freak but I also want to make money and do my best for my clients and candidates and offer a consistent service. Fortunately with my trusty iphone I can make placements from my garden in summer – that’s the good bit. What about dealing with the bad stuff, sick temps, fall outs, clients asking questions and calling you (often unaware you are in the middle of child playgroup drop off/pick up) and feeling totally paranoid your colleagues think you are slack? Maybe I am my own worst enemy, but that’s how you can feel some days. Yesterday I found myself walking the dog with two children in my charge in the middle of a forest talking to a candidate about a potential offer– I feel lucky I can do that but am I missing those little things with my daughter – “mummy come into this tree there is a fairy in here”, “come into the oger pit with me” – hmmm mummy is on the phone again…. Cue Ozzie to distract… thanks Oz boz. I constantly have that nagging feeling, she is growing up too fast. She won’t need me forever.
By the time Thursday evening comes around I am ready to get back to work on Friday morning – have some adult conversation, grab a piping hot London coffee, enjoy working from my computer and normal office phone but the minute I leave her on a Monday morning after a fun family weekend to – “please don’t go mummy cries” every now and then I am sitting on the train to London Bridge staring at photos and videos of her on my phone like some kind of stalker mummy. Don’t get me started on the constant sickness bugs, Southern train delays, unreliable taxis (I need to catch a £4 taxi to and from the station at 7am as my local station in my “extremely commutable town of Reigate”) has cancelled their trains and I need to go to Redhill where they are more reliable. My mummy working friends mostly all feel the same but then some of my stay at home mum’s friends (who I greatly admire) are also thinking maybe I should do something of my own, earn some money and start or return to a career in preparation for the time when the children don’t need them any more – sob L. There seems to be a common theme – we need to find the balance.
I am one of the lucky ones, I could be working 5 days, two jobs or worse have no job at all. I also have an understanding company and boss who is one of three directors and amazing colleagues I actually enjoy seeing on a day to day basis. What about those mummy’s that don’t even like their jobs?? What about the single mums and dads? I am lucky to have a supportive husband and lovely, reliable child minder and in-laws who can help with drop offs and pick-ups. My mum was a working mum of two and to this day I have been in awe of her strong work ethic and hope I have picked up a little of it myself. When I asked her how she managed she said “we just didn’t do so much stuff as you girls do today”. We lived a simpler life. Maybe she is onto something.
I love my job as a recruitment consultant, I think I am good at it. I used to be one of the company’s top billers, but lately I feel like a failure after a couple of fall outs. Why as mothers do we put so much pressure on ourselves? Next week I will be on top of the moon when a few placements I have been working hard on fall into place and I get some positive feedback from candidates. I love my candidates most of the time, at the moment I am working with several lovely legal secretaries who happen to be from Australia and I thoroughly enjoy assisting them on their London journey. I see a bit of me in them young, a bit scared but excited about the future and all London has to offer. However last week I was working with a paralegal who I placed in her dream in-house role and feels it is ok to come in late and chuck regular sickies – oh yeah and swears in front of Partners! Nooooooo. The roller coaster ride of recruitment hey?
So this is my life, I feel lucky beyond belief. I am grateful but I think I need to realise work life balance doesn’t exist and just continue the juggle…. I might invest in a clown suit. They seem to be popular at the moment…..
Senior Recruitment Consultant