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Coming back to work as a mum

By Claire Thorpe 15th December 2013

Two years ago I wasn’t even in a relationship, never mind thinking about becoming a mum.  As a director of SimpleClick, my focus was on work – the company was really growing, expanding the team and taking on lots of new clients.  

I would sit at home in the evenings and check emails on my phone, getting back to customers and doing any bits of work that I needed to so that I could start the next day without too much of a backlog.

I had no real commitments, so getting into the office early to crack on with a piece of work in peace and quiet, or staying there till late just wasn’t a problem.  Things were nice and flexible.

To cut a long story short, I met the love of my life, got married and had a baby all within the space of 15 months, finding myself on maternity leave in March 2013.  I left work (and a huge handover document) three weeks before my baby was due. 

Wow, maternity leave – what a shock.  Having worked in one form or another since getting a part time job at the age of 16, I was suddenly free to watch daytime TV, catch up on box sets, go shopping and spend an absurd amount of time doing my nails.  I did this for all of 5 days before extreme boredom and impatience set in.

Then one day over due date, our little bundle Freddie arrived.  Early days are EASY!  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  They sleep pretty much all day and night for about 2 weeks.  Then it gets hard.  As they get to 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, you start to realise that this is actually the hardest job you have ever done.  All that commuting into London you did for so long seems easy-peasy.  Staying up all night to get a website launched?  Nothing compared to this.

I took 9 months off to be with Freddie.  As a director, I realised this was a long time to spend away and felt extremely lucky that Richard (MD at SimpleClick) was so understanding.  After my son was about 2 months old, I started to pop into the office every couple of weeks to catch up with the team.  I still wasn’t really missing work at this stage, I was so absorbed in motherhood, and to be honest couldn’t ever imagine there being space for anything else.

After about 6 months, Freddie was having more definite naps, he was onto solids and things were just that bit easier.  I started to take on some smaller projects.  My mother in law offered to look after Freddie for a day a week, freeing me up to work.  And I loved it!

Colleagues with children always joked about ‘coming into work for a rest’, and I always used to think they must be joking.  I now know that they were being deadly serious.  Coming into the office gives me a chance to think about something other than crawling, babbling, peppa pig, weaning, making bottles, washing clothes, and whether the contents of that nappy look like they’re supposed to.  My back gets a rest from constantly bouncing an 18lb child up and down.  I absolutely love being a mum, but there is no getting away from the fact that if you’ve been a bit of a ‘career woman’ previously, it is the biggest shock of your life.

I remember going to a Suffolk Business Women talk by Minnie Moll, Marketing Director at Notcutts, when I was about 7 months pregnant.  She has twins, so the audience were really interested in how being a mum affected her working life.  She was quite adamant in her view that being a mum improved her performance at work.  I remember her saying how it gave her a new perspective on life, and what she might previously have seen as a big issue, now seemed small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

While I’m still just in the early days of coming back to work (I’m hoping to be back 3 days a week by the time my son is one), I can definitely see exactly what she means.  However I’ve also noticed something else.  I think I’ve always been known for being pretty efficient at work.  Well, being a mother has driven this through the roof.

When I’m at work, for the limited time that I can be, I have to get everything done.  No more staying late just because I want to spend another hour getting those charts in that report to all line up perfectly, or getting in early just to get some testing done before the office gets noisy.  Or taking a nice long leisurely lunch.  I have a to-do list, and I know I have to focus completely to make sure it’s all crossed through by the time I need to go to pick Freddie up from childcare. 

As a result I now work at what feels like a million miles an hour (knowing it all still has just be just right), and can multitask like never before.  For me, this is how being a mum has improved my performance at work.

Priorities change, freedom disappears, and everything has to run to a schedule.  But life as a working mum is fantastic, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.