Up until having my first child, I’d found it pretty easy to climb the corporate ladder. I’d always thrived in a work environment. The rules were clear. You worked hard and perfected your craft and fairly soon, there was an opportunity to lead a team. And then a bigger team. And promotions just seemed to happen at the right time. There were lots of events and opportunities to build relationships with all the right people. What glass ceiling? I certainly wasn’t experiencing it.
My experience returning to work after my first child, though, was a little different. Lots of people I’d known before had left or changed roles. I no longer had the time to invest in critical working relationships like I had in the past because I was too busy sprinting out the door to make child care pick-up time, let alone going to after work drinks and events. It just wasn’t a priority and my kids needed me.
The idea of leading a team wasn’t as appealing to me anymore because I didn’t need the stress or after work hours it would entail. So my career felt quite different to how it had felt before and the goal posts had changed. Or I’d changed the goal posts?
So imagine how conflicted I felt when I was getting ready to return from maternity leave after having my second child and I was approached about two amazing job opportunities outside the company I was currently with. Prior to having kids, I would have jumped at the opportunity to take on either of these roles as they were quite senior and offered great benefits.
I was so torn.
This was the ultimate role I’d spent most of my career working towards. Yet with two very young children, I was worried that it would be at the expense of having any real time with my gorgeous kids and that it would most likely also throw our family life into total chaos.
After many agonising and soul-searching weeks, I pulled back and decided that the time wasn’t quite right for me. I’d made a conscious trade-off to still maintain my career with my current employer but not to the point where I was so stressed that I wouldn’t enjoy the time I spent with my kids.
It was a very personal decision to make but in my heart I knew it was the right one. There would be other opportunities that would come up later in my career if I wanted to take them. Well, that was what I hoped would happen anyway.
My experiences prompted me to reflect on my career and how it isn’t always linear. And I needed to be okay with that. Having a family with small children turns your life upside down and introduces so many more shades of grey than I ever could have imagined. What I now wanted from my career was very different to what I had wanted in the past. But I was actively choosing to prioritise what was right for me and my family at this point in time. It wasn’t to say that my career wouldn’t be a bigger focus in the future and that I wouldn’t seek out those more senior roles again one day.
Written by Kate Pollard, Co-founder of Circle In