Have you heard of the maintenance phase? We hadn’t either, but sitting down with Lauren opened our eyes to a different perspective on returning to work. Lauren knows where she is at and what she wants and, in fact, set up her role for success long before she was pregnant. Lauren opened up about her journey and her conscious decision to park her career ambitions, for the moment anyway.
Tell us about your career journey.
I have always been in finance but five years ago, I joined a digital IT company as a finance manager. I guess I played a long game and structured my role to suit my needs for returning to work. I knew I wanted to have a baby so I designed a role and decided to pitch it to my boss. I was essentially setting the role up so that on my return, I could take on half of it part time, with the other half going to other team members.
Has your career changed after becoming a mother?
Yes. I have always been ambitious, but what surprised me after having a baby was the realisation of how amazing being a mother is. I can’t be ambitious right now, as I have prioritised my family and I am okay with that. I have made that choice, but it does make it hard being back and knowing things have changed.
Tell us about your recent return to work.
I returned three months ago and I’m like, ‘Really, is this it?’ You realise that you have fundamentally changed, but even after 12 months your organisation is still exactly the same. If my boss left tomorrow, I know I could take on his role but the reality is that I wouldn’t go for it. That’s because I am prioritising my family and I don’t want to commit to the extra hours. I’m happy right now leaving at 4PM and have no guilt. The reality is that I know one of my peers would get the job and it would piss me off, but that’s my choice and I need to be okay with that. I have realised that for now, I need to park my ambition.
Tell us about your support during your leave.
My organisation has a great keeping-in-touch program. We have a maternity coaching program, where you are assigned a coach external to the company. My first meeting was about me, motherhood and the transition. It raised things I hadn’t thought of. Then we had a meeting with my boss about setting expectations of the role I wanted to return to. Since returning I have been able to access the support I needed which has made a huge difference.
Is there anything you could change about how you managed your leave?
I played a long game and pre-empted my return but I stalled myself too early. In hindsight, you are pregnant for a long time and falling pregnant shouldn’t stop your career decisions. Having a family stopped my progression. I now say to friends, “Don’t park yourself now, as you are pregnant for a long time.”
Is motherhood better or worse than you thought it would be?
So much better. Intellectually you know you will love your child and motherhood will be life-changing, but I wasn’t prepared for how much you can seriously love your child and how it changes your life.
Do you and your partner still have fun?
Yes, but our definition of what we get out and do has changed. It used to be pubs and drinking, and now its farmers’ markets and coffee.
How do you deal with mama guilt?
I don’t entertain it. Full stop.
What are your tips for managing your career through parental leave?
Keep in touch and speak up and ask. Be firm with what you want and remember that no-one can read your mind.
What do you love about being a working mama?
I like being able to go to work and be a smart person. I love using my brain and not having to share my lunch and coffee with a child.
What’s the biggest issue facing working mothers?
Childcare and the ‘mum train’. The perception that you’re a mum and don’t care. There are so many women who are still ambitious and I feel that everyone gets tarred with the same brush. Just because I have had a child, doesn’t mean I don’t want to be doing interesting things. Don’t just shove me on crappy projects!
What do you still dream of doing?
Having a career in the future. I have spent 15 years building my career and as much as kids are only small for a short time, I don’t want to become irrelevant. My field changes all the time and I can’t afford to take five years out and expect to come back at the level I am at now. My career is about maintenance right now and I am okay with that. When my son gets older, my career will be ready to take off and I’ll be ready to start running towards the fire again.
- Favourite time of the day … when I leave work at 4PM.
- Instagram sites that inspire you … I am not much of an Instagram girl.
- I’m happiest when … I’m home, my boy is asleep and I’m having a cup of tea.
- I’m addicted to … coffee.
- Favourite wardrobe staple for work … jeans. We are a jeans company!
- Favourite wardrobe staple for weekend … jeans. I love them.
- My role model is … my mum
- Heels or flats? … definitely flats. I stopped wearing heels five years ago
Lauren is a finance manager at a large digital company. She is a mother to James (14 months old)