Podcast Episode 4: What’s Best for Baby and Your Career?

Michelle:             So today, we’re looking at working Mums, and the decisions that have to be taken when you have a baby.

We make an assumption that the best thing for baby is to stay at home as long as possible, and we make an assumption that the best thing for our career is to get back to work as soon as possible, and therefore it’s always going to be a balancing act between these  two competing demands.

Sometimes, circumstances make that choice for us. In Guernsey, we’ve only recently got maternity legislation in place giving the right to six months’ maternity leave, but there is no right to payment for that period. So if you don’t have an employer that is offering best practice based on a UK model, you often have to get back to work as soon as possible just to pay the bills.

Michelle:             Back in the day, when I had my daughter, I went back to work full time at ten weeks – there was no option. We needed to do that. But I do wonder now, having become a coach and knowing what I know now about psychological development,

what impact that had on my daughter, with me leaving her at such an early age?

Michelle:             So we’ve got two interviews in today’s podcast.

Our first interview is with Nadine, who is in recruitment and is a new mother herself, and our second interview is actually with my daughter, Fav, who is all grown up now.

Fav works as an Assistant Social Worker, in particular working with small children and their development. So it will be interesting to hear her take on what happened when I went back to work so early.

Michelle:             But more about that later, because Nadine has arrived. Hello Nadine, lovely to have you here, and we have a visitor as well, we have Sienna.

Nadine:                Yes, who might make a bit of noise!

Michelle:             Yes, a slight unexpected turn here! You haven’t got any child care today?

Nadine:                No, no. Childminder on holiday and people having operations, and Mum out the island, so yes. That’s one of those things.

Michelle:             That’s one of those things. So if we hear little person noises in the background, we’re going to be very sympathetic about that today.

Nadine:                Thank you.

Michelle:             Okay, Nadine, so what’s your maternity story?

Nadine:                Well, I’ll start with Sienna being an unexpected surprise. Newly married, and our plans were to see a bit more of the world, do some more traveling, both very career driven. James has his own business, which is still quite new, and I was wanting to progress my career still. I’d been working in HR, converted to recruitment, so that was still quite new, and I was looking to make some steps upward still.

Nadine:                I had to have the difficult conversation with my directors, and say, “Look, I am pregnant. Bit of a shock,” and I didn’t know what that outcome would then be, but I have two fantastic directors. I’m very lucky. So I looked to take off six months. Half paid and then half unpaid. So again, that is more than I know a lot of people get in terms of leave and payment. So I was lucky. Sienna came late. That ate into the time I had expected to have off with her.

Michelle:             Oh, so same as me?

Nadine:                Yes.

Nadine:                So I returned when she was only five months old. So I did feel at that time, “Oh, she’s still a baby, baby.” The time was coming closer for me to return to work, I knew I wanted to, but could I do that straight off? And I felt I couldn’t. So I had the conversation to go back part time, mornings. So I did nine till two. So she was with the childminder or my mum, and that’s the way, yeah, we juggled it. And I was still breastfeeding, so I was having to express while I was at work.

Michelle:             So what was expressing at work like? I mean, back in my day, going back to work was the end of breastfeeding, really. It seems a lot more acceptable now to do the expressing thing, at work.

Nadine:                Yes, I think some people are supported in a flexible, understanding environment, whereas others I have heard have had to go into the filing cabinet and do it on lunches.

Michelle:             So Nadine, I noticed your job title is Associate Director, and I was wondering, did you have that role before you got pregnant?

Nadine:                No, I didn’t. I left my place of work on a Recruitment Manager title, so it was when I came back a few months ago, must have been, at least eight months where I was then given the title Associate Director.

Michelle:             Right, lovely, so you bucked the trend then, in terms of getting a promotion, effectively, whilst working reduced hours? Because that’s one of the thing that I really wanted to ask from your world of being in recruitment. Do you notice that people, once they’ve moved on to reduced hours, suffer from not getting as many in the way of promotions?

Nadine:                Yes, I think in organizations there is an expectation, and there’s always that conversation internally for, “Oh, well, they’re recently married, they’re going to start a family, should we be giving that extra responsibility and title at this point in time?” Which is hard, because more often than not, these people being considered have got to where they’ve got to, have got the potential to be at that level, so it is a shame that they are not being given the opportunity because they’ve been a mother.

Michelle:             So discrimination is still out there, alive in the workplace?

Nadine:                In Guernsey, I would say, yes, we are quite antiquated and we haven’t come up to the way of other places in the world.

Michelle:             I used to be a director in the finance industry, years ago, and we employed a lot of women back then.  Probably starting at 7.00 am going on until 3.00 pm. So they were doing full time hours, but they were doing them on a flexi basis, but it was very hard for me to make a case for any of them to go up to supervisor or manager. What’s the experience now? Do we still have a large proportion of our women working flexi time and part time hours?

Nadine:                Yes, I do believe that we do, and that is supported, and a lot of employers say, “Yes, ok, we want you to be able to do the school run,” so they do the drop offs and get there after nine and leave by half past two to go and pick the children up again. So that is definitely happening. I think it is harder entering the workplace, rather than when you’re being in there, you can negotiate things. You’re a known entity, you’re proven, they know you’ll work hard during those hours and get the job done. So yes, a bit harder to try to get into the workplace on those terms.

Michelle:             So if you’re already working and you’re a known quantity, then you’re likely to get that flexibility, if you want it?

Nadine:                Yes.

Michelle:             But if you’re out of work at this point and want a part time job, how hard is that?

Nadine:                I would say hard.

Michelle:             Right.

Nadine:                Yes, I would say, you’d be waiting for a while to find the right thing, right hours that suit you.

Michelle:             Yes, but there’s a lot of jobs out there?

Nadine:                Yes.

Michelle:             So aren’t employers being flexible?

Nadine:                I would say not. I would go back to my view of Guernsey being quite antiquated and not creative in its thinking when looking at recruitment.

Michelle:             So is part of the issue that we’ve got here is that flexible working is seen as female friendly, rather than family friend? I.e. it’s women that do it, rather than all genders doing it?

Nadine:                Yes. I would say men probably are, in today’s society, still seen as the breadwinners, and the ones that do the nine to five jobs and get the promotions from it.

Michelle:             But back when I was running the Women’s Development Forum, we did ask, on one occasion, for all the women in the room, who were the main breadwinners in their households to stand up, and it was more than 50% that stood up at that point.

Nadine:                Wow!

Michelle:             And that might have just been the audience we were attracting, but there’s a lot of women out there who are the main breadwinners. But in terms of your job in recruitment, and women re-entering the workforce, I was reading online, actually, this morning, about a UK government initiative where they’re looking at putting £1.5 million in finding the “lost women”, that is the women who have been out of the workforce and are trying to get back after one, two, three years of taking time out to have children. What’s it like for people over here if they’ve been out for a while to get back in? Can they get back in at the previous level?

Nadine:                It would be very hard. They’d have to prove, I suppose, that they have done their personal development during that time, and maybe done some volunteering that supported the skills, and those extra things to be able to get back in at that level. So you know, I’ve got someone on my books at the moment who was at manager level, and now looking for administration part time, because they know that a manager needs to be with their team full time and that they have been out of the game, so their knowledge wouldn’t be up to scratch in the role, because of the advancement in all sorts of systems and laws and regulations since the time she’s been off.

Michelle:             But isn’t this an incredible waste of talent?

Nadine:                Oh, yes. But at the same time, she knows, and I know, that if she got the break she needs at the moment, once the children had grown up more, she could commit more hours and then get … You know, she’d work her way back up. But you know, eventually.

Michelle:             It does seem really that we haven’t moved on very far in the 30 years since I was a new mother.

It doesn’t feel like Guernsey’s moved on that far. She’s nodding. Doesn’t come over on the podcast very well. How many stay at home dads do you come across? And I’m wondering, if you’ve got a stay at home dad who wants to re-join the workforce, do they have the same problems?

Nadine:                So I have come across them, and I can think of one gentleman in particular, who couldn’t have been more appreciative when I finally got him the role. Well, I said I got it for him, but no, he was the one who did all the work to get it. So yes, they are definitely out there, but you could see he was more assertive and a bit more confident, but I’d still say, you know, he still took that view as in what we were just discussing that, “Ok, I have been out of the game for a while. I need to go back in and start again and work my way up.” So yes, that view was still there, but yes, the confidence and the assertiveness.

Michelle:             Yes, that’s really what I’m thinking, is that do men suffer from the same drop in confidence that most women do if they’re out of the workplace for a while? An interesting story, I met somebody in Jersey quite recently who had taken a couple of years out. Not to have children, but to do an art degree, in her early forties, and then went back into the workplace after having done this art degree, with no apparent loss of her confidence. In fact, it was the opposite. It was, “Oh, I did something for me that I’d always wanted to do, and now I’m back ready to work again,” but somehow, having children, then we lose our confidence. Any thoughts on that one?

Nadine:                It’s a juggle, isn’t it? Doing something for yourself grows you. Motherhood, you’re doing something for someone else all the time, which brings immense joy, at times frustration, but yes, you can’t see how you’ve grown during that time. I think you become quite focused on the person that you’re trying to develop, which isn’t yourself, which is someone else, and yes, because of that focus, you can’t see your own strengths and abilities. “I’m just a mum.”

Michelle:             Yes.

Nadine:                “I’m just a housewife.” No, you’re not. I would say to those people that think that, you are juggling. You’re concentrating. You do not want your child to have an accident while they’re on your time, as well as filling the dishwasher, making sure they’ve had a good, wholesome, nutritious meal, making sure that they’ve got stimulation during the day, and that you’ve had maybe one hot cup of tea and been able to go to the toilet, all in that time!

Michelle:             Yes, this is a subject that’s really dear to my heart, in that I have, over the years as a coach, coached a number of people who are going back after maternity leave, and I spend time with them, working on what they have learnt over the period they’ve been out of the workplace, because I think somehow there is this view that in society you’re just a mum, and it’s dead time, and the fact that you can’t remember your passwords is a crime. You know, but we’ve learnt so much. We’ve learnt about the value of human life. We’ve learn to focus on somebody else, other than ourselves.

We’ve learnt so many really fabulous transferable skills, but somehow it doesn’t feel like the workplace values that, or that we as women value that in ourselves.

Nadine:                Yes, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. Chicken and egg. Is it that women need to acknowledge and kind of pioneer and feel better for what they’ve actually achieved?

Michelle:             Yes.

Nadine:                Yes, I think that’s half of the battle, definitely. And then it’s everyone else acknowledging it too.

Michelle:             And we need to start a revolution or an ellevolution or whatever we want to call it in terms of, if we as women start looking at this differently, then the people around us will start looking at it differently, and we need to value what we’re doing, because if you bring it down to the bottom line, we’re bringing in life, into the world, and what more precious thing can there be, than bringing in new life? But I still think that, you know, the whole of society is built around, and I’m as guilty as anybody, I earned a good salary from being in the finance industry, for moving pieces of paper with lots of noughts on it, whereas those people over at the hospital or driving ambulances or doing social work, they’re paid much less in our society, and somehow we are not valuing them as equal to people who can count numbers?

Nadine:                Yes. Or a footballer.

Michelle:             Well, yes.

Nadine:                To be even more controversial.

Michelle:             I don’t know that we pay Guernsey FC people very highly. I don’t think they’re paid at all, but I know, I totally get it, that why are some things in life valued much higher than others?

Nadine:                Yes. And actually, you know, bringing in life, but you’re also growing their talent and potential, hoping that they reach their potential. So it is a huge responsibility.

Michelle:             Yes, it’s a huge responsibility, and when we go onto the second part of this interview, with my daughter, when we’re going to look at how the brain actually develops in the first year of life, and this is something that will be with us for all of life, you know, the responsibility of how we bring our children up is huge, when you look at it from a psychological perspective.

Nadine:                And I think, just to add in, I thought about the world, and their maternity rights, and if you look at Eastern European or even Canada, they have much longer periods of maternity leave from the workplace. Canada has a year, Eastern European places have I think two years or more, and before having a child, I always thought, “Why?” I thought I could do it probably in three months. I now fully understand why.

Nadine:                You know, there are so many key milestones, what you’ve just said. If you’re breastfeeding, you know, weaning them from milk and just that brain development, they’re going through sleep regressions, they’re learning all the time, they’re learning their first words. Sienna now at two is coming on leaps and bounds, knows numbers and ABC, and she’s not even two yet, so it’s amazing, and they just develop so quickly that, yes, they need their parents during that, you know?

Nadine:                She still needs me, if she’s fallen or having a regression, then it’s normally mummy and mummy’s cuddles that are what helps her through that. So yes, I now fully understand why that length of time is there. It’s not just because they’re being flexible, they actually understand and have looked into, the reasons for the length of time off and that is because of the child.

Michelle:             Yes, and what is best for baby isn’t necessarily, as we’ve been saying, best for your career. So it’s this kind of compromise, this balancing act that we have to do, as to how many of the milestones are we there for, and how can we keep our careers going at the same time? So the Guernsey statutory leave is now 26 weeks. Would you say six months is about the right time, having gone back at five, or would you put it later?

Nadine:                In an ideal world, and this is purely an individual view, I think six months to a year, would be realistic for myself.

Michelle:             Yes. Ok. There isn’t ever going to be a right answer on this, because as you’re saying, this is what you would say on the basis of having had this one, particular, wonderful new human life, and it might be completely different for another one. So this question that we’re asking, what’s best for baby and what’s best for a career, does seem to be partly down to an individual choice.

Nadine:                Yes, and I think, you know, some people can be career driven and, “No, no, no, this is what I’m going to do,” but when the child comes along, some people go, “Oh, actually, no, I don’t want that anymore,” and that’s fair enough. However, some of us do want both, and yes, that’s fine too, but yes, it’s down to each individual, as you say.

Michelle:             Ok. Well, thank you ever so much for coming in, and we thank Sienna for being here, and I’m sure you’ll have been hearing the breathing going on, but this is what podcasting and this is what real life is all about. Thanks ever so much, Nadine and Sienna.

Nadine:                My pleasure.

Michelle:             So in the second part of this episode, we will speak to Fav and find out the child development side of what’s best for baby and your career.

Michelle:             So, welcome Fav!

Fav:                        Hi!

Michelle:             So as you can hear, it’s taken a little bit of persuasion to get my daughter to come along and do this podcast. So the first part of this interview was recorded a few weeks ago, and Fav said she wasn’t going to agree to this until she’d heard the first three efforts. So what did you think of my first three podcasts then, Fav?

Fav:                        They’re a lot better than I thought they were going to be.

Michelle:             Oh, right, this is going to go well, isn’t it? Well, I’m really grateful, and we’ll just see where this goes, because you know, we’re looking at a topic, which is what’s best for baby and best for the career, but you know, you and I have got history here.

Fav:                        Yes.

Michelle:             And yes, so what do you … I mean, things have changed so much. Well, you’re 29 now, so in the 29 years since you were born. You know, honest to goodness, I knew so little then about psychological development and the like, and it wasn’t until really a few years ago when I read the book “Why Love Matters” that I learned about attachment theory, and I’m not sure that just ordinary, everyday people like me, if I wasn’t doing this job of work, as a coach, would people get to know? I mean, you’re now working with young people. Well, young people having babies. Are you teaching them about attachment theory?

Fav:                        Not per se. I think I learned all about attachment theory and development and all of that kind of stuff through work. I’m not sure where the everyday mum and dad find out this information. There’s a new post-natal group called Great Expectations that we run now, that’s based at Bright Beginnings, and is part of the 1001 Critical Days Initiative. That goes more into attachment and bonding and looking at baby’s cues and all of that kind of stuff in the first session. You’ve then got two weeks with midwives that talk to you about actual birth and kind of after birth, and then the health visitors go into a lot of detail about their role, because they’re going to be with you up until your kid’s four.

Fav:                        And so I think you get a lot of information via your everyday services that talk to you about it, but I wouldn’t say that there’s anything being specifically taught about attachment theory, no.

Michelle:             Right, ok. So what I kind of learnt, and I didn’t know at the time, was about how that first …

Michelle:               Is it six months in particular – that’s really critical?

Fav:                        No, it’s literally 1001 days. So it’s from conception to the age of two.

Michelle:             Right.

Fav:                        That’s the age where kids are having their biggest brain development that’s going to happen in their entire lives.

I think one study said that it’s actually a million per second kind of brain developments that are going on, so you can kind of imagine, baby’s brain is just firing off on all cylinders. They have big spikes at about three to four months, and then again at about eight to nine months. Kids do have, obviously, a lot of brain development throughout their entire lives. You get it again when they’re teenagers, but those first two years are absolutely crucial to paving the way for a kid’s entire life, and even then, into adulthood.

Michelle:             So what effect do you think it had that I went back to work at ten weeks, full time?

Fav:                       A big one!

Yes, I think I learned a lot about myself, having learned about all of this stuff, and I could then reflect on why I was the way I was as a child, why I was the way I was as a teenager, why I’m kind of predisposed to be a certain way, I guess. I think it had a huge impact. I’m not saying that it’s a negative impact, but I definitely think when mums decide to go back to work, or when they’re forced to go back to work, it is going to have a knock on effect, whatever that effect might be.

Michelle:             So do you think that you had what is called a secure attachment?

Fav:                       I think I had lots of mini secure attachments. This is going to sound mean. I don’t think I had a secure attachment to you, necessarily, at first, but I do think I was fairly securely attached to various people. I think because I had quite a stable routine of being with Jill, my childminder, from when you first went back to work, all the way through till I was ten, you know, she played quite a vital role in having that routine, and having that constant, and then obviously split between you, Dad and Gran, I had a fairly good package.

Michelle:             Yes. A reasonable package, but not an ideal package.

Fav:                      Yes.

Michelle:             Yes, and you say it’s from conception, so there was a lot going on for me from the point of conception. You weren’t exactly planned. Very wanted, very wanted.

Fav:                      Why, thank you.

Michelle:             But I was working full time then, as well.

Fav:                      Yes, and in quite a high pressure job as well, so that’s going to have an impact.

Michelle:             Yes, on cortisol levels, I should think?

Fav:                        Yes, so essentially, any stress that mum feels, baby feels, and so the more stressed a mum is, the cortisol levels are spiked in babies while they’re in utero. It then predisposes them to be hypervigilant, and they have a natural resting cortisol level that’s much higher than the average, and so obviously when they’re born, they are hypervigilant babies. They are fussy babies, they are harder to be soothed, they are constantly at that heightened level, and it was through doing some therapy work a few years ago that I realized I have been on high alert my entire life and didn’t even realize I was. Yes, I’ve kind of been a very hypervigilant person without having any consciousness of it until recently.

Michelle:             Yes, and when I read, I know I lent you Why Love Matters, and I understand you’ve got to chapter three.

Fav:                      Yes.

Michelle:             That’s okay, that’s okay, you know? But it’s a good book to read, but it’s got quite a lot of home truths in, and the big section, I don’t know if you got to the section about forceps births?

Fav:                      No, but you’ve told me about them.

Michelle:             Yes. So, for our listeners, basically what they were saying was that a baby that has a forceps birth basically comes out with PTSD, and therefore requires much more in the way of soothing and holding, because they are more likely to have the raised cortisol and the hypervigilance, and that happened to you, and at the same time, I lost a couple of pints of blood, which they decided I should make back myself. So I was severely anaemic after the birth, and I think that impacted the bonding process anyway, because I was feeling so sick after.

Fav:                       Yes, of course.

Michelle:             But it’s that kind of yes, you were a very fussy baby, and I thought all babies were like that. You were either eating, sleeping or crying. There just wasn’t anything else.

Fav:                       It’s fairly similar now.

Michelle:             But you know, I really struggled. I really, really struggled. First baby, not a lot of help from anybody.

Fav:                      Yes, and it’s quite a traumatic event for you as well. So obviously I’ve had the trauma of being a forceps baby, but you’ve had the trauma of having a traumatic birth.

Michelle:             Yes.

Fav:                      And then obviously that impacts the both of us.

Michelle:             Yes. So it wasn’t actually till you were around 20 when I met that craniosacral therapist, and she basically said, I think she gave you a session, didn’t she?

Fav:                       Yes, she did. It was fantastic.

Michelle:             Right, and she basically explained about how if you’d had a craniosacral session straight after the birth, it would have righted the little bones in your head and solved a lot of the problems.

Fav:                      Yes. I mean, I’ve still got my forceps indentation.

Michelle:             You have.

Michelle:             Yes, they told me it would go away after a week, and …

Fav:                      At 29, it’s still there.

Michelle:             Yes, it’s still there. So going back to the attachment things, creating a secure attachment is very, very important for babies. So is that possible, if a child – you went to a childminder, so you had a very constant childminder – but what happens if a kid goes into nursery at say three months?

Fav:                       I think nurseries are an awful lot better than they were, in the past. I mean, this is all my opinion, but I think the nursery experiences that I have had through work, every nursery has key workers, or rather, most nurseries will have key workers, and so there will be children that have an identified person within that nursery, a caregiver, within their group and their room, that they can kind of rely upon. They’re the ones that meet them at the door, they’re the ones that hang them back over to parents, they’re the ones that respond to them throughout the day. They’re kind of the parent, essentially. And so I think a lot of ideas around nurseries in the past have been you dump your kids in and then they’re there in a big room full of people, and are they getting the attention? I think the ratios are a lot better, or they’re quite good, and there are key people looking after your children. So it’s much more reassuring for parents.

Fav:                       Again, it’s all personal opinion whether you think nurseries or childminders are better, whether you think au pairs are better, whether you think staying at home is better. But I think as long as a child has somebody to securely attach to, to teach them social skills, and to let them know that the world’s not a dangerous place and they don’t have to be hypervigilant, they don’t have to be on high alert all the time.

Michelle:             So that’s probably changed a lot with this knowledge that’s out there now. So nurseries and workers know all about attachment theory and are organizing things around that?

Fav:                       Yes exactly. I mean, I think the 1001 Critical Days Initiative is being really pushed in Guernsey, which I think is great. We now have our first children’s centre on the island, Bright Beginnings, which are all about the 1001 Critical Days. They’ve got a nursery within that, and so all of the girls there are trained and they know what they’re doing and Great Expectations is based there, parent programmes are based there, they run various groups. We talk about it a lot in our line of work, and I think that things are being pushed out there more and more so in now and the upcoming months, and you know, it’s really getting there.

Michelle:             Cool. That sounds quite reassuring, really.

Fav:                      Yes. I think so.

Michelle:             Yes. So I know at the previous group that I used to run, the Women’s Development Forum, I used to stand at the front of the room, saying, “Well, six months seemed to be a good compromise, in terms of having …” Which is what the actual maternity law is, over here. So you can get the six months off, now, by law, even though it’s not paid, and that actually you’ve done most of the breastfeeding by then. You might have done, but you’ve done a reasonable amount of breastfeeding, and so you can go back to work. And my argument was that it was before separation anxiety kicked in, and also it wasn’t so long out of the workplace for the mother, that you hadn’t kind of really lost your game.

Michelle:             We had a fairly heated conversation about this in the past. Would you like to repeat some of the reasons why you don’t think six months is a good idea?

Fav:                      Yes. It’s not that I don’t think six months is a good idea. Well, like I said to you in the past, I don’t think any time is going to be the right time or the perfect time. I think it all depends on mum, it all depends on baby, it all depends on life up until you go back to work. If you’ve had a very traumatic birth and bonding hasn’t happened and things are still turbulent and in motion and kids aren’t securely attached yet and there’s still a bit of work to be done, then three months and six months and nine months, it’s not ever going to be enough.

Fav:                       My personal wish is for whenever I have kids would be to go back after a year. I think that’s not probably going to happen, unfortunately, because of society and not having that as a normal maternity leave and pay and all that kind of stuff, but the reason I think a year is kind of my personal ideal is because then they’ve had their two main big brain development spurts, you’ve gone through the separation anxiety side of it. They are, you know, majority weaned off of breast milk naturally, that way, rather than you having to stop because of you going back to work. You’ve gone through the separation of they’re not in your room anymore, they’re in their own bedroom. Hopefully you would have a secure attachment with them, by that point, of a year, and for me, I don’t think a year out of the workplace is too long, but I understand that a lot of businesses do think it is. I don’t reckon I’d be any more off my game as such after a year, especially because I work with kids and then I’d be having a kid.

Fav:                      So you know, I kind of have that argument. Yes.

Michelle:             I mean, I think, yes, you’re right, in your line of work, you would be practicing.

Michelle:             But you know, I’ve coached people over the years, going back into work, and especially if there’s been a break in employment and you’re not going back to the same employer and you’re having to go and start again with a new employer, a year can be a very long time.

Fav:                       Yes.

Michelle:             And you know, trying to work with people to help them understand and really value all the skills they’ve learned whilst they’ve been off.

Fav:                       Mm-hmm (affirmative), oh, yeah, I imagine it’s really, really daunting for people to think, “I’ve just been talking to a baby for a year, now I’ve got to go back into adult world, corporate environment world,” and I think my personal issues with it is that I don’t think mums are supported enough to get back into work to fit around working and being a parent, and I don’t think they’re really given a choice. You know, maternity leave is set at what it is, whether it’s paid or whether it’s not. I think, I mean, I might be completely wrong in this, but my experience of working environments is that there’s limited options to go back part time. There’s limited options to take two afternoons a week off to go and pick up your kids once they start school. You’re very much working around the company rather than working with the company to get the best of both.

Michelle:             Yes, I mean, I can’t speak from personal experience, because I’ve been out of the corporate world now for quite a long time. We did do our best to help women to do that.

Fav:                      And I’m sure there are companies out there that do.

Michelle:             Yes.

Fav:                      But I can only speak from mums that I’ve spoken to that haven’t felt as supported, as I believe they should have been.

Michelle:             And I think it’s still cultural, isn’t it, in society, that for people to see it as kind of dead time.

Fav:                      Yes. It’s one of the most amazing things you can do!

Michelle:             It is the most amazing thing. You know, bringing life into the world is the most amazing thing that any human being can do, yet it’s kind of still seen as, “Oh, right, oh, my goodness, they’re going off to have a baby,” and as if the person is not going to learn anything during that time, when actually you learn the value of human life, you learn what really matters. You learn how important caring is, and nurturing is, and how precious and fragile life is. And those are the things that you simply can’t really be taught, beforehand. Well, personally. I mean, the fact that you work with kids all the time, you’ve probably learned that.

Fav:                        Yes, well, to some extent, but I don’t have kids, so it’s a very different situation, where, no, I completely agree, I think the lessons that you learn as a parent are completely invaluable, and you are literally raising a human being. You are creating the next generation and a new life, and I can’t think of anything more amazing for parents to be able to experience, and it really does kind of sadden me when you think that they’re almost being forced to choose between being a parent or being high up in their career, because there’s not much wiggle room for both. Or even if there is wiggle room, and they just don’t understand or think that there is.

Michelle:             Yes. Excuse me. One of the things that didn’t come out when I was doing the interview earlier with Nadine is that my personal opinion is that if you already are fairly senior when you have the baby, then employers are much more likely to work around you, give you the part time hours.

Fav:                       Yes, because you’re seen as valuable.

Michelle:             Because you’re already seen as value. You’ve already proved your worth. It’s much more difficult if you have the baby, do part time hours, to them get the promotions to get into the system that way. But then it’s a risk, you know? You need to get the promotions in early to benefit from that. And we still seem to have a very lopsided society, that it all comes down back onto the mums.

Fav:                        Yes, I completely agree. I think we kind of live in a day and age where women have to work to earn money to bring to the household because of house prices and cost of living and all of that kind of stuff, but then women are also expected to be a full time parent, and the thing that does bother me kind of on the flip side is that men aren’t given the opportunity either. They’re only given two weeks paternity leave. Why can’t they have longer? You know,

bonding with dad is just as important as bonding with mum.

Maybe they don’t have the boobs to do the breastfeeding side of it, but actually, I don’t understand why they’re not given the same opportunities that women are, in terms of maternity, paternity leave. Or then why they’re not seen as just as accountable for parenting.

Michelle:             Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think it’s a big cultural difference between us and say the Nordic countries, which have the split, shared parental leave. Yes, so our nephew Jorgen took the first two years off, actually.

Fav:                      Which is just the dream, isn’t it?

Michelle:             Yes, so Mariette could go back to work, because she was the major breadwinner, and that’s just seen as so normal over there. But sadly, even though in the UK, the legislation is allowing fathers to take much more parental leave, it’s not being used, because it’s still seen as not very manly. So I think it’s a cultural shift, it’s a cultural change that we’ll need to see before that happens.

Fav:                       Yes, definitely. I do very much pin it on society, rather than on the parents.

Michelle:             So I need to ask you the question, and you’ve kind of answered it already, but what do you think is the ideal best for baby, best for your career, point to go back to work?

Fav:                       I think I can answer that for my personal self, but I can’t answer that for other people.

I think it’s going to vary, very much, on who you are, on your career, on your baby, on what’s best for you individually. You know, every parent and every child is different.

Everyone says a baby doesn’t come with a manual, well, parenting doesn’t really come with a manual. You know, we’ve got a few courses and books, but it’s all very different. And so I think, you know, you can say for attachment reasons it would be great to take off X amount of months and spend time with baby and have the bonding, but if you’re a really career driven women and sitting at home is driving you nuts and you don’t feel like, you know, you’ve had the bond and now it’s starting to be a little bit like, “I just need to go back to work,” staying at home with baby isn’t going to be the best option for you.

Fav:                        Likewise, if you don’t want to go back to work, because you feel like there’s more to gain and more bonding to do and more parenting one to one that you want to achieve, going back at three months is going to be horrendous. So I don’t think there is an answer. I think I have my opinion about my wishes, which have obviously all stemmed from my past, and us, and our story, but I don’t think there is a one fit answer for everyone.

Michelle:             So am I forgiven then?

Fav:                      You’re forgiven, yes.

Michelle:             And I just wish that I’d had someone like you back then to teach me what was needed. Yes, I’m not sure that it would have been that different, because we had to pay the mortgage…

Fav:                       Well, exactly, and I think that’s …

Michelle:             But at least I would have understood the importance of …

Fav:                      Giving me a head massage.

Michelle:             Head massages, definitely. Craniosacral would have been on the cards. Okay, well, although I had to bride you with a large glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Fav:                      Yes, best coping strategy ever.

Michelle:             I just wanted to say thanks ever so much, Fav, for allowing your mother to interview you.

Fav:                       That’s okay!

Michelle:             So thank you and until next time. Bye bye.

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