Working mum

Yes, you CAN do it all: making motherhood and a career work for you

Working mum I think the idea that women often have to choose between a career and being a good and present mother is definitely a myth.

There’s still an established perception that we’ve inherited from previous generations, a bias in fact, that being successful within your career will, and even sometimes should, be in direct conflict with motherhood. This is especially true within professions like management, and stems from the archaic belief that women shouldn’t pursue a career or work, as this will have a negative impact on their children or family.

There are strong social expectations and standards around ‘good mothering’, which we have built from an inherited story. Unfortunately, this story has still not been reconciled to reflect the lives of successful, working women who are mothers, too. I have heard startup investors boast about being “the one responsible for most divorces”, or claiming that you need to put everything at risk - including your family - to succeed. Although these are statements you will not hear every day, it shows that there is still a certain attitude or culture that exists that can be frightening to women who have or want families. I believe it has an adverse impact on women’s beliefs about whether or not they can have “both”. I also believe we need to put this culture to a stop, once and for all.

There’s no magic shoe that will fit all women in this situation, for a start. We need to acknowledge that every woman is different when it comes to her career needs and her family balance and that’s fine! What’s important is making sure that there’s no shame about motherhood or balancing it with a career. Personally, I am fortuitous enough to be married to a man who supports and encourages my career - it’s always good to have someone cheering you on! However, the key thing is about finding a balance that works for you personally and being clear and open about the boundaries you need to set in order to make sure that your role as a mother and your role as an employee are complementary to each other, rather than in conflict. Letting work govern and swamp your life is not the recipe for success!

Here are a few top tips to keep motherhood and work manageable:

  • Acquire the balance that works for you - Some women will want a focus on their career, whilst others will want to maintain a focus on family. Both of these are perfectly acceptable results, and it’s likely that women will swing between the two depending on their aims and family demands. Find a balance that works for you and don’t be scared to adjust it when your circumstances or desires change.
  • Educate yourself and others - Understand, retain and sometimes even re-educate your peers that this balance, including motherhood, is a central part of your success. That finding this balance you will thrive as a person, including in your career. Not everyone will have family demands or a knowledge of the toll they can take on you - make sure they are aware so that they can better understand and support your ways of working.
  • Recognise societal boundaries - Be aware that the story of motherhood is based on history and inherited perceptions, as well as an established bias - something we can refer to as the maternal wall. You need to recognise these boundaries, as they may be something you come up against in your career. Equally, remember that ‘motherhood’ is a story and that you are writing your own version of it - it is up to you how you live your role as a working parent, and no-one else.

About the author

Solfrid Sagstad, Executive Markets Manager at age-tech startup, Motitech (www.motitech.co.uk). Solfrid is also a mother to two children: Tobias, age nine and Lisa-Maria, age six. Before joining Motitech, Solfrid was working in research and education. She has a PhD in Biomedical research.


Juggling motherhood, twins and being a racing driver

Rebecca Jackson

As a new mum to four month old twins, you’d imagine Rebecca Jackson already has her plate pretty full.

But the TV presenter and racing driver somehow manages to hold up her career and be a hands on mum. We caught up with Rebecca to find out how she juggles motherhood with a busy career.

Rebecca is an advocate of the mantra ‘trust your instincts’ when it comes to her life as a mother and on-screen and on-track superstar. ‘When the twins were born I made sure I spent time getting to know them, I was extremely lucky that Royal Berkshire Hospital supported my decision to co-sleep for the first few nights in the hospital. I focussed all my strength into relying on and nurturing my motherly instinct so I could empower myself to be the best mummy possible to these awesome little people.

‘Being a mother is such a blessing and with twins that’s doubly true! I am also very blessed to have great support around me enabling me to focus my energies on the babies. Whilst I didn’t do any preparation classes or read any self-help parenting books before they arrived, I did make sure that I asked for advice and help from experts when I needed it - for me it’s all about balancing my instincts with help where I need it.’

For her, flexibility and balance are her lifelines, Rebecca now has a live-in nanny to help with twins during the day from Sunday evening to Friday evening, meaning she can fit in work alongside caring for the twins. ’We 100 per cent work as a team, when I have a meeting Jess and I will walk to the venue, introduce the babies and then Jess will walk with them whilst I discuss work. We arrange everything around breastfeeds and nap times so that I am as present as possible for both the children and my work commitments. I do all the overnight parenting so I’m really proud of how far the twins and I have come on our journey so far.’

But it’s not just at home where Rebecca is part of a great team, she is also lucky to have a fantastic support in her racing and on-screen endeavours. ‘I’ve been working with a host of sponsors for a number of years now. This is my second year working with Morris Lubricants who are such a great team and I’m very grateful to them and my other sponsor Motor Easy for their support with my racing career and as a new mum. I took the twins into meet Motor Easy the other day and it was so much fun! I’m really excited to get back in my car later this year and have plans for some Hot Laps in the autumn.

‘I’m also starting to do a little bit of filming and the babies have expressed milk whilst I’m on camera. Once they are a little bit older and are weaned I’ll be doing some more on-screen work which is something I really enjoy.’

Whilst Rebecca admits she is very lucky that her twins are easy babies, she has worked extremely hard to establish a feeding and nap routine as well as building exercise into her daily life. ‘I walk everywhere and try to involve the babies in all my activity.  I have a Bugaboo Donkey 2 pram and I can often be found doing fast cardio walks along the river or up a huge hill - if the babies are asleep I take full advantage and walk mega fast! When it comes to strength work I do squats whilst holding the babies making sure I always have a correct hold and that they are completely comfortable. In fact, I’m always moving with them, rocking, dancing, and jiggling away! Their weight is gaining daily too so it’s gradually becoming more of a workout!!’

Human support is one thing, but technology is a vital part of life for us all now, not least for a busy mum! ‘I’ve always made use of my phone and gadgets to manage my diary, keep in touch with friends and my fans via social media, but it wasn’t until I had the twins that I realised the amazing number of apps out there for new mums! I breastfed exclusively for the first three months, and I still do throughout the day, but now I also use the Elvie Breast Pump in the evenings whilst the babies are in bed to build up a freezer supply of milk for my upcoming filming work.  It works with an app which is great as it’s handsfree and means I can see how long I’ve been pumping for. I also make use of Wunderlist to keep on top of all the stuff the babies need - it’s a God send!’

When asked if she had any tips for mums trying to juggle work and family commitments Rebecca is pretty clear. ‘Nothing is more important to me than my children. I am extremely blessed to have such a network of support around me, but I know that if my life is in balance then I am fulfilled. I swear by mindfulness; you won’t be breastfeeding all night forever, never feel guilty about whether you work or don’t; get your hair done or don’t. Embrace everything, look forward to weaning and messy bath times - wear a swimming costume if that’s easier! - try and savour each chapter as much as you can. Don’t be afraid to cry in front of your children in tough times - it’s healthy for them to see you show emotion. Do what is right for you and what feels right for your children - you’re the expert in your own life. Just as in motor racing - your line is the best!’