10 years ago, I had just returned to work after my first maternity leave. If I could hop in the Tardis, this is what I’d tell myself.
1. In 10 years’ time there will still be mums, just like you, expressing breast milk in the loo at work. Except in 2019, there are 3.1m #breastfeeding Instagram posts to peruse and you can always listen to [Canadian comedian] Katherine Ryan. And maybe, just maybe, there might be an office expressing room.
2. Don’t feel that your newly-won flexible working arrangement ties you to your job. You might not feel too confident right now, but trust me, companies will give flexible working arrangements to people they really want. Yes, appreciate the company that gives you a flexible working arrangement, but don’t feel tied down forever.
3. Flexible works both ways. Be willing to say yes to occasional days with clients when you’re supposed to be at home...make friends with the mums who don’t have post 3pm jobs and be willing to help with things that they value (like help with social media on their small business) in return for favours. Reciprocity rules.
4. You will most probably do the amount of work that a full-time person does, but you’ll be amazed at how quickly you do it. There will be a fair few working till 1am shifts after the kids are in bed, but you are now adept at coping with less sleep, and before long you will be able to tap away on the laptop with First Dates on in the background (note: This is a fabulous programme that you have to look forward to, and you must watch the Bros documentary before anyone else in 2019).
5. Be willing to do the trips away, embrace travel. There’s nothing quite like not being woken up by your children the next morning. And they are very easy to please with work trip gifts even if bought from the airport. What’s not to love about 4,000 M&Ms, there’s probably even a vitamin or three in those peanuts?
6. You’ll be amazed at how the world is embracing diversity and inclusion in all kinds of ways, and that you’ll be loving working with people who are totally unlike you. You’ll be fascinated by neuro-diversity and how vital it is to combine creativity and science in our worlds.
7. After a year of wearing elasticated-waist Isabella Oliver maternity clobber in sensible colours, it’s time to embrace your work wardrobe – dresses, colour, pattern, clashes, lipstick. Go for it – it feels good.
8. Grasp every training and networking opportunity that comes along. When you do ‘part time’ hours your diary quickly fills up with meetings in your office time. It’s all too easy to prioritise internal meetings over development opportunities, try wherever possible not to. Keep learning.
9. Remember that you’ve managed to keep a baby alive for nearly a whole year. As someone who can’t even keep a plant or a goldfish alive, this is major achievement of organisation and imagination. Your mama skills will come into their own in the office too. Creativity and multi-tasking (like that time you made a hands-free breast-pumping bra). Social skills - being confident enough to join different kinds of mummy gangs and being open minded to different opinions. New found social media skills. Embrace them!
10. Say “no” more. Feel guilty less. Laugh more. Cry less. Drink gin and slimline; not red wine. Put on that red lippy and own it. You’ve got a fabulous nine years ahead, Caro, jump in!
Caroline Parkes is head of strategic consulting of Rapp UK