Having recently heard from a friend about her struggle to re-enter the workforce after raising her children, I started thinking about some of the managers I've had in the past and how they may have impacted my parenting and work choices.
When my children were very young, I had some shockers. One who told me to wean my six-month-old onto a bottle so I could travel interstate as I was not allowed to bring her along. One who said I would have to be on-site for an event at 4am despite the fact the same six-month-old was still exclusively breastfed.
I once tried to negotiate initially returning from maternity leave at four days instead of five, primarily because paying for five days of daycare for two children would cost more than I would earn working full-time. My boss would not budge. Apparently no one worked part-time in that particular office. Blanket rule; nothing personal.
A week out from starting maternity leave for my second baby, I had been so stressed at work getting everything ready for when I finished up, that one day in the office I started having contractions. I was only 36 weeks along so I went into hospital where I was monitored for signs of uterine rupture as my first baby had been born via a C-section.
I sometimes wonder what the point of it all was. Why did I torture myself racing to get to daycare on time to collect my toddler and baby, spend weeks stopping work halfway through the day to go home and breastfeed my baby, years of being close to tears in the office because I hadn't slept all night with a teething baby and had my crying toddler peeled off me by daycare staff, all for a take-home salary that would make most weep?
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Thankfully, many smart businesses are realising that offering flexible and family-friendly work hours is actually beneficial for everyone. Happy staff will perform better and I can tell you from experience that no one works harder than a parent who has school pick-up as a deadline.
I also have to accept the fact that for years I put my career on the backburner because I chose to be home with my children as much as possible. I have no regrets about this but it has meant rather than climbing the ladder and getting to a higher level, and therefore more money and responsibility, I have instead hopped from job to job seeking flexible hours. I did this intentionally and knew it would be how I raised my children. I do wonder now whether it was the right choice.
If I was to give my own daughters any advice, it would be to establish your career before you have children. Climb the ladder, move up the ranks, get several years of experience behind you so you have more opportunity to take time off for your children without it impacting your future career prospects.
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