A mother's return to PR and lobbying

Flexible working, paternity leave and work-life balance are familiar terms to us now but didn't exist fifteen years ago.

Work live balance (Picture Credit: Thinkstock)
Work live balance (Picture Credit: Thinkstock)

I was shocked watching an interview with the former managing director of Birmingham City Football Club Karren Brady who described the pressure she felt returning to the Club after having children.

Karren made the decision to take just three days off after her daughter was born because she thought her work was so important and that her career would suffer, or that she might even lose her job.

I was fortunate enough to take twelve months maternity leave to raise my daughter Grace.

I was there to see her sit for the first time, to speak her first word, I stayed with her for three days in hospital when she was poorly and at no time did I feel guilty about work colleagues as I was still on maternity leave.

How differently I would have felt if I had colleagues and clients relying on me throughout that time. My husband Ian works full time. The reality now is vastly different.

I am back, and again thrown right into the heart of the agency.

When I started back at PLMR three weeks ago I felt ready to become a career woman again, I needed a challenge and I wanted to be more than ‘just’ a mum.  It was still hard leaving Grace but because she is a little person and not a new born baby, but I am confident she will benefit from spending time apart from me.

My own experiences prompted me to think more widely.

The UK, in common with most of Europe, has excellent maternity rights. I was stunned when on holiday in Los Angeles earlier this year and an expectant mother told me of her plan to return to work only a fortnight after giving birth, as US citizens are entitled to just twelve weeks unpaid maternity leave.

Compare this to the 39 weeks paid maternity leave offered by the UK and it makes you feel very lucky to be British – proud even!

I’m beginning to recognise that life as a working parent is a continuous juggling act of quite extreme proportions actually – your free time is no longer your own and you grapple with guilt over just about everything.

The 24/7 news agenda that dominates our life as PR and lobbying professionals requires me as a working mother to use all available technology.  My clients don’t stop calling at 5.30.

The first editions still come out at 10 PM when I am shattered and crises kick off when I am trying to get out the door without Grace’s breakfast being spilt all over my work clothes.

These days I have a much deeper respect for other parents, something that didn’t exist in me before as I realise the responsibility having children bestows on you and when you mix that with working, it’s no mean feat.

Luckily we have the rest of our working lives to perfect it.

Lisa Bailey is account director at PLMR and previously worked at Conservative HQ advising current Home Secretary Theresa May and MPs Nick Herbert and Greg Clark. She has just returned to work after the birth of her first child Grace.

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