The third and final of our equality “Day in the life of..”, this time from a young PCS activist who is also a mother.
Its 10:35am as I attempt to sneak in to the office without being seen. I fail abysmally as my manager catches my eye when I walk through the door.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I returned to work from Maternity Leave and I am still struggling with the early morning starts. Rising early is a breeze as I have a baby alarm clock to solve that problem; however it’s the washing/dressing/feeding of a miniature person as well as myself which seems to make time disappear. Fortunately as my department has a flexible working hours policy it means I can have late starts but I do feel like I am becoming the weakest link among my team of managers because I’m trying to juggle a full-time job with being a mother.
It has been a very steep learning curve and a bit chaotic at times, trying to dig out my work badge from my bag and inadvertently throwing baby spoons and nappies everywhere. When my “Au Pair” (partner’s mum!) tells me that every time the phone rings the baby shouts ‘mama mama’, it breaks my heart but I try to think of the bigger picture. I am working a full-time job to help support my family and I believe that if I can be successful in my career it means my daughter will be able to go on the future school trips, have piano lessons, days out etc.
A lack of punctuality and tiredness are relatively minor issues that I deal with, however what is becoming more apparent are the greater challenges that women in my situation face.
The Guardian recently reported that in 2005 the Equal Opportunities Commission estimated that 30000 women are forced out of their jobs because of pregnancy discrimination. Their latest analysis indicates that the figure may now be as high as 50000. Labour’s shadow minister for women and equalities, Gloria De Piero also wrote the number of women who believe they experience “soft discrimination” – feeling sidelined and like their career has stalled because of having a baby, is much higher.
I faced challenges surrounding my terms of employment due to being on Maternity Leave which thankfully have now been resolved, however, the way in which I was treated left me feeling let down and despondent. Before I went on Maternity Leave I was passionate about my job and wanted to progress. Following the issues with my employer that occurred during my Maternity Leave coupled with suffering from postnatal depression, I lost all my drive and ambition. The job became just something to earn money to pay the bills. I stopped applying for promotion opportunities and I simply was not interested in anything relating to work. All my energy went in to being a good mum and housewife. This satisfied me for a while and I have total admiration for women who are full-time mums as it is so tough but I have always wanted to have a career.
Slowly my attitude has changed and I can see that I can overcome the everyday problems, like baby food on my work clothes and the growing untidiness in the cupboard under the stairs. I have also overcome crises which seem insurmountable – being demoted. I would urge women who find themselves in the latter sort of scenario to seek advice from groups such as ACAS, Maternity Action and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. Those groups provided me with invaluable support when I felt there was no hope.
Currently I am concentrating on getting my career back on track, I am becoming more involved in work and applying for different positions. The dilemma I face now is that my life lessons over the past year have mainly derived from episodes of Peppa Pig and Rastamouse; how do I adapt those in to competency based job applications?