I get asked to come and meet the COO, who informs me I don’t have a job to come back to….
It’s not you, it’s me.
Actually, maybe it’s both of us: I’ve changed, and you refuse to.
It started back in 2014. I’d had my first baby, but by the end of the 12 months I was so ready to come back to you. I wanted to come back to work, I was excited to use my brain to do the things I loved, and be challenged in a way that sitting on the floor of a church hall singing ‘the wheels on the bus’ didn’t.
I am damn good at my job and I naively thought there was a level of mutual respect between us. How very wrong I was!
While our CMO was out leading workshops and writing in the industry press about ‘juggling motherhood and making it work’, and how companies should be supporting parents, I was in a boardroom - after 5 months of 4 days/week - being told I had to come back full-time or be forced to resign.
It was a shit situation but, ironically, turned out to be one of the pivotal moments of my career, and for that I am truly thankful.
I was pregnant again, about 6-8 weeks, and felt trapped. Even if I could find another job before I started showing, it was totally unethical to not be transparent during the interview process.
And that was the moment it all changed. I realised I had nothing to lose, I had to stay where I was, so why not give it everything?
I said everything on my mind; I asked them why I was being penalised as a mother; I gave them solution after solution to find a flexible compromise; I asked them to review my salary and make me a package offer to stay, given the landscape of the company wasn’t appealing (we were losing clients like rats jumping a leaky ship)..!
And then we had a miscarriage.
So I left, finding a role much closer to home, with better clients and a better salary. It was full-time, but that didn’t matter, I was going to have to do that anyway!
And I left with a fire ignited, knowing I had fought a good fight, and feeling like nothing could stop me. I walked into that new office with my head held high and with no apologies for being a mother.
Fast forward a couple of years, and enter Agency Number 2: a massive agency, currently championing Social Good in its words and actions.
But back in 2017 it was in a period of change, and I suspect I was a line item on a spreadsheet that wasn’t carried over from one fiscal year to the next.
Five months before my maternity leave ended, I contacted HR to begin return-to-work discussions. 4 months, 3 months, 2 months and no real conversation, just the odd phone call with sporadic emails and no real questions answered…
2 weeks before I’m due back in the office, I get asked to come and meet the COO, who informs me I don’t have a job to come back to (hmm, illegal, much?).
I was gutted, so upset that the company I had given literal blood, sweat and tears to, flying around the world at 32 weeks pregnant, being on call for the first couple of months of my leave - had just clicked ‘command-shift-x’ and put the strikethrough function on our entire relationship.
But then - That Fire - stoked by my ever-supportive husband. And I got them to lay me off, pay me to go away. I didn’t give a shit about the principle, I was quite happy to take your money and use it as startup collateral for my own business.
And, 2 years later, that business is doing really well: I work around my children, now at school; I pick and choose my clients; I realised that I want more than just big, flashy campaigns, that values and ethics are important to me, and these sit at the heart of what I do now; and I know that every win, big or small, is my own doing, and I am really, really proud.
So it’s with bitter-sweetness that I really have to say thank you for that.
Thank you for letting the dinosaurs in your hierarchical structure try and pin me down to your outdated, inflexible model, without that I never would have found the strength to spread my own wings and fly, fly, fly.