I always scoffed at the old adage that women have to choose between a career and a family. I was born in the 70s, my mum was a feminist, and I was brought up to believe I could have anything I wanted: everything, for that matter! I had a good (state) education and throughout my school life never questioned the idea of going to University.
Yes, I choose a non-vocational subject (Philosophy) but eventually settled on a career in publishing. I landed a job in a small company after my MA, and within 15 years had worked my way up to middle management, managing about 25 people and responsible for a departmental budget of £800K for a successful fashion B2B website.
I was having it all. (Half) decent salary. Commute to London. Responsibility. This is the career.
Then came the birth of my first child, G. My boss was sympathetic to my need for flexible working but the commute and job and pregnancy then parenthood all took their toll. With the arrival of my second child, B, just a few months ago, it was clear that this work/life balance was going to have to be significantly readjusted.
The fact is that if a woman wants to succeed in her chosen career then she has to work full-time, probably work overtime, have her blackberry on 24/7 and answer emails at 11pm/6am, and frankly putting any focus on family priorities is deemed some kind of distraction from the business, and opportunities are quietly passed on to other people (while you are almost, but not quite, too busy/tired to notice what is going on). Even women in senior management positions who have families of their own, still seem to perpetuate the myth that women can have it all (but only by having a full-time nanny and being a parent only at the convenience of the office) but withhold real career progress from their employees who have more than a cursory nod towards their parental responsibilities.
I love my job, my teams and coaching them to do well. I also love my children and love spending time with them, nurturing them and watching them get to grips with the world. And it is very difficult juggling these two things. It runs you ragged and frankly something has got to be sacrificed.,
Suddenly, at 36, I am faced with accepting a concept that I believed my whole life to be an outdated cliché, to describe my life exactly. I am unable to get a part-time/flexible job in my local town, in my chosen field of expertise AND fully enjoy family life without paying someone to cook, clean and parent my children.
And do you know what? I am embracing the cliché and taking a big leap into the dark to set up something that means I CAN have it all. Will it work? Will it make me a living? Will it enable me to use my knowledge and skills to help other women? Well, I am about to find out.