Your ‘baby’ could be anything – a cafe, a book, a dairy-free yogurt

6 Nov

Image source:  ‘Freedom’ by Yatou

There’s been lots of chat and debate about what Stylist calls ‘power maternity leave’ this week.  According to Stylist, power maternity leave is a trend that sees women on maternity leave using this break from their careers to learn a language, take up a new hobby or even set up a business.  Of course, this has provoked real debate between those who think it’s inspiring and enterprising, and others who say it makes regular mothers feel inadequate and like they failed by not achieving such feats in their maternity leave (we all know how hard just getting through the day with a baby can be after all!)  Or worse, that these women have their priorities all wrong and should be using maternity leave to care for their babies.

I personally made a decision to use this time to reflect on my career, to see what things I gravitate towards and where else my interests might lie, now that my time and energy wouldn’t be completely dominated by work.  Of course, what happened is that my life instead was completely dominated by Nancy instead.  For the first 12 weeks at least. BUT I *did* come out the other side.  Things did get easier.  The big problems were replaced by little problems that I started to obsess about.  It’s easy to obsess about your baby when you’re a first time Mum.  And as soon as I realised that I was doing this too much I decided that I needed something else going on in my life.  Something that got me out and about more and provided a healthy balance between being a Mum and being me.  So I started to volunteer with the street market that I’d previously been helping out on.  We worked out a role sourcing and booking the entertainment and activities which was something that I could do when I had the time.  I also started a blog (this one) which was dedicated to staying curious as a Mum – exploring all that London has to offer, having wonderful experiences (with baby of course), basically getting the most out of life.  Which is what I’ve always loved to do and didn’t want to change in motherhood (the blog has changed slightly since!).


I don’t want to talk about this side of it.  Because this isn’t and shouldn’t be just about Mums.  I believe myself to be so lucky to have been able to take 11 months out from work.  To get away from the constant churn of work, late nights, stress.  To have time to do something else, to reflect, to consider what I really enjoy doing, feel passionate about and want to give my time to.  Because when you’re at work you simply can’t do this (not in my industry anyway).  Having this time and the experience of having a baby instantly put everything else into perspective.  I feel very blessed for that.  And I feel bad that other people don’t get to experience this.

Now I’m back at work things are less than ideal, but having created and given birth to a little life, I now respect life and appreciate it more than ever before.  My parents gave me this life.  It’s precious, it’s a miracle.  It’s mine.  And it’s not going to  last forever.  So while I enjoy my work and will give it my all (and actually I’m more focused than ever), I’m not going to spend my evenings tapping away in the office.  I’m not going to take on any more than a healthy amount of stress.  If I want to spend some of my spare time volunteering for a cause I feel is important, or trying out something I’ve always wondered if I’d be good at, then yes, I will do that.  It makes me happy, makes me feel alive, introduces me to interesting new people, gives me purpose.  I also feel that following your passions is a great example to set as a mother.

But my point is, everyone should be able to take a few months or a year to reflect and re-appraise things.  Anyone should be able to do a 4-day week to pursue other dreams.  Your ‘baby’ doesn’t have to be a baby.  Why not do a 4-day week to write that novel you’ve always meant to write?  Why not take a few months off to research and build a business plan for that cafe you’ve always wanted to open?  Lots of people have commented about how many people can’t afford to start a business.  But these days it doesn’t need to cost anything.  Fewer businesses need premises.  You can build an audience for nothing.  All you need is determination and time.  Hmm.  ‘But time is money’ – who can afford to go down to 4-days, to take a year out?  I’m going to come back to this another time because it is possible, I’m convinced of it.  I had no savings, loads of debt and huge outgoings when I fell pregnant.  My work didn’t give me enhanced maternity pay.  I had no idea how I would survive on the tiny £128 a week given to me by the government, but I did.  And I had loads of baby stuff to buy too.  But it just goes to show, it is possible with some saving, cutting back, switching mobile networks (£40 better off a month!) to fund some time off to explore other things.

Obviously the issue is that there aren’t loads of part time jobs.  Flexible working is only really given to Mums and even this doesn’t work as well as it should in many cases.  BUT WHY?  This HAS to change.  Surely.  It seems archaic that in this world where we’re so connected and flexible in every other sense, most jobs are so dominating and rigid.  Maybe we need to create that demand, I don’t know.  There is a big thing about portfolio careers right now which I think is interesting and will write more about.  It’s basically the idea that you can have a number of different roles for different reasons – one for money, another for love, time dedicated to learning, volunteering, whatever you’re interested in doing.  We’re all complex creatures after all – we have loads of skills, passions, talents.  Obviously it’s not for everyone, but I love it as an idea.  It feels much more civilised and really, really liberating.

And that will do for now.


4 Responses to “Your ‘baby’ could be anything – a cafe, a book, a dairy-free yogurt”

  1. butwhymummywhy November 9, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    This is such a fantastic post. I used my maternity leave to re-evaluate my career and my thoughts on stay at home motherhood as I knew that redundancy was awaiting me when my mat leave came to an end. I think like in most things you do what’s right for you and your family and not get caught up in comparing yourself to others. x

    • muthathunka November 11, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

      Definitely. It’s rarely a fair comparison anyway. I think it’s inspiring to see people taking control of their lives and being bold enough to make big changes – whether that’s setting up a business, dedicating all their time to their children or changing careers.

  2. Anna November 29, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    I really enjoyed this post. It’s good to hear other peoples experiences. The term ‘power maternity leave’ really pissed me off to be honest. I just didn’t like it. It’s one of those labels that I think have the potential to make some people feel like crap.

    This is a great site for flexible jobs:
    and so is this one specifically for mums:

    • muthathunka November 30, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

      Thanks for commenting Anna – I totally agree. Why does everything have to have a name anyway? ‘Mumpreneur’ is the absolute worst, eurrgh! Thanks for sharing these links – great to see that there are these kind of resources out there.

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