#MoreThanAMutha is all about celebrating the things that women are, as well as being amazing mothers. In a world where many women feel like they lose their identity when they become a mum, it is important to celebrate and shout that we might be mums, but we are not only that and we are still a force to be reckoned with.
What makes you more than a mother?
Before the kids came along we both worked in successful roles, Holly in Sales & Marketing and Hayley in HR. Our careers were important to us and we’d both studied and worked hard to get to where we were. Returning after maternity was eye opening. Flexible working requests were granted, hours (and salaries) changed and we both found ourselves on a treadmill of trying to keep up at work and keep up at home. The “flexibility” we had been offered didn’t really cut it and so we both chose to leave and go freelance and ultimately set up Change the Chat Ltd.
For us, work is important, it’s part of our identities as much as being a mum is. We’re also wives, sisters, friends, aunties – we don’t want to be defined by our role as pro-creators. Being a mum is amazing, it’s also really challenging and sometimes suffocating. Work is a real passion for both of us and that doesn’t have to come to an end just because you have children. Just look at all the successful dads that sit on boards!
Are people surprised when they realise you are more than a mum? Does that bother you?
When you’re a mum you spend a lot of time within that bubble of ‘motherhood’ a lot of the time you are wearing your ‘mum’ hat so I think people pigeon hole you into that role and don’t necessarily consider that you might be someone else outside of that role. Society on the whole still has a very biased opinion of familial roles which compounds the belief that you’re “just a mum”.
People are not necessarily surprised to find out that we work, however they’re sometimes surprised to find out we have set up a business. We both feel so passionately that every mum that wants to, should be able to go back into the workplace in the same capacity/role as she left prior to having children. There is such a lack of flexibility at a more senior level but it doesn’t need to be that way.
What challenges do you face when you’re juggling motherhood and being more than a mum?
It’s pretty safe to assume that all families/women struggle with childcare. Our childcare in the UK is so prohibitively expensive it is often the main barrier to women not returning to the workplace after maternity. Poorly children always throw a spanner in the works too! I’ve (Holly) had numerous weeks with one of the kids not being able to go to nursery and as frustrating and stressful as it was at first I’ve learnt to just give in to it and be there and be their mum. That’s the beauty of flexible working, you just learn to pinch time from here and there to get the work done. We often work early mornings, evenings, weekends – you have to accept that flexibility means that you’re often at work when others are not!
How long did it take you to remember you were more than a mother after you had your child(ren)?
We’re both quite strong willed and independent so I think that was in us both from the beginning. We found out recently that we both really love the newborn stage and the ethereal haze you get from overwhelming love and sleep deprivation! We both always knew we wanted to go back to work and continue our career story. You have to consciously remember to think about yourself as a person, even if you don’t do anything about it. Just remembering that you’re still in there, holding on to your beliefs and values and taking the time to adjust to your new life.
Who, or what, helps you to make time for yourself? What do you do to escape the stresses of motherhood?
Our business! We met on Instagram in a business capacity and yes we talk about our kids (obviously!!) but the main focus of our conversations is always the business and our goals which is so refreshing, because friends and family are, of course, always interested in the kids – and so its nice to put ourselves and our ambitions first.
What advice would you offer a mum who might not be feeling like they are more than someones mum right now?
Being a mum is awesome, but it can also be all consuming, exhausting, emotional. Setting yourself goals is always a great way to focus and assess. A good exercise is to write who you are, what you do and what your life looks like but write it as if today is 5 years in the future. Even if you are not doing anything about that now you know its in there.
Any advice for someone who is going through the same things as you are right now in their quest to be #MoreThanAMutha?
Setting up your own business is really scary, the ups and downs are worse than the Oblivion at Alton Towers but just do it, you won’t regret trying but you will regret never trying. Don’t be afraid to ask for something that you want. If you want to work flexibly ask your employer. You are entitled to ask once a year and they have to review every request on a case by case basis. Give yourself a break, you can’t be a hero every day (except in the eyes of your kids).
Joeli Brearley of Pregnant Then Screwed
Are you #MoreThanAMutha? Get in touch to share your story.