3 women who reinvented their careers since motherhood
Nikki Walsh talks to three inspirational women who changed their careers after passions shifted and lifestyles changed after having children.
Aine, 31, Wexford
My daughter was ten-months-old when I returned to live in Ireland following two years of living and working in Beijing, China. Unlike most mothers who have had a baby, I didn’t have a job to return to. I had also relocated outside of Dublin, as I wanted to be close to family and for my daughter to grow up in the countryside like I did. I needed to return to work, but I also wanted to be with my daughter as much as possible. Every parent’s conundrum really! I looked at all the options including accepting Finance Manager positions in Dublin (at least two hours commuting every day), part-time jobs in my local town and the option of opening my own business. It was a difficult decision not to take up an accountancy position, after all my hard work over the years. My job had always been my identity. I enjoyed the challenges and recognition my career brought with it and the good salary, but I wasn’t very passionate about the work. I knew the commute would make me tired and cranky when I was at home, that my daughter would get sick and that my husband who works abroad a lot would not be able to help with pick ups and drop offs and that I would miss her like mad too. I wanted to be flexible to be there when she was sick, and I also wanted to do something I really enjoyed if I was going to spend time away from her.
When I was in China, I took up Chinese Calligraphy classes. It was the first time since school that I had done something creative. I was always too busy and focused on my career. Moving country opened my eyes to new opportunities. While studying Chinese Calligraphy, I fell in love with the meanings behind the characters and decided they would be lovely pieces of jewellery. So when I was pregnant in China, I did a lot of sketching with ideas for a collection of jewellery. Upon reviewing all the work options I had when I returned home, I realised I now had the perfect opportunity to start my own business based on my jewellery design and calligraphy. Now I had no job and nice salary to stop me, and funnily, being a mother actually gave me the courage to do it for my family. My family needed me to be flexible and to be happy in what I do. And so I established Liwu Jewellery.
It has been so much harder than I thought, and sometimes very lonely being self-employed. But for me being a flexible working mother has been very rewarding. To supplement the income from the jewellery, I also do some consultancy accounting work for other businesses. Again this is all flexible and on my own terms.
Becoming a mother has led me to seek out opportunities that work for me and my family.
Maeve Buckley, 42, London
I made the decision to go out on my own when pregnant with my first child. I was CEO of a small company with no maternity pay, no maternity policy, no experience of it, and, as a result, no understanding of the situation and how a good workplace responds. I realised everything would be a struggle from there on in, and decided if work was going to be a struggle, at least, I should be doing that struggle for myself! The work situation felt very 1980s, but at least with a modern millennium solution - set up your own business! I agreed with my old company that I would finish up with them when going on maternity leave, and so found myself finishing up in Christmas 2009, with a whole new world ahead of me – first baby and a new job!
I had a number of conversations with an old friend and business connection, David, and we agreed to set up our own business, Line Up Sports, a sports, media and entertainment consultancy, lineupsme.com, and so in the early months of motherhood we did some business planning - got business cards, website up and running etc. I kept in contact with key clients and contacts from my previous role, many of whom were keen to continue with me, and between baby naps got some new work underway for those clients. I gradually took on more hours as I could and went back to work properly between 6 to 9 months. I realised that now, being my own boss, it was 100% about the output rather than the input, and the hours I worked could suit me to a large extent.
The important thing is professionalism, being there for clients, and getting a good job done, but in between if you are fitting in children's doctor appointments, and school plays, all of that is totally fine too. I have tried to keep Fridays, where possible, as an afternoon where I do something with the children, and also to fit projects and key project dates around school holidays.
Now nearly 6 years and another child later, I haven't looked back. There are times when you feel you aren't doing either role to 100%, and you veer along the spectrum from the earn-more/work-more axis to the more-time-off-with kids/not-work axis, but you always veer back to the middle. I have two identities - mother and business person. I do both to the best of my abilities and the time I have available, and I feel okay about that.
I might not be about to become a millionaire in a global takeover, but who cares! I have kept my career and business identity, while also (and more importantly) having two super kids who I get to see a lot of and spend a lot of time with. I won't get that time again, and the attention I give them now I will get back in spades later! I don't think on my deathbed I will regret not having worked more, but I would regret not spending more time with the boys. A working life that allows motherhood to be front and centre is key for me.
Amber, 34, Dublin
I worked as a Dental Technician in New York City, in a very high profile office on Park Ave. putting braces on teenagers and adults. Dental was something I knew from a young age I wanted to do, and I loved every minute of it. I started out working in a lab making dentures and then moved to Orthodontics as I preferred the patient interaction. I did this for eight years. It was long hours, and when I had kids, my passion shifted. I wanted to spend more time with my kids and help women in their pregnancies and births. Being American and marrying into a "hippy" holistic family from Eastern Germany, opened my eyes and made me look at birth in a new way. We decided on a homebirth for both of our children, and I had no idea how this would change my whole life. It was hard work, but I surrounded myself with positive birth stories from friends and did more of the empowerment, trust-your-body type reading, than “what to expect” so that when it came to the birth I was excited; fear was absent. When you have a positive birth experience you want everyone to experience that moment of bliss, and I knew after the birth of my second child that I wanted to empower other women in birth and motherhood. So I took all the tools from my births and put them into practice. I trained to become a Doula, (a birth companion) and HypnoBirthing practitioner as well as completing courses in homeopathy to help support families and launched Maternal Waves. The gratification you get from a family going into their birth with complete confidence and ease is amazing. Teaching them to relax and visualize their birth, alongside the breathing techniques, empowers them so much. Helping the partner to be supportive in different ways whether that be massage, affirmations or just a calm presence in the room is vital too. This is, after all, the most bonding experience for a couple going into parenthood.