Perspectives on…International Women’s Day part 3
Antonia Mackerell, an Associate Research Director in our Insight team, shares the challenges of balancing career and family – just five days back into work after her second period of maternity leave.
It’s not just returning to work after having a child that’s tough – it’s also leaving in the first place. When I went off for maternity, it was really difficult to hand over the accounts and relationships I’d built through a lot of hard work and commitment to the business. I felt as though I was losing the role and position I’d worked so hard for.
Taking 10 months out in a business that’s growing so quickly means that when you come back a lot has changed. When I went on maternity I was one of two leaders in my team – when I returned, my peer had become my boss and some of the people I’d hired had moved up to the same level as me. You find you’re not just faced with getting back into the swing of a fast-paced agency: you’re also having to re-establish your place and come to terms with the fact your career has lost momentum while you’ve been away.
I was the first person to go on maternity leave at Karian and Box, so the business was learning with me. The good news was that K&B was incredibly understanding, helped me find the right flexible working arrangements and didn’t pressure me to answer some of the big questions about my role too soon.
I found that a lot of the challenges I faced were perceived, as well as actual. I feared other people would think less of me if I had to leave at 5pm to pick up my child while there was a deadline to meet or a crisis happening, especially in a business where there weren’t any other new mothers. That perceived loss of standing has been difficult to shake off. I still struggle to answer the challenge of how I can go above and beyond in my role, when my family commitments mean I only do a 30-hour week.
Karian and Box is really supportive place to work, and I’m grateful for that. But I think that the difficult thing for any business is to really understand how it feels to take that time out of your career, and the psychological barriers you face when you return, as well as the practical ones.