It’s not often that something gets me properly rattled, but PR Moment’s piece last week entitled ‘Why Hacked Off Flack reckons kids ruin your PR career’, touched a raw nerve. I am due to celebrate my year anniversary next month of returning to work after maternity leave with my first child. And when I say ‘celebrate’, I am not over-stating this point, I genuinely mean it. Returning to work has been an incredibly challenging, emotional, exciting rollercoaster of an experience, and I am proud to be able to say I am thoroughly enjoying being a working mum. I have a wonderful home life but I have never been more proud of my role or more driven in my career.
Which is why I find articles like this one so infuriating . In true Hacked Off style, it was meant to be tongue in cheek – the column itself claims to ‘use humour to talk about issues within PR which would otherwise be difficult to discuss’, but it’s playing a dangerous game. Unfortunately, rather than challenge the negative perceptions of working parents, the piece just reinforces them. The majority of people who read the article will continue to roll their eyes when the working mums needs to dash off early to pick up their child, will continue to mutter under their breaths about their supposed lack of commitment or drive now they have become parents. Don’t get me wrong, I would have done the same thing before I became a mum too – but that’s why we need to educate and celebrate what working parents bring to a business, rather than continuing to demonize them, whether it’s with a hint of irony or not.
It’s generally accepted that working mums make better employees, but it’s wholly ignored due to an unsubstantiated yet ingrained culture and belief that women couldn’t possibly care about their jobs anymore after what is known as child birth.
Of course, there are pressures on time, which is challenging in a traditionally long hours/ client service led industry such as PR, but for me, working flexible hours means I have never been so efficient. I don’t have time for the water cooler moments any more, I need to get stuff done, quickly and effectively.
As a house bound parent with no social life, I am also much more able to work in the evenings if needed. Long gone are the days of leisurely drinks after work, so logging on now and again in the evening in order to hit a deadlines suddenly isn’t quite so painful as it used to be. I have also brought an entirely new approach to work. In a particularly young industry, I can bring a new experience and opinion on brands and campaigns that others in the office don’t have, but also stuff just doesn’t worry me like it used to. I now have my own bigger picture, and that, along with a new perspective of the world (it sounds cheesy but it’s true), means I am incredibly passionate about my work and also a much more philosophical, and more focused person in a crisis – which can only be a good thing.
But I have an extremely positive and inclusive working environment – an empathetic and flexible senior team that includes several parents, who don’t choke on their flat whites at the words ‘part time’, and just as importantly, a junior team, who through a supportive culture, are also equally as understanding. I am aware that a lot of women don’t have this and are lucky if a part time role is even considered, particularly at a senior level, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg facing most women returning back to work.
Us working parents (and this should be about both mums and dads) need some good, old fashioned PR – we need a campaign plan full of positive messages, a bank of inspiring ambassadors and a wealth of motivating case studies, all of which can really champion the benefits of flexible, working parents – both for the individuals and the businesses alike.
I’m not going to apologise for keeping the human race going and for wanting to drive my career forward at the same time. When I was heavily pregnant, a very young, female intern made a comment that stuck with me. She told me she didn’t think women could stay in PR and have children and that I had inspired her. I’m still here, a whole year later, and I’m loving it. So let’s start celebrating and supporting the working parents of the world – you never know, you may become one some day too….