The truth is, I thought that motherhood would curb my ambition.
A little over four years ago, I nobly determined that my focus instead would be on empowering the dreams of my imminently arriving daughter. I had had my time, I mused; after all, I’d had 39 years to devote to my goals.
My thinking no doubt influenced by growing up at a time when there was a still a sense of motherhood vs career, where there was a choice to be made – you couldn’t have both. Not unless you were a ‘superwoman’, as was often the term used to refer to women who pursued career aspirations with family responsibilities.
And yet, I am a woman of my age. We eagerly planned to take advantage of shared parental leave, with my husband taking responsibility for the lion’s share of the childcare whilst I went back to work.
But here’s the rub: whilst I was absolutely committed to balancing work with my soon to arrive daughter, I didn’t envisage balancing it with a career: with growing, with aspiring, with rising. I thought that I would stay stagnant, that I had no more ambitions to achieve.
How wrong was I.
Becoming a mother was the most daunting, amazing, scary, yet fulfilling thing that I have ever done, a role I was not trained for or experienced in. But as I watched my daughter blossom I asked myself: ‘I wonder what else I can do?’ Because quite frankly if I could do that, if I could successfully care for this precious child, I could do anything.
And that question was the catalyst for a future which led to me setting up my own business when my daughter was 18 months old, even though my supportive and empowering boss had given me the flexibility that I had wanted. Because, whilst working for myself would give me even more flexibility, allowing me to pick and choose when I spent time with my daughter, I wanted more than that. I decided to set up my own business because I realised it was something I aspired to do, because motherhood had made me brave enough to do so – and because I actually believed that I could do it. This was a belief which I had never once entertained before.
So here we are now, two and a half years on and all my daughter will ever have known is mummy working for herself, doing what she wants to do. I fervently hope that she sees me pursuing my goals and it is a positive influence for her as she determines and follows her own dreams: she can do whatever and be whomever she desires.
And there are so many, many mothers who are also following their goals, so many inspiring women I have met along the way. Mothers whose abilities and skills have been absolutely enhanced rather than diminished by becoming parents. Who are recognising their own value and pursuing their ambitions, achieving as they follow their paths with grit and determination. They are everyday superwomen.
Men too. Fathers who have been changed by parenthood, who have added skills to their repertoire through taking care of children, who have brought those abilities to bear across their lives. My own husband is an example of someone whom I have watched admiringly extend his capabilities through caring for his child.
And there are some great companies out there who have recognised that working parents – and importantly, mothers – are an asset within the workplace, that they bring fantastic skills; companies who are making tangible, proactive and inclusive efforts to empower career aspirations.
But there are still workplaces where mothers – and fathers – are not empowered or recognised for what they can bring. Where opportunities are limiting, and where the conversation seems to linger predominantly on working hours – when the parent can work rather than what they can bring to the party. These companies are missing a trick – and ultimately potentially missing out on a wealth of talent which can add huge value to their business.
Employers often underestimate the abilities and goals of parents – and particularly mothers – in their employ.
But perhaps, even more so, we underestimate ourselves. Becoming parents allows us to develop and grow our capabilities, and certainly should not mean the end of our desire to achieve more. Quite the opposite in fact: it could be the catalyst for our ambitions – and for empowering the belief that anything is possible.