Over the past 26 years I have worked for the same company, in the same role – I joined the family firm on 2 January 1990 as my first proper job from university. That is a lifetime, considering that I did not know much about market research when I went for the job interview, but I found a role that I liked very much in a company that suited me well. The owner of the company trained me in research: I spent the first year shadowing him and chauffeuring him around between clients. These were very happy days.
I wrote a company car off at the end of my first month working there and at that stage, wondered if they would keep me on as I was working on a trial basis. But it turned out that I loved research and I fitted into the small firm mentality and so, we thrived. I have worked at the same job when we got married in 1995, and they allowed me to take a three week honeymoon, by which time I had been made a Partner.
The partners and my colleagues were highly supportive when Joshua was born in 2001 and I took 8 months of maternity leave and then returned to work on a three days a week basis, leaving baby Joshua with a childminder. She only had Joshua in her charge , along with her own son and so it worked very well for several years until she stopped being a childminder sadly, and used her inheritance to invest in a greengrocery. I was devastated but we had no option but to try out various nurseries in the town, but none of them suited Joshua and me as well as his childminder had done.
When Joshua started at mainstream school, I returned to work for four days a week, just keeping my Fridays off for myself and this is the basis that I continue to work now.My work is not standard 9-5 role, it includes travelling to clients and to research locations and so I often have early starts or late nights, which can be awkward to organise, although I now do much less travelling than I did in the early days. Initially when at mainstream school, I would finish work in time to meet Joshua at the school gates but then he was transported to and from special schools from being 8 years old, which gave me a slightly longer working day.
So it is on this 26 year anniversary, that I am reflecting on how we have managed to make parenthood and a demanding role work. At some times it would have been simpler to have resigned and become a ‘stay at home mum’ , such as when we lost our childminder or on the three occasions in his life when Joshua has had prolonged hospital stays. But for me, and I can only speak personally, it has been invaluable to keep my own work identity, to have the distraction of clients and projects and to have my own source of income too. When working, I am able to contribute to something that I am good at and I have been able to maintain an identity not simply as ‘Joshua’s Mum’. But I am well aware that it has only been possible due to the flexibility of our family firm, we have both adapted to changes over the last 26 years and I am really grateful for the career that I have.