Holding down a career and having a child can put a strain on life but many mums make a success of it
IN A few weeks’ time New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will have her first child. She’s thought to be just the second world leader to give birth while in office, after Pakistan’s former prime minister the late Benazir Bhutto, who had a daughter, Bakhtawar, in 1990.
And although the pregnancy came as a surprise to her and her partner, TV presenter Clarke Gayford, 40, she’s not at all phased.
In fact Jacinda, 37, is planning to take six weeks’ maternity leave before getting back to running the country – with childcare help from her partner.
“Women multi-task all the time, I just happen to do it in a more public way,” she said.
“I can only do everything because I have help, by which I mean Clarke: he’s going to be the primary care giver.”
But is it really possible to have it all? There are more working mothers in the UK than ever before, with the latest Office for National Statistics figures showing that there are 4.9 million women with dependant children in employment.
Yet research suggests women still do 60 per cent of the “unpaid work” in the household, including childcare, laundry and cooking.
Here, two women tell us how they juggle their jobs and being a mum.
Yes says Charlotte McMillan
Charlotte, 46, runs a business and lives in Highbury, north London, with her husband Andrew, 47, a lawyer.
They have 12-year-old twins Robert and Sholto, and son Archie, nine.
When I heard that Jacinda Ardern was pregnant, I was really happy for her.
I’m half-Kiwi so I like to keep up with politics in New Zealand.
Like the rest of the world I’m eager to see how she manages to juggle being a world leader and having a baby.
Charlotte McMillan says ‘it’s definitely possible to have a career and be a mother’
It’s definitely possible to have a career and be a mother but it’s hard work.
I should know: I was a partner in a multinational law firm when my twins were born in 2006.
I took six months’ maternity leave and after that I was back in the office full time.
My husband was also a partner in a law firm so we had a nanny to help out during the day.
At first I had romantic visions of being able to breastfeed the twins in the morning before work and in the evening when I got home.
But I soon realised it wasn’t going to be as simple as that.
A week after I came back to the office I was working on a deal that was very time-sensitive.
I knew I was going to have to stay all night to get it finished.
In the middle of negotiations, I had to run home to breastfeed the twins and then come back to the office.
Thankfully the client was understanding.
We didn’t finish the deal until six o’clock in the morning and when I got home, my husband was sitting on the sofa with one twin in each arm, looking shell-shocked.
It was then I realised it wasn’t going to be as easy as I’d hoped.
But despite the difficulties we managed to make it work.
One of the things that helped me was letting go of control.
Before children I was used to having control over everything in my life, but when I became a mum that all changed.
I had to realise that I wouldn’t be able to do a perfect job at work and be a perfect mother too.
I could still do a great job at both but I had to accept that sometimes the beds wouldn’t be made in the morning and I might not always be there to collect the kids from school.
I carried on working as a lawyer until 2014, when I started my own business – an online scrapbooking website called StoryChest (storychest.com).
Getting it off the ground has meant long, gruelling hours and I work now just as hard as ever before. But I’m happy to do it.
Family will always be important to me but being a mother doesn’t mean giving up on your dream career.
NO Says Jo Higgins
JO, 44, is a life coach and lives in Leicester with her husband Jonathan, 46, a publisher.
They have two daughters Evie, 13, and Isla, seven.
Jo Higgins said she ‘felt guilty’ for quitting her job years after becoming a mum
It’s great to hear that Jacinda Ardern is having a baby while being Prime Minister.
But there’s no denying it’ll be hard to do both.
I did “have it all” for 10 years after my elder daughter was born.
I loved my job in the marketing department at underwear brand Bravissimo and I carried on working there when I became a mother.
Over the years I was promoted to director and before long I was on a six-figure salary, working 60 hours a week.
I was excelling in my career and I still made time to see my family too.
I used to tell people I was the happiest person I knew.
But there were times when it was difficult.
I had a C-section with my second daughter and I remember collapsing at the end of a meeting under the weight of a giant pile of papers I was carrying.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is pregnant with her first child
I hadn’t given my stomach time to heal properly and it put my back under too much pressure.
I staggered out to my car with the help of a colleague and managed to get home.
I carried on working and because I loved my job, it made the juggling worthwhile.
But after a while I realised that having a demanding career and a family meant I didn’t see my friends.
And after a decade of being a working mum I realised I wanted more time with my family too.
I was the main breadwinner and I felt guilty for quitting my job but it was the best decision I could have made.
After I left I took three months off and it was only then I realised how stressed I’d been.
I retrained as a life coach and now I run my own business called Life Atlas Coaching (lifeatlascoaching.com).
It means I can be more flexible about the hours I work and move things around to suit my family.
Although my husband and I split the childcare equally, being a coach has made me realise we’ve still got a long way to go before we reach true equality for men and women.
I see a lot of my female clients trying to be the perfect mother and the perfect employee.
But when I ask what their partner does to help with childcare, they look at me blankly.
Either they haven’t spoken about sharing the childcare with their partner or they don’t trust them to do it.
I think we need to do more as a society to help men and women feel comfortable taking equal responsibility.
It’s fine to be a stay-at-home mum or to focus on your career, but you have to work out what matters most to you.
For me it was being able to eat dinner at the table with my family every night. It might seem like a small thing but it makes a big difference.
Now I eat with my family each evening. I still have a career but no matter what, my children always come first.