I got a message the other day from another blogger asking how I ‘knew’ when was the right time to start blogging full time back in April. I told her quite frankly – “because I had nothing to lose”. So this is the story of why I quit my day job with absolutely no regrets.
Last autumn, I got an email from a TV broadcaster, asking for my availability for work. As I read the email, it was as though there was a little mouse on each of my shoulders telling me to do opposite things. On the one shoulder, that little mousey voice was reminding me of the practical side: Emma had only just started settling in to nursery, we had a big holiday to Australia coming up. But on the other shoulder, that persuasive mouse was telling me to go for it, when would I get an opportunity like this again? I started remembering what it was like working in TV pre-child, I started to get excited for what could be.
So I did it. We concocted a pretty nuts logistical scenario thanks to my ever-supportive parents and off I went. At first, it felt good to be back at work, going to London every day – hot coffee and lunch that didn’t consist of a half burnt piece of toast and cold chicken dippers. It was exciting. But soon came the stuff I had long forgotten about due to my maternity leave: team politics, presenteeism, sexism, self doubt due to others’ doubting you, and so much more.
At first I convinced myself that I was misreading the looks I caught at team meetings. Maybe he/she had an off day. Maybe I’m just being too sensitive. I have a natural disposition to blame myself for anything and everything that goes wrong so I sat there day in and day out, berating myself for the crappy job I must be doing. I internalised absolutely everything to the point where I was a shadow of the person I used to be professionally. In an attempt to be productive about it, I changed my tact several times. In some meetings, I’d be a little more passive and I’d get the evil eye as if to say ‘why aren’t you contributing?’. At other times, I’d speak up more and get shut down. It felt like I couldn’t win. To add to this, the three heads of the department had an alliance and without an HR department, I literally had no-one I could speak to on the level.
After a few months, every morning would begin with a feeling of dread that I have to go to work, which is so unlike me. Before I had Emma, I absolutely loved going to work – I was driven by working on high pressure productions and knew my job inside and out. It was such a disappointment that I couldn’t have any input to the productions I was now working on, and I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. Over time, I would manage two large-scale live events without my micro-managing boss overlooking every single thing I did (purely as she was too busy). After both events, there was never a thank you or any acknowledgement for the work I did. I might as well have been invisible.
But this aside, why didn’t it work? Was it that the job was too big to cram into 4 days? Did the team resent the fact that I worked from home on Thursdays? Was I not assertive enough as a manager? There are so many questions that I continue to ask myself and although I’m now doing more than fine building my blog into a business, those questions are unanswered. I have managed to bury those experiences as the negativity is just not useful, but inevitably sometimes they re-surface. Sometimes I wonder why my boss didn’t just say if she wasn’t happy with my performance. Sometimes I wonder why my contract continued to be renewed and it was me who had to draw that final line in the sand and resign.
Since I left my job, I’ve been heartened to hear other parents’ positive experiences of returning to work. It makes me feel better that it’s not always like that, that some employers are putting more thought into what flexi-working really means. One thing is for certain: flexi-working is more than just agreeing to a 4 day a week role. I don’t want anyone to feel how I did, shunned from a team because you can’t stay in the office until 8pm every night.
As I finished replying to my friend, I told her that leaving my day job is the best thing I have ever done, and it truly is. I get to really be present with Emma, chat to her about the day and spend time together each evening. It certainly feels like the balance is a little more on an even keel, though I know what works for us might not work for everyone. When I look back on those days, I don’t regret going back to work. It’s just something I had to go through to learn that it’s not right for me.