I was made redundant a few weeks ago. Out of nowhere I got a call to see my boss, which in itself wouldn’t be odd but given that he had cancelled the five previous weekly catch ups with me it was a bit ominous. I think I knew what was coming but didn’t quite believe it.
When he told me that I had been selected for redundancy and that my job was no longer needed I was shocked but also hugely relieved. As the company’s MD I was in what is termed as a pool of one. This means that I had been selected but given there was no one to score me against my fate was a foregone conclusion. To find out after 6 years that the job I at times loved beyond reason and at other times loathed with pure passion is actually no longer required is bittersweet.
When I was unmarried and childless my career was, it’s fair to say, my passion, my raison d’etre. It was quite simply, who I was. I was defined by it. The business I’m in, or was in I should say, is PR. Lightweight some would say and I’d be inclined to agree. Trying to spin everyday household products and brands into something more exciting, something that people would form an ‘emotional connection’ with was, frankly, an uphill struggle. I started out keen as mustard working on some very cool brands and doing some amazing work but as the years went on I became jaded. I found myself increasingly working for ‘fast moving consumer goods’ or household cleaner and nappies to you. The work I was so proud of, for one of our great British institutions went with Cameron’s public spending cuts and I found myself trying to muster excitement for the mundane or downright pointless.
Somewhere during this jaded phase I had children. How very dare I, an MD, go and breed? That was pretty much what my boss at the time said. I sought legal advice but learnt that unless I was prepared to drag the company and myself through the mud there was little point in pursuing it. So I shut up and put up. I took two maternity leaves of 6 months each, one for each child. That was the deal I did. Get paid in full for 6 months as long as I returned and didn’t take a minute longer. It’s not bad is it? Most people, I’m sure, would appreciate that. And I did, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that some time after having my second child I realised that I had not had anything like enough time with my precious babies. Then the daily commute, the meetings, the ‘brainstorms’ over products I neither liked nor cared about took over. I had to leave at 5.30pm everyday just to be home in time to put my children to bed, I suppose I could have paid the overtime to my nanny but frankly wasn’t putting them to bed the least I could do? I did give birth to them after all. But leaving on time was not so much frowned upon as openly disgusted. My boss had a chat with me about that too. I cried in the loos.
My career was still ruling my life; my children were second. I was late home more than I care to remember, I was travelling a lot and I was miserable. It didn’t feel glamorous and I didn’t feel like some heroine in an oh so funny chick lit novel. I felt sad. Every time I missed bedtime my eldest daughter would then be impossible to settle for days if not weeks afterwards. It was hard trying to reconcile this career woman I had been with the mother I now was. The times I’d leave the house to the cries of my daughter, the pleas for me to look after her were too many. It broke my heart over and over again. My husband and I argued everyday about everything. I can’t even remember when the arguments started but at times I thought about leaving him. But then I remembered just in time that he was the man I loved and what on earth had come over me?
I remember one night just deciding that enough was enough I needed to find a way out. I needed to accept that as a mother of two children with my predisposition to depression and some kind of in built guilt that I just can’t shift, being a full time working mother wasn’t working. I thought about many things. I wrote a book. I don’t think I truly thought that that would be my meal ticket, but it kept me sane since the main character was very much like me and I wrote her living through my worse case scenario where she lost her job. Life imitated art it seems.
The book was met with lukewarm reception from agents. I’m still plodding on, editing, refining but that fire is on a slow burn right now. I started to think about a business idea, something I could do around my children. This idea gained more traction and I started to get a website built, think about the idea some more, chat to some people about it. On the side I started to do some more writing projects, for various websites that liked the way I wrote my blog. I began to think that maybe, just maybe I could live the dream. I could resign. I could take my girls to pre-school then work around them. Perhaps I could even afford childcare one day per week to focus on marketing my new business. Or maybe I could work part time.
I asked my boss if I could reduce my hours, he choked on his cappuccino. You see some people may think that working in a high powered job and having a nanny 5 days a week made me think I was special, some may have thought that doing that was easier than looking after children 24/7 (I think it probably was actually). But what those people might not realise is that I’m just a human being like any other, I am a mum who loves her kids and who missed them with acute agony each and every day I went to work. But as the main (in fact only) breadwinner, just giving it up wasn’t an option.
Then I was made redundant.
The pieces appeared to fall into place. I felt like someone might just be looking out for me. But what I didn’t bank on was the feeling of rejection of just not being wanted. Being dispensable. Despite loathing my job with a frightening passion at times, I’m not sure I was ready to be thrown on the trash heap. It had defined me for many years after all. The process the company followed wasn’t correct, there were hints of sexual discrimination. I got a lawyer to argue my case. The jury is still out so to speak. Right now it’s terrifying trying to work out how to pay the mortgage. We may yet have to move house.
Redundancy is shitty. Whether you wanted it or not, it’s bloody frightening to realise that your way of life will change. Yes I could probably find another job, arguably not at the level I was at, but I just couldn’t go through that again. I missed my kids too much. I’m not cut out for the life of a career woman with kids.
I’m a mum first and I just bloody hope I can make my new business work so that I can continue to be so.