Life before kids, wow, what a difference! Before having kids you’re repeatedly told life will be so different when you have kids! All my friends and family with children seemed happy – gloating even to remind me of this when I was pregnant with my first child Isabella – so much so, I was truly scared of life after pregnancy!
However, when Isabella was born, I didn’t know what they had been talking about and I was annoyed at being unnecessarily scared, I felt tricked, life with a baby was far easier than the terrors I’d imagined. New babies are quite mobile and we just took her with us when we wanted to go out for an evening. She wasn’t particularly good at sleeping in the early days, but I would have a lie-in when she would sleep in after having screamed for much of the night. I found the differences between ‘before’ and ‘after’ only truly emerged after about a year, when I found myself pregnant for a second time and also facing the prospect of going back to work.
My contract as a research scientist ended when Isabella was about ten months old. I had to start the hunt for work – this was certainly not as easy as it was in the olden days – job hunts involved staying a bit late at work or doing some work at weekends. So, my job hunt became more focused – and was limited to Isabella’s 45-minute naps and the odd 30 minutes I could grab in the evening! It meant there was no time to dawdle and soon as she was asleep I would grab my computer and apply to jobs or prepare for interviews. I was more focused than on previous job hunts, particularly as I wanted to change career and move into Med Comms. I had well-kept lists and folders of jobs applied to, skills required, dates job applications expired and nice neat folders with cover letters and CVs tailored to each type of job. I found Isabella was a good audience during the day if I needed to practice a presentation! This job search successfully culminated in a medical writing internship whilst pregnant with my son.
When my son was born, I knew I didn’t want a big gap on my CV without work, so from when he was about five months onwards I wrote blogs for a genome engineering post and did freelance work editing a book. Life was slightly easier in one sense, because Isabella was in childcare two days a week and Marcus loved sleeping! He could sleep for three hours a day. So, twice a week for up to three hours at a time, I got on with my book editing, which involved finding authors for book chapters, sending them contracts, editing various versions of their chapters and liaising with Springer for the final http://premier-pharmacy.com/product/eriacta/ print version. Again, I was highly organised (not a skill I had pre-children), as soon as Marcus’s head hit the pillow I was checking emails and the only way I could work effectively was to have well categorised email and document folders clearly labelled with who I had contacted, who I needed to contact and what drafts each of the chapters were on.
Then, again came the challenge, I wanted a ‘proper job’, one that would get me out of the house and use the skills I’d gained from my postdocs, writing and editing; Med Comms again, was definitely my focus. I signed up with some agencies and using the skills I’d gained from job applications with Isabella, I secured a medical writing position with Synergy Vision; I even had my first telephone interview with Sarah Nelson the editorial lead whilst Marcus was sleeping upstairs!
This was when I had to really focus, working five days a week with both children unsettled and waking up in the night, having to learn a relatively new ‘trade’ on little sleep was taxing to say the least. But I found the best way to cope was by keeping my ‘focus’ – reminding myself of the fantastic opportunity I’d been given and knuckling down as soon as I got into work, using the train journey to clear my mind of child-related issues! As work time is limited and I want to be there for my kids at the end of the day, the time from 9–5:30 needs to be utilised well. I make this work by planning in advance, giving myself deadlines and making sure every bit of the working day is used effectively. If there is any spare time, I start on another piece of work, or do research for an up and coming project.
In a way it helps because I always feel like I’m working on borrowed time – my biggest fear is my children catching chicken pox. They’ve been fairly well since I’ve started except for the odd gastric bug, but I could be off for a couple of weeks when this happens, so working in as far advance as possible is the only way to plan for these types of ‘crises’. Of course, to avoid burn out it’s impossible to be always working nine to the dozen, but to be honest a cup of coffee whilst reading my emails is enough of a break when children are involved. Plus, fitting all work into a standard working day means that I can truly relax when I’m at home.
And yes, life has changed beyond comprehension, all those people were right, smug so-and-sos!
Author: Ella Palmer. Emma is one of the Medical Writer/Editors of Synergy Vision. Synergy Vision is a medical communication agency based in North West London, with 27 employees (37% of staff are part time and 95% are women).