Parents in Tech: The transition to a London working mum

Haley Gould
Sep 16, 2019 · 10 min read

The beginning

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25 hours minimum journey from New Zealand to the UK.

The Pregnancy

When I first announced the news to some of our closest friends, they often reacted by asking if we would move home? I was shocked. If anything, the thought of moving halfway across the world with a protruding belly was more daunting than the labour. Packing up everything up, leaving our friends (who had become like our family) and qualifying for no maternity leave was most certainly out of the question. We were staying.

At the time I was working at a creative digital agency and for any one that’s worked agency side will know the hours can sometimes be a little unpredictable. The agency was small and intimate, it was hard to hide the fatigue. I was a religious prosecco drinker, loved my morning coffee and a late night pitch session, then all of a sudden, I was saying “no” to the stuff. When I was finally able to announce my happy news, I was surprised to learn that most of my staff already knew.

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Coffee, Prosecco, Late night design work (All the things Haley Loves)

At the agency I was the first ever female to take maternity leave, there had been two men who had taken Paternity leave, so I felt like a bit of a guinea pig and worried profusely I was going to end up with a crappy deal. Thankfully my boss was super understanding, having two kids of his own, and kindly offered an industry standard enhanced maternity leave package.

Trimester One

The daily hangover — yep the pain is real. It’s not just morning sickness, it’s all day, every day sickness, or better still 24/7 sickness. Basically, feeling seedy becomes the norm up until about sixteen weeks. I feel completely utterly envious of anyone who claims they didn’t get sick during their first trimester. I’m not going to lie, it really can be a cruel time! Advice: eat something every morning as soon as you get up, such as dry toast, strangely this did wonders! Oh, and wear the badge, even though you may not be showing, you will need that seat by the door.

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Being sick is the inevitable for many, don’t forget dry toast & the badge!

Fatigue — this word will take a whole new meaning. You think you’ve been tired before? I remember going to bed at 8pm most nights, waking at 7am and feeling like I could sleep all day. Slow down as much as you can, it’s hard work growing a tiny human!

Socialising — The general rule of pregnancy is that you should wait past the 12 week mark before you break the news. This is because there is a still a relatively high chance of miscarriage, so they recommend at least waiting until your first scan to get the all clear. Hiding your pregnancy until then can be a real challenge socially. In a way, I became a bit of a recluse, last minute declining Facebook events, attending client lunches where I’d have sneak into the toilets to tip my prosecco down the sink, this can be a really challenging time if you’re used to being social. Advice: Fake it till you make it, Becks Blue, sparkling grape juice and mocktails are great substitutes. Also, if you can I would advise telling your boss as soon as possible, if anything it will work in your favour!

Cravings — Yes, this is a thing, well it was for me! Every morning when I’d come out of the tube station, I’d get this uncontrollable urge to eat a Croissant. I also became obsessed with Pret Pickle and cheese sandwiches, beer and biltong (two things I usually don’t like) and I completely despised coffee. My Advice: Always carry snacks, no one likes a HANGRY pregnant lady!

Trimester Two

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Crazy Hormones — By this stage in my design career I had learnt not to be precious about my design work, criticism was only constructive and design changes part of agile / iterative ways of working. Pregnancy hormones told me otherwise! I remember being asked by my Project Manager to change the background image on a website I’d only spent a day on, and I almost lost the plot. I was so angry! Be prepared for mood swings, those hormones can be totally crazy.

Baby brain — Be aware of forgetfulness. I left my gym bag on the tube twice, the first time I was lucky it was handed in at the end of the district line, the second time, I was not so lucky. My husband found this hilarious. I also had an incident at work where I thought I’d clean up the files on my desktop, and when emptying my trash can, somehow managed to delete half the files on the work shared google drive. It was a very stressful few days to say the least.

Trimester Three

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Makes sense right?

London Commuting — you’ve all heard about the woman that gave birth in an Uber? With out a car in London, and a 60-minute door to door commute each day, my biggest fear was my water breaking on the northern line! To combat this, I requested to work from home every Friday in my last trimester, and the whole week before I was due. Mobility becomes quite hard by this stage, so every little bit of working flexibility can make a huge difference. Oh, and keep wearing the badge!

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Water breaking on the Northern line was one of my biggest fears.

Fear/Sudden Insecurity — According to the Guardian 70% of women fear taking a career break when going on maternity leave. Admittedly, I was one of them. Throughout my pregnancy, but particularly in my last trimester I began to worry that my replacement designer would out shine me. I often had nightmares that they would be so good that perhaps my boss would ask them to permanently take my role. I know I was in a senior role, but I still had this strange fear (my competitiveness and the pregnancy hormones probably didn’t help here).

My advice would be to stop worrying — your design/code or whatever skillset you have won’t vanish into thin air when you go and have a baby. You are qualified and if you need peace of mind do some side projects on maternity leave. I found myself building wedding websites and designing invitations, logos — even baby birth posters and quotes over this period. I would highly recommend, if you can, reaching a senior position before you decide to have a baby this is mainly so that when you come back you won’t have to start all over again. You have experience and credibility, you know how to juggle and delegate, and your company should trust you to work flexibly.

Finding Community — Neither my husband nor I have any parents here, just siblings, so we decided it was important to find our own little community. We joined an antenatal group in Wimbledon called NCT and have made some lovely friends! London also has lots of other great groups.

Maternity Leave

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15.05.17 Harvey Brett Moulder

Returning to work

However, there was a silver lining…

I learnt to savour those moments I used to take for granted, such as going to get a coffee with some peace and quiet on my own for 10 minutes, catching up with girl friends for lunch that don’t have kids and got back into some exercise.

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Savour those moments, meet with friends, do online shopping

I had a new motivation to drive and succeed. I felt proud that I had something to do alongside being a Mum, I had a sense of self, a job that was for me and my interests. I also learnt to delegate, ask for help and be more organised — thank the lord for my Amazon Prime and Ocado subscriptions. This is a must for any London work mum to get their monthly supply of nappies and wipes!

Time for a change

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Here I start work a bit later so I can do the nursery drop off, and always make sure I’m home for dinner and Harvey’s bath time. But I do open the laptop after he is in bed if I need to. I have been very fortunate to work from home two days a week, one in which I take Harvey to a specialist group communications class. There are still days from time to time when I feel out of comfort zone. Harvey might wake up in the night because he’s growing a new tooth, or he’s struck with chicken pox. So be prepared for it and just roll with it! It’s part of the wild ride of parenthood.

Final Words

1. You don’t have to give up your work life for parenthood.
2. You shouldn’t apologise for being a mum/dad AND having a career.
3. You can combine the two, and we are very fortunate to be in a career such as tech that you can!

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Some good sources for new parents:

Instagram
@parents
@mother_pukka
@thebump

My favourite book
I’m not fat I’m pregnant — Jacqui Brown

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