The sense that I felt I had an either/or choice to make was first crystallised in my early twenties. I grew up in a small village and whether it was overtly said or just something I felt, the impression was that you either got married and had a family or you had a career.
Motherhood or Career?
I had a strong desire to become a mother, but not a stay-at-home one.
9 years in the luxury hotel industry was amazing but I never felt totally able to be myself. There were strong corporate expectations which I never quite fitted into.
I lacked female role models who had any semblance of a personal life outside of their career so although I had a lucrative path mapped out in front of me, I started to count the personal cost to my happiness and question my choices.
Exiting the Corporate World
I decided to buy a ’round the world ticket to Australia. It was life-changing. But what I remember is returning home with incredible life experiences and new skills under my belt (it takes focus and commitment to arrive with AUS$300 and leave with a permanent Visa six years later) yet feeling almost unemployable.
On top of my previous corporate experience, I had secured positions in two prime location hotels, worked on a dive boat and ran a hostel. I had a degree-equivalent qualification in aromatherapy and reflexology and was more intuitive, insightful, healthy and whole. I had developed greater empathy and listening skills completing over 200 hours of clinical practice asking every consult “how do you feel today?”
I had supported the successful launch of a new spa business from concept to profitability, discovered a greater trust in myself and deeper level of confidence, having stretched my comfort zones regularly.
Yet I found myself being offered a position, not a few hundred yards away from the prestigious hotel I had been flying high in previously, with a 50% lower salary.
The similarities to a mother returning to work with a wealth of additional experience that is overlooked and undervalued, is something I relate to.
Creating a new path
I worked in various clinics before opening my own on London’s Fulham Road opposite Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Ignoring advice to stay mainstream, we became South West London’s first dedicated, mum and baby clinic and my wealth of knowledge supporting women through the pregnancy journey and transition to motherhood began.
In 2011 my business focus and personal life shifted. Following the growing success of my exclusive partnership with The Kensington Wing, I had a strong desire to simplify and find a more balanced, work/life balance. I let go of a fixed clinic location, expensive premises and managing a team to develop a more bespoke, at home offering.
The shift from women stepping out of working life to be a full-time mother was changing. As the financial implications of the City and recession were felt, more and more of my clients were returning to work. Some as the lead earner, some to support their partners more equally and some because they realised they loved their careers and wanted to rise as high as they could go.
A profound shift
I moved in with my new partner who held a senior position within a private global hedge fund which helped me fast-track an understanding of the demands and complexities of working in the mainly male-dominated energies of the City. A pregnancy followed but it was short lived. Instead, his teenage daughter moved in with us and two became three, literally overnight. Balancing work and family, having time for “us” and the art of compromise were life skills I learnt – fast.
His completely unexpected death had a huge impact on me. Work suddenly became immaterial. The learnings I gained are a whole story in themselves. I returned to work after around 6-8 months but it took me well over a year – 18 months to feel back to myself and the way I live my life has changed forever.
The profound shift I experienced affected my relationships with my clients.
For the better.
Where are we now?
Bumps and the Boardroom started as a series of conversations to discuss how to manage maternity differently. It was my stepping stone back to finding my voice and speaking up for clients who held back for fear of being seen as less committed or competent.
Motherhood can make you feel vulnerable rather than valuable.
The way we view life experiences but particularly, pregnancy and motherhood saddens me. Watching women go through this process has me in awe. If you haven’t witnessed it up close you can be forgiven for misunderstanding it and wondering what all the fuss is about. Many women I speak to say they felt the same, before they become mothers.
It worries me that the corporate world remains so imbalanced, especially at the top. Men too, say they want a less macho culture.
I would like to see our corporate culture shift, learn how to truly nurture talent and recognise the value of feminine-led traits which motherhood often releases.
I would like Bumps and the Boardroom to become an inspiring and interactive tech platform to support men, women and the companies they are a part of, with best practice, robust education and transparent maternity polices the norm.
The foundations around our benchmarking and over-arching aims are in place but our Founder Members will be able to further shape the details.