My balancing act between children and ambition

By Zoe Dobson

When I agreed to write this article, I never thought how difficult it would be.  How to get across that I’m a hard-working, single mum who hopefully has the work/life balance right for my children? It’s difficult.

I never expected my life to turn out this way – to be a single, working mum wasn’t the future I saw when I fell pregnant with my first daughter at 25.  Yes I knew I’d work, I’ve always been ambitious, always wanted to ‘have a career’, but being on my own with children plus a busy career wasn’t part of my plan.  But for the last two years, that’s how it’s been and I’d like to think we’re doing pretty well.

I love my children more than words can express.  They are the most wonderful, amazing, beautiful, entertaining, interesting people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. They astound and amuse (and sometimes aggravate) me daily. Yet you could question if I’ve been there enough for them?  I believe I have, but others may disagree.

zoe2When my eldest was born, paid maternity leave was three months.  I worked practically till I dropped, because for me time off with my child was more important than rest before she came along.  Luckily, the company I worked for was very family orientated and allowed me to work reduced hours towards the end (convinced it was the waddling down the office that made that possible – not attractive apparently!). But with my youngest, I had four months maternity leave.

I wanted to be there with them, for them, whilst they were tiny and dependent.

I went back to work part time after each of my children, crying on route to work each day when I left them. Three part time days a week, increasing that to three ‘office hour’ days a week, plus some work from home not long after.  I wanted to be there with them, for them, whilst they were tiny and dependent.

When my youngest was four, I recognised the limitations in my position and moved jobs.  I took a step down with the view that I would have better prospects in the new firm as my girls grew. Within six months, I had moved into a new role within the team, and two months later again, was asked if I would be Team Leader to cover maternity leave. This meant that I had to increase my hours – it was a huge decision. But I negotiated school holiday working hours of three days a week which meant I had more ‘home’ time with my girls than ‘work time’.  Two years later I became manager of the department.

That was almost six years ago, and as of a few months ago, I temporarily work full time.  Something I’ve tried to put off for as long as possible but managing a successful department, working on a system replacement project (never again please!), and becoming director of a new start-up company related to my role meant that continuing part time would be difficult.  My daughters are now 13 and 11 and are supportive of my work, to a degree.

I love my job and the direction it’s taking me, and as a result, my daughters too.

I stay away overnight for work maybe once or twice a month, some months not at all.  My girls have asked me not to stay away much more than that. I work very long hours some days and I bring work home often.

I am very fortunate to have a great support network of friends and family who help out with my girls if I’m away (thank you – you know who you are!).  There are times I feel guilty, incredibly guilty.  Self-imposed guilt usually .  But I love my job and the direction it’s taking me, and as a result, my daughters too.

I’m ambitious, always have been and cannot see myself doing anything other than working hard.

Why do I do it?  To ensure that I keep a roof over our heads, and to give us the very best life I can, and hopefully to teach my daughters that hard work pays off.  I’m ambitious, always have been and cannot see myself doing anything other than working hard, going the extra mile and striving to do and be the very best I can, both for my girls and in my career.

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One thought on “My balancing act between children and ambition”

  1. Zoe,

    I’m sure your children look up to you and realize how important your ambition has been for the sake of their lives. Yes, they may miss you, but when they see you the appreciation piles on with lots of stories and hugs, I’m sure.

    Too, you are role modeling what it takes to work hard and appreciate life and the things one wants in life to make things quite comfortable.

    Don’t worry. Your children are resilient, and learning lots from your ambitious habits. They too will become just as ambitious as you are because you are showing them what it takes.

    Kudos to YOU! Blessings!

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