At a time when feminism is strong and we are being told to lead our children by example, I feel almost guilty when I say that at this stage in my life - my truest desire - is to be a good mother. It’s not a phase that will last forever; but for now, keeping everyone in my family happy and healthy is my biggest priority. And it’s a full time job.
Everyone’s experience as a parent is so incredibly different, as is the road you take to get there and how much it impacts your life. Some people are surprised and delighted when they find out they are pregnant. Some people, like me, are elated but tired from all the effort it took to finally get there.
I was so ready to become a mum when I saw my first positive pregnancy test eight years ago. I’d been fooled into thinking it would happen quickly and with very little effort. But each extra month of frustration and sadness had a silver lining. I had more time to prepare for my most important job yet. I felt organized and in control, I had spreadsheets for baby shopping and started quietly collecting baby clothes that I put in a box under the bed (the true cliché, but I couldn’t resist a Baby Gap sale!)
Before babies, I had a dream job. It was everything I wanted, working in Sports Marketing for amazing athletes and brands, with a dream team who very quickly became my best friends. I stepped off the plane from Sydney to London ready for the challenge. This fast moving, exciting work full of young, sporty, ambitious people soon became my happy place. Going to work was never a chore. By day, we implemented marketing strategies around sporting events and brand ambassadors; on the weekends, we traveled as a team to bring these strategies to life at various destinations around the UK.
For many years, having babies wasn’t on my mind. When I did start thinking about them, I quickly realised that within our company and in the industry, there were very few female role models who had managed to create the work-life-family balance. I keenly watched as a female colleague returned to work after having a baby. The lack of flexibility offered to her meant that when I decided to start a family, I’d have to call it quits on my career. That was the reality. For me, at least.
This wasn’t something I resented. The facts were pretty simple: the expectation was that you would work weekends at sporting events; the pay wasn’t great. So really, I’d be paying a nanny more than I would actually be bringing home at the end of each long, working day.
When my eldest daughter came along, my focus immediately shifted from sports drinks and athletes to feeding and cleaning this little human, in between trying to get as much sleep as possible. Sophisticated handbags were swapped for practical nappy bags, high heels for trainers and glamourous little outfits for anything that would allow the swift (subtle) removal of a breast at any given time the baby squeaked.
At this point, I definitely decided to focus on being a mum and let any ambitions of being anything more slide. My days were so incredibly full of nappies, breast pumps, baby bottles and all the mum paraphernalia that I didn’t feel like I had anything more to offer anyone, let alone a paid job.
And then one day I woke up thinking about life outside of being a mother - jobs I could do that could fit around the baby or new avenues I could study. Just as the literal fog was lifting, I realised I was pregnant again. Another cycle began: baby brain, pregnancy pains, varicose veins. All so much worse than the first time. Now I had two kids under two and the clouds lowered over any kind of career ambition.
After the second came another baby. I am in an entirely new place now. That’s the thing with being a mum, your journey chops and changes, sometimes you feel like you’re near the end of whatever road you’re on and then you have to make a U-turn and go back to the where you started. Each time I’ve had a baby I’ve gone back to the very beginning. With three girls under seven, my capabilities cannot extend beyond getting everyone to where they need to be, at the right time, in the right clothes, and making sure life continues to tick over.
Please don’t read this as someone who does not have aspirations. It’s just that currently, my limitations outweigh them. Every spare thought I have at the moment is moving towards the big “what next?” I want to make a mark, I want to have that big idea, I want to create a job for myself that allows me to follow my passions, provide for my family, but also to be here for my girls. I know that I can’t have it all, but I can certainly try.
Phoebe is a marketing mama with three little girls, now living in Perth, Australia. In a past life, she managed accounts for brands such as Coca Cola, Mastercard, and Lucozade Sport across Sydney and London. Phoebe is currently residing as the “head of mothering” in her family and trying to work out her next move back into the world of employment. She resides in the UK and is a social media "mom" influencer. Follow her on Instagram @mama.of.daughters.