I’m off on maternity leave in a couple of weeks to have baby number two. This means I have to leave my other baby, the Taylor Bennett Foundation, in the hands of my (very capable) colleagues. I’ll only be away for four months but it’s still a pretty daunting prospect that at some point I’ll have to stop thinking about feeding, nappy changing and singing wheels on the bus endlessly and revert back to my professional persona.
When I last went on maternity leave I had no idea what to expect. A first child is a total mystery to anyone. People can tell you that you will be tired but until you experience the sleepless nights it’s difficult to comprehend quite how tired you can actually be. If you think the worry of pregnancy stops when the baby arrives you’d be wrong, it just turns into a different kind of worry – are they putting on weight, are they learning things quickly enough, how are you going to sort out childcare?
This time I am a bit more prepared for what’s about to happen and more prepared for my return to work. Somehow, I managed to write a book when I was on maternity leave last time. Looking back I’m not quite sure how I did that but I did, which fills me with hope that even with a three and a half year old and a newborn I will not have to stop being involved in the PR industry even if it’s only from afar.
Four months will go incredibly quickly. Can you remember what you were up to four months ago? I bet it doesn’t seem that long ago.
Parents returning to work in the PR industry is increasingly a concern for leaders, particularly now that parental leave can be shared equally and I suspect more men will be taking extended paternity leave than ever before. In an industry dominated by women, there is an undeniable need to make sure that talent isn’t leaving just because firms aren’t flexible enough to accomodate the needs of returning parents. I am very lucky that I work from home a fair bit which limits my three hour commute each way to the London office to about twice a week and means I will get to see my children mornings and evenings before and after nursery. I also have Wednesdays off and try to use that time to have family time although inevitably with the smart phone it’s difficult to switch off from emails and calls completely. It’s this level of flexibility that allows me to combine family life with my career and other companies should be considering what they could do to ensure they keep loyal, experienced talent on board.