By: Jill Nichols
I’m Jill, a Mum to two gorgeous (although they can be little monkeys at times) children, Georgia six and Oliver, three. I am also a hotel sales manager and have been in the industry for the past fifteen years.
I’ve always been a career focused person but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want a family. I’ve always had definitive goals set out both in my personal life and professional life of where I wanted to be and when, and by the time I had my first baby Georgia, I was in the position I had always wanted to be in and felt ready to take a career break. Did it mean I wanted to give my career up? No, in fact it probably made me more ambitious and wanted to achieve more for my family. Whilst I know it can come with some compromises on both sides, I think you can achieve both and I’ve worked hard to make it work for both my family, myself and my employer of course. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come without serious ‘mum guilt’ on some days and those ‘I can’t do this’ moments but it is worth it in the end.
I am lucky enough to be in a role that doesn’t have the unsociable hours that hospitality is known for, but the hours can still be long! I’ve been with the same company for most of my career and even left a few times and been fortunate enough that roles have come up and I have been able to return.
I am proud to say that my company empowers and invests in women and supports our development while understanding that we can sometimes need that flexibility. There has always been a number of women that I have worked closely with in our leadership team that work full time and have families too, and I came from a family where two parents worked full time, so it seemed like the norm to me and I’ve seen other mums juggle the work life balance so I knew I could handle it!
We have an industry leading maternity policy which was amazing and definitely helped the return to work. Despite this, I still felt a little bit like a fish out of water when I returned! Having a child does obviously change you as a person, your priorities become different and I found it difficult to adapt to this at first. Whilst I’d been off there were a few positions that I would have potentially applied for that had gone and my new family meant they were not logistically possible. I got told by one General Manager when I explained to him what I thought my next move would be, ‘What do you want to do that for when you’ve got kids?’ I totally felt like I had been put onto the shelf. I do think he had my best interests at heart in a way but it didn’t feel like that at the time.
Once my daughter started school I faced some serious playground ‘mum guilt’. If you give yourself ‘mum guilt’ that’s bad enough but there’s nothing like another mum giving you some ‘mum guilt’ too! I’ve been called selfish for wanting to go out and earn a living for my family and the older generation don’t understand why you’re not at home cooking and cleaning like ‘back in their day’ but times have changed and we are so lucky that we are able to go out and have a career.
There’s those times when you can’t pick them up, you’re not back for bedtime, you miss the school art display, or that time I went away on a week-long conference and my son got chicken pox and my poor mum had to look after him. It’s an awful feeling, but there are loads of other moments I've been able to enjoy. I’m lucky to be able to be flexible in my role and can work remotely if needed meaning I can pick them up from school, and in the current situation we find ourselves in this has been amazing – whilst on furlough I home schooled for 3 months, maybe as a new career move I should be teacher!? The flexibility has been amazing for that work life balance and so lucky to have that extra time with Georgia and Oliver.
It’s Not a Race!
Since having my two children I have actually stayed in the same position for the past 8 years. Although I never anticipated to be in this position for so long, it has evolved over that time, in particular in the past 12 months. As our industry continues to be hit by the pandemic, this has meant that I have continued to develop my career and me as a person. I’ve worked on different projects, different sectors and currently really feel like I am starting from scratch. I have seen colleagues progress quicker than me and although sometimes it’s bitter sweet, I will get there eventually, we all progress at different speeds, I have come to realise, it’s not a race!
As I returned from my second maternity leave, I felt like I was ready for a new challenge work wise but there wasn’t really any opportunities available within the company and then I saw the role to be on the board from the FHN, it was just what I was looking for, I was able to develop my own skills and meet such a strong diverse network across all sectors of the industry and I’ve had a great insight into these and it’s good to know that there’s a network of women supporting each other.
So it might not be what I had planned but what it does mean is that I have had the best of both worlds, a career and a family!
My top tips for having both would be to ensure that you are really organized for both work and family life, we are a military operation in our house getting those packed lunches ready!
Knowing when to prioritise family, work and yourself, sometimes we all need time out and some me time and having different things like FHN has really helped me to focus on myself and be me again. Also I never say no to a good old Instagram scroll when the kids have gone to bed.
Make sure you have a strong support network, I am lucky that I have my mum close by and my husband works different hours to me so we can manage our childcare. Having a strong support network at work is also important especially in the current situation we find ourselves in.
Take every opportunity that comes your way, if you’ve been in the same position for a while can you diversify into different areas at work, for example take on a project, mentor someone, volunteer or get on a board of a charity or network. That way you are adding to your experience in different ways so when it does come to the time to move on you’ve got loads of different experiences on your CV. Do you have transferable skills that you can use for your family? I have supported running events for our local school and also our local residents association. Although not sure I would suggest this one for the faint hearted, lots of politics going on there!
I think the most important thing is getting that work life balance right, be selfish when you need to be and don’t listen to those people that disapprove. What works for you, might not work for them and that’s fine. Don’t change, be true to yourself and stick to your goals. There’s plenty of us Mum Boss’s out there doing it for our families and we can all support each other!