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Finding my balance for International Women's Day


The theme for International Women’s Day on 8 March is ‘Balance for better’, calling for a gender-balanced world. But what does that mean to your average Hoxby?

I came across an interview this week about the film On The Basis Of Sex. It’s about the inspirational US Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has spent her life working for gender equality.

I’m not going to tell you all about Ginsburg here, though you should definitely look her up. But a quote from her really struck me as the crux of what I want to write about:

“Women will have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.”

Nearly two years ago I had my daughter. An event that has, unsurprisingly, affected every aspect of my life and made me realise some pretty stark truths about the world of work.

Mum and child

First, when you have a baby, it’s still widely expected that the woman will be the primary carer. Therefore they will take the majority of time off after the baby is born and work flexibly (if at all) thereafter. Despite proudly calling myself a feminist, I’ll admit I expected that of myself. I saw it as part and parcel of being a mum.

Second, that returning to work is a minefield. For me, it initially seemed impossible to find a job that would meet my own expectations for myself and my career, while also allowing me to spend what I deemed a reasonable amount of time with this amazing tiny person we’ve created.

Third, that the expectations put on men with regards to how they prioritise work and family are a major block to women achieving equality, both at work and at home. Essentially, exactly what Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke of so succinctly.

My husband and I both strongly believe in sharing all our responsibilities. We’re both working, we both want to be involved parents and we share out the cooking and household tasks.

But despite wanting to balance the parenting equally between us, we aren’t managing to do that in practice. My husband’s job is not flexible. His company are pretty old-school and he’s in the office 9-5, five days a week.

This inflexibility isn’t unusual, particularly for men, and I have to admit I hadn’t given it much thought until it began to impact on us. My husband has voiced to me on many occasions his frustration that when our daughter was born he only had three weeks with her before going back to the office. And the expectation was that, for him, things were pretty much business as usual as soon as he was back.

He’s also sad that he doesn’t regularly get more time with her during the week than a snatched hello in the morning and cuddles before bed in the evening. He feels he’s missing out. And he’s right.

Dad and child

When it came to my job, I realised commuting to Manchester, even part-time, just wasn’t going to work for us. I wouldn’t have been able to see my daughter (awake!) on the days I had to go to the office, and that just didn’t seem right to me.

All these considerations led me to freelancing, but it wasn’t an easy choice. The insecurity of having no fixed income terrified me (and still does, quite frankly). There were many times I thought I’d have to give up and try to find something permanent but flexible or part-time. From looking around, it seemed that would have meant a serious pay cut.

Eventually though, thanks to Hoxby and a couple of very flexible clients, I’ve been lucky enough to find something that works - and I’m incredibly grateful for that.

I work from home four days a week. Two of those days my daughter is at home too, but looked after by her grandparents (although mealtimes and nappy changes are usually still my bag). Two days a week she’s with a childminder round the corner. And then we spend Fridays together.

This sounds pretty balanced - and it’s far better than many people manage, I know. But the downside is that I never stop. I feel like I have to be able to switch from work mode to mum mode in seconds (literally!), and I rarely have any adult conversation, unless there’s a conference call.

All this, I’m sure, will sound completely familiar to other working mums. It can be fulfilling, exhilarating and fun - but it can also be lonely, isolating and exhausting.

My husband and I have often discussed the fact that if he had more balance then I would too. He would share more fully in the daily joys and trials of bringing up our little girl, and I could take some of the pressure off myself to be everything to everyone, at all times.

This is why the Hoxby Collective means a lot to me. Being a Hoxby Associate has connected me to so many like-minded people. People who don’t just want flexible working for themselves, but for everyone. Regardless of gender, parenting status, age, race, disability…you get the idea.

Ultimately, my husband and I want our daughter to grow up in a world where she expects gender balance, at work and at home. And we know if we want that, then we have to lead by example. We haven’t quite managed to find our balance yet, but knowing that companies like Hoxby are out there changing the status quo gives me hope that we will.

International Women’s Day is March 8. This year’s theme is #BalanceForBetter - if we better the balance, we better the world. For more information, visit their website here.

Written by Kam Arkinstall. Kam is a Hoxby and communications and marketing expert with a passion for digital. With over 10 years’ experience working in both the charity and private sector, she’s a ruthless editor and hater of corporate jargon.