Before I had children, I always thought I’d return to the job I enjoyed and be one of those Mums who managed to combine the two.
I’d been working in the corporate world (at a big-name bank) for 11 years before I had my daughter Kate and had worked my way up to a position I loved. I had a great team and was negotiating contracts upwards of £12 million pounds each which were bringing in big bucks for the bank. I was sure they’d support me when it came to being a working Mum.
I fully anticipated picking up where I’d left off but having had my daughter, I started to dread going back – a familiar story and one I’m sure many others have experienced too.
I decided to ask if I could go back part-time and that’s when I had my first big shock.
I found myself in the strange world of the bank’s part-time staff – a world where your opinion no longer counted, you weren’t involved in anything and you were given a series of meaningless tasks to keep you occupied.
Disappointed wasn’t the word. I’d been bringing in millions for the bank by selling their bad debt and now I wasn’t even invited to some team meetings. Demoralised, I started looking into ways to escape and, in breaks and lunchtimes, started setting up what would eventually become my Virtual Assistant company.
But when I became pregnant for the second time with my son Daniel, things were put on hold. I enjoyed my maternity leave and decided to go back for one last try.
I found myself filing the paperwork for the contracts I’d previously negotiated. It was humiliating, and I was miserable. Around that time a friend also lent me a copy of The Top Five Regrets of The Dying by Bronnie Ware and the one that struck a chord with me was ‘I wish I’d been happier’.
This was exactly the kick up the backside I needed. So after a quick consultation with my husband (who thankfully backed me), I quit!
And at first, it was absolutely terrifying. I was scared about what I’d do for money and I was terrified of failing but I was also exhilarated and felt more alive than I had in months – it felt amazing.
Since then I’ve built a successful Virtual Assistant business and I’m so passionate about Mums taking control and finding work that suits them, that I set up My VA Business to mentor others through the process.
It’s so rewarding seeing others discover that there is life after a big career and to prove you can use your brain once you’ve had children!
Now I’d be lying if I said the journey from that first brave step to where I am today has been easy – I’ve made too many mistakes to mention, felt the pressure of having the buck stop with me and had some difficult clients at times. And while it’s far more flexible than working in the corporate world, it isn’t always as laid back as people may think. Yes, I enjoy the fabulous perk of being able to work from literally anywhere. But the reality is that I rarely switch off completely – there are times when you’re out for the day with the kids that you do wish you could switch off your phone for a while.
Having said that, given the two options, I’d choose this way of life over my old job every time.
And what has all this taught me? Well firstly I wish I’d done it sooner and not doubted myself so much. You can be brainwashed into thinking there are no other options and you must get back on the career ladder but it’s just not true.
I’ve also learnt that making mistakes helps you grow and along the journey you learn what works for you as well as what doesn’t. There’s a funny parallel with raising a child – you do your best, some things work and some don’t but you keep going and you get there in the end!
Author: Sarah Rugg set up her Virtual Assistant business, Vi-VA , 13 years ago and is now using her experience to mentor others who are starting a VA business. As the founder of My VA Business, she is passionate about helping other Mums discover the benefits of running their own successful VA business and makes sure they avoid the pitfalls that she encountered herself. You can access Sarah’s free Training on setting up as a Virtual Assistant here.