How growing a baby is helping me grow my business
In this article written for International Women’s Day, Vicky Pritchard, Co-Founder of MuddyWellies, takes a closer look at attitudes towards pregnant women in the workplace.
A lot of women are searching for some stability amongst the chaos and exhaustion of pregnancy – and we often hope to find that in our jobs. Work is somewhere we can find a pocket of normality, where we’re not just a ‘pregnant’ person, but a key contributor to a business.
A few years ago, there wasn’t a lot of understanding for what women face while we’re pregnant. I know there are plenty of women that have experienced discrimination when it comes to career progression and silly comments about being able to complete their work, and that lack of compassion and humanity truly baffles me.
From my own experience, I’ve felt so guilty in the past for having to take days off, to take care of mine and my baby’s health. But in hindsight, why did I? I certainly don’t with baby number two! If someone on your team were feeling really unwell, you would want them to rest and feel better – and it’s no different with pregnancy. But I understand that it’s easy to let comments lead you to blame yourself and cause you to put extra pressure on yourself to perform… and overdo it as a result.
Pregnancy should not be seen as a hinderance, just as much as issues with your mental or physical health. And, similarly, we should allow pregnant women a little more flexibility when it comes to work. Right now, my growth app is telling me I have a bump the size of a lion cub. It’s slightly terrifying and quite painful at times, but it doesn’t take a toll on my work. My team trust me, and I trust my own abilities, to manage it all – just in a slightly different way than we’re all used to. It’s such a weight off my shoulders when I know I can take the morning off and complete my work in my own time.
But that’s not always the case…
However, sometimes I feel the complete opposite. Yes, I can have a flexible day, most of the time. But we are a small team, and with birth looming, I do feel the strain on our ambitious growth plans. I feel the atmosphere change when we rock up to a new business and they notice the bump. We know that we’ll have to work harder to show them that it won’t impact their business. We know it’s just a baby, after all, but there’s a stigma – an attitude we need to dispel. And I’ve been thoroughly enjoying proving to the world that carrying a child is irrelevant to the quality of work we’re providing at MuddyWellies. If anything, I’m more determined than ever to make things work (even if I do need a lie-down and an M&S chocolate milkshake at the end of the day).
We’ve also heard great things from leadership about how they view their pregnant employees. Recently, we chatted to the CEO of one of our clients, who truly recognised their strong working mums, voicing how much harder they worked – and that it was clear to see how much they wanted to prove themselves. So, it’s amazing to see that women’s resilience and tenacity is appreciated by senior management.
But it’s unfortunate that not everyone has this experience. I hate the fact that we still have to think about making the workplace better for women full stop. But in my current state, I’m really feeling for expectant mothers and even those returning to work, who feel like they don’t get the support they need or have their abilities doubted.
I feel like my big corporate days contributed to that feeling of needing to push or prove myself. Being the only female on the exec, things did feel different once I fell pregnant with my first child. But I can honestly say we have come a long way since then, and it’s refreshing to see how much more flexible the workplace and management can be. When employers are thinking about making their workplace better for women, they keep expectant mothers in mind and celebrate them for the hard work they put in. It all comes back to flexibility, recognition and trust: trust your people to get the job done and they will excel.
This time around, pregnancy doesn’t change anything for me. I see our business as our baby too, and I’m fully committed to both. In fact, I’m really going to miss it when I’m on maternity – but I’m also extremely grateful for the undisrupted, quality time I’ll get to spend with my little one. I can’t wait to be a mum again; I can’t wait for all the chaos and fun of juggling two children (maybe ask me that question again in about four months…). Equally, I can’t wait to be back at work – I believe it makes me a better mum because I am remaining true to the two sides of my personality – businesswoman and mother.