When Rachael Tajbhai, 30, from Nottingham, fell pregnant she knew she wanted to leave the 9 to 5 world behind but she had no idea how to accomplish that. That's when she came across our innovative social media training. Read on for Rachael’s journey to finding a third way; continuing her career but also being the mum she wanted to be...
Preparing for motherhood is an exciting time; from wondering about the practicalities of nappies and night feeds to considering the enormity of suddenly being responsible for another whole human being. Forever.
When I fell pregnant with my son Elijah, now 11 months, I knew I wanted to be the kind of parent that my mum had been. She was the constant in my life, always there for me and my older autistic brother, Christopher, 33. But mum had stopped working all together and I couldn’t imagine doing that.
I wanted to keep my career as well as being at home with my children. My husband Shafiq, 33, a project manager, and I had always been equals financially and I didn’t want that to change either. My job was very digitally-focused so it should have been possible to work remotely but it frustrated me that most roles still seemed to be office based.
I worked at George at Asda for five years as part of the team that launched the clothing website. My most recent job, before maternity, was managing and designing websites for a large hospitality company. I loved the fast paced digital world and I wanted to keep working in it.
But my bosses had already made it clear that part time or flexible working was not an option before I was pregnant. They just weren’t that sort of company and people had to be in the office, all the time. If I was going back, it was 9-5, five days a week (and then throw in a one hour commute each way). This so wasn’t what I wanted my future to look like.
So the plan was for me to take my year’s maternity and then somehow either persuade them for part time or find another option. Shafiq and others suggested that with my digital skills I should just go freelance. But the idea of going it alone terrified me. I’d always worked for big companies - how would I get the clients? How would I set myself up? I knew I needed support to do something that major.
In June 2015 Elijah came into the world and inevitably the craziness of tiny baby land encompassed me. But even then as I sat up at night feeding, I had the 9-5 conundrum whirring around my brain. I dreaded getting to the end of my maternity leave and realising I had no choice but to go back to rigid hours, expensive childcare and barely seeing Elijah.
I became slightly obsessed, in that new mum way, of googling freelance courses. I thought if I learned the skills I could go it alone. Then one evening, on yet another night feed, I came across an article about Digital Mums.
It honestly felt too good to be true. When I read about the women doing the course it was like reading about myself. Yes I knew a bit about digital but I had no formal training in social media. What really appealed was the fact that the training would also teach me how to set myself up as a freelancer with their extra Do The Hustle course. I liked the idea of having a live client and a campaign to run. Everyone also spoke about the support you got from other Digital Mums through the #DMCollective. The idea of all these like minded women fighting each other’s corner, really appealed to me.
I figured out if I started the course in November when Elijah was five months old, I would actually be qualified as a freelance social media manager just as my maternity leave was finishing. The course would need at least 15 hours a week dedicated to it. Was I utterly mad signing up while on maternity leave?
I thought long and hard and decided it could totally work. I’d study when Elijah slept and in the evenings when Shafiq came home. I knew it would be manic but the chance of a whole new lifestyle was too good to miss.
And so in November 2015 I took the plunge. I would grab any opportunity when Elijah was sleeping or feeding and use it to study. I’m not going to pretend it was easy but it honestly worked. I had to be organised but I would have lessons ready to read on my iPad just as soon Elijah started feeding. He was a bit of a night feeder so I’d use that time to study and research. Other nights I would work until the early hours on assignments only to then hear the baby monitor go off just as I was going to bed.
The support from Digital Mums was amazing - we were put into peer groups with other mums and would have weekly hangouts as well as speaking to each other daily online. My campaign was a big success, with my Twitter followers growing to 2385!
I also grew in confidence myself as I realised quite how much knowledge I had gained. I loved supporting the other mums in my group with their campaigns and helping where I could.
And I did still get to do the usual baby things with Elijah too. I would meet my NCT friends in the park for a picnic, I just wouldn’t stay quite as long so I could fit in studying. Yes I missed out on time with Shafiq (and exercise!) but something had to give and I knew it wasn’t forever.
Signing up to Digital Mums gave me such a boost. In fact when I heard about a local webmaster role updating websites with contents and graphics I decided to apply for it. It was full time but I suggested I could do 16 hours a week from home - Digital Mums was already teaching me to #DoTheHustle! Everything I learned about client relationships on the course I was able to put into practice. Granted it was manically busy, but I was just so determined to pull off this new kind of work life.
And it totally worked. In May I spoke to my old employers about not going back. They were really understanding. I knew financially I needed more than 16 hours work, but it was a good start. Since graduating, I am training to be a Digital Mums course tutor on the social media manager course. I really have found #workthatworks.
I think a lot of people thought I was crazy to retrain as part of my maternity leave. But now lots of my mum friends are about to go back to their old jobs and are having to think about child care and commutes. I’m lucky that I can fit my freelance work around Elijah. There are plenty of late nights and early mornings, but luckily the grandparents help out too. This will all change as Elijah gets bigger and goes to preschool. As I’m just building myself up as a freelancer I want to take any opportunities that come my way. Thanks to Digital Mums I feel I can be the mum I have always wanted to be - just I get to have my career too!