Family life: Mum to one year old Luisa, recently relocated home to Belfast with long term partner (and baby-Daddy) Matt
Work life: Freelance Social Media Manager at Social Sparkle and blogger at Hi Baby
The publishing industry is known to be small and insular. It’s difficult to move up the ladder and, like so many sectors of the media world, requires it’s newest recruits to work for very little for a long time before they ‘prove themselves’. As a result, it can feel a hostile environment for even the brightest of rising stars.
It was slap bang in the middle of all this that Hannah, a Publishing Assistant at a relatively small company in Edinburgh, and boyfriend Matt found out they were unexpectedly pregnant.
Hannah was surrounded by a team of incredibly strong, talented, career-driven women. A baby, to them, was simply an inconvenience, including the company Director who had no children of her own.
There was one other lady in the office with a family; an Editor that worked part time with two kids who was also going through a divorce. If she ever had to leave work because of family duties, it was met with an eye roll behind her back, or a snide comment once she’d left.
Once Hannah found herself pregnant, she felt like an outsider, worried what the team were saying about her behind her back.
I felt insecure in my job; I felt like they might not have my back when I went on Maternity Leave. And seeing how they’d treated the other lady with a family, I knew it wasn’t all in my head. I felt incredibly pressured.
No-one ever said anything ‘un-PC’, they were never openly hostile towards her new status as ‘baby pending’, but it was the little things; she began to feel undermined in little ways, colleagues made her feel like an inconvenience. The atmosphere was palpable. Hannah felt unwelcome, unsupported and ultimately, like they were waiting for a reason to push her out.
Despite the fact that, in the UK, pregnant women are entitled to take time away from their work to attend antenatal appointments, Hannah decided to use her annual leave to cover her appointments.
I knew if I’d said anything, or had an attitude about anything, I’d have been dismissed as ‘the stupid pregnant girl’.
She didn’t feel she could request the time off or ‘trouble’ anyone at the office with her appointments.
As Maternity Leave approached, Hannah began thinking about what happened when it came time to return to work a year later. She looked at all the options – the business already offered part time to other employees, so it was reasonable and viable request. But her salary would only pay for Luisa’s childcare, which didn’t sit right with Hannah; ‘We’d have had no money. And why work to only pay for childcare? I also started to question why I wanted to return somewhere I felt unwelcome, with a bad atmosphere.’
With no family and little support network in Scotland, once Hannah was on Maternity Leave, her and Matt made the decision to move back home to Belfast. It was at this point Hannah started to look at alternative career options.
I had started blogging during my pregnancy as a personal diary. I’d started making a bit of money from the blog, so I started thinking I could build it up while we burned through the rest of my Statutory Maternity Pay. I’d seen others from the blogging community had built on their blogging experience to dabble in PR or become social media managers, so I thought ‘I might have a go at that…’ As long as I could make enough to replace that, I knew we’d be able to keep going.
Hannah looked at the then relatively new Digital Mums course, but couldn’t afford the nearly £1000 fee. Instead, she joined a few freelancer groups on Facebook and started asking questions, beginning to understand how to find clients, how to ensure they paid her invoices and that she was offering a service people definitely wanted and/or needed.
Off the back of this, Chelle McCann, founder of Social Sparkle – an agency specialising in maternity and parent outreach – got in touch saying she was looking for an intern. As a parent blogger, Hannah was perfectly placed to take up the role and grabbed the opportunity with both hands. After three months, she became a full time freelance Social Sparkler.
Social Sparkle is powered by a team of mums behind the scenes, all working remotely from home around their families. The business was built around the idea of flexible working and families coming first. Hannah described the team as “incredibly supportive – everyone’s got each other’s backs”.
She described a situation this week where she ended up manning five client’s social accounts at once due to an admin error in shift scheduling.
I had one hand on my computer, one on my phone and Luisa emptying the cupboards beside me!
The next day, the team all stepped in to give her the day off, recognising how hectic her shift would have been and how she’d single handedly saved the day.
The team works on a trust basis that it’ll all just even out in the end. I go above and beyond because I know they would do the same for me. Everyone’s got each others’ backs.
This system works for Social Sparkle because of the small, close knit nature of the team. But there’s definitely lessons to be learned for larger businesses – if you give a little, employees give a lot and just because someone has family commitments doesn’t mean they are any less able to complete their duties at work.
For more information about some of the businesses and opportunities mentioned in this interview, follow the links below;
Hi Baby – Hannah’s personal parenting blog