This story first appeared on August 9 2012
Before having children I worked 12-14 hour days, often seven days a week. And I loved it. I was in the job I’d dreamed about as a teenager and I was thrilled to spend every day there. But something changes when you have a child. It’s called the need to parent: to spend as many nights as possible at home with your baby, having put in a solid eight hours in the office. My son was six months old when I chose to go back to work.
I was extremely fortunate that on my return my new boss was a parent and perhaps more importantly a mother who had been in my shoes a couple of decades earlier. At 5pm each day she would whisper to me: “you have a new baby, go home”. It was the permission I needed to leave; the only possible way that I could have left the building at that time without feeling guilty.
That was 18 years ago. It seems ridiculous looking back that I had worked the equivalent of two weeks each week for five years and made millions of dollars profit for my company as editor of Dolly magazine and then felt guilty about working only the hours I was actually paid to do. But when you are a new mum and feeling vulnerable in every way, you don’t sit back and do the sums. I actually sacrificed the job I loved and also nearly my career when I went on maternity leave.
One of the most exciting and important parts of the Dolly editor job was seeing new bands in the evenings. Sometimes they were even impromptu. Like the time we received a tip-off from a record company source that Michael Hutchence would appear at a Mary-Jo Starr gig that night. When you are child-free it’s easy to get to almost anywhere without warning. With child: almost impossible, even with planning.
As Dolly editor I had to put in those appearances so I could report back to our readers. The mystique of the magazine was in part from creating a sense that I knew the people that we wrote about.
I realised that I wouldn’t be able to get to those events with a new baby so I informed my publisher that I would be resigning from the role but hoped to return to the company in a ‘more suitable’ role – my words. I’m still shocked that I almost threw my career on my own sword. I can’t explain why I did this.
Thankfully, then editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan Pat Ingram asked me to join her as managing editor and treated me as either she would have liked to have been treated or was treated. She effectively saved my career and sanity.
Have you left a role due to time-based demands? Were you able to turn the situation into a positive?