Inspirational mum of one, Sophie Simonsen, balances her shift work as a midwife with being a single parent. She tells us how she manages to juggle her work and family life...
Tell us about your family
I have a 19 month old son called Bobby, who is a joy and a terror in equal measure!
When and why did you decide to become a midwife?
Ever since I knew that I'd have to work for the rest of my life I'd said I was going to be a midwife, so from maybe around 8 years old. I didn't fully understand what the job entailed, even to the day I started my training, I just knew that I was going to do it. I used to watch gory childbirth programmes on tv in the morning before school and was just amazed by it. I turned up for university and just thought "I'm just going to do whatever they throw at me" and luckily it's worked out!
At the moment, I work on the labour ward. I had to go part-time when I had my son because childcare is difficult to find for 12.5 hour shifts so I do two shifts a week, days and nights, and squeeze in overtime where I can.
How has motherhood affected your career?
I would love to still work full-time because I miss my job, and for the moment, I have to stick in one place and not go for roles I would enjoy more because I'm limited with childcare, but that's okay for a while. I'm so lucky to have a career that feels more like a hobby than a job and I look forward to going to work every time.
I have to say becoming a mother has opened my eyes - I had a really difficult journey emotionally through pregnancy and for months after I had him and it's made me very conscious of the emotional rollercoaster that the journey brings with it. Also, my son went to special care for a short while after he was born and that was the toughest thing ever, so I really feel for the mums I care for now when that happens to them too. There is nothing worse than seeing your baby unwell and not being able to hold them in those precious early days.
How do you manage juggling a career with motherhood?
The shift times definitely make it hard - when I first went back to work I thought "how have thousands of women managed this before me?" It's crazy working and being a mother; balancing the guilt of leaving them against the need to go out and be your own person and earn money to keep things ticking over.
There's no easy way - if I worked 9-5 I'd feel like I was missing out on spending whole days with him, but then with the long shifts it's awful having to leave him for so many hours at a time.
Childcare is a major obstacle, especially since I'm on my own now. I know of one nursery that's open 24 hours that a lot of doctors use for night shifts but the cost is just incredible and I don't want him to sleep somewhere strange while I leave him. It would certainly make it easier to have more flexibility at work: set days each week would make it a little easier or being able to self-rota like some places do.
What's your top tip for mums on maternity leave?
Find other mums with kids of similar ages; it will help you so much to have a sounding board when you're having your crazy mum moments. I met another mum through Netmums Meet-A-Mum board and her daughter was two weeks older than Bobby and we spent at least one day a week together while we were on maternity leave. It's great for those days that you feel like you can't stay cooped up in doors. Take advantage of voucher codes and try and get out the house for at least a couple of hours every day.
Make us feel better about ourselves. What's your biggest mum fail?
So I had a really good one the other day - horrendous story - I was in the park with Bobby and it was empty so I was just letting him run around. I thought I'd take the time to go on the swings and was getting really in to it and then Bobby ran behind me. I knew I was going to hit him and there was a second of total panic and I tried to stop the swing with my feet but caught him anyway. He goes flying, fairly certain he skidded along the floor on his face. I was just so glad no adults were around to see my horrific parenting fail. He was fine after two minutes but I had to take him to a family wedding a few days later with half his face covered in scabs which looked great in all the wedding photos!
Are there any other mums who inspire you?
I meet women every day at work - colleagues and patients - who amaze me with their strength and determination. Every woman is inspiring in her own way and as I get to know people quite intimately in a short space of time I get the privilege of finding out so much about peoples' lives. Whether that's the mum at 45 whose finally having her first baby after 8 failed IVF attempts or the unsupported 17 year old who is breastfeeding like a pro against all the odds.
I also have to say, stay at home mums particularly inspire me. I really thought I'd love to do that, but now I'm here I've realised I need to work mostly to get away from it all, I just do not have the unlimited patience I thought I would, but that's okay.
Where do you hang out with your little one?
We go to the park a lot - Bobby is such an awesome climber and is so adventurous, and we don't have a garden as we live in a flat so I try and take him to new places to explore and wear him out a bit! We enjoy soft play too and practically live in Bromley town centre wandering around the shops!