Ruth Davidson resigns, but stepping down is hard for the rest of us
So Scottish MP Ruth Davidson has tendered her resignation, and I salute her. During my working career, I saw colleagues who’d just got back from maternity leave being frowned upon for requesting a three-day week. I sensed the awkwardness in the atmosphere when these working mums left early to pick up the kids from nursery, while other disgruntled team members looked on.
All too often, it’s seems like being a career woman, and then mum, is the epitome of success for the modern woman. So for Ruth to say that she doesn’t want to spend hundreds of hours away from her son and partner to fulfil her high profile role, is commendable.
But Ruth’s situation is rather unique, and resignation for the rest of us isn’t so straight-forward.
While she’s left such a highly demanding role, Ruth is lucky enough to be in a position to do some work, at her own pace.
A lucrative life after politics
For someone who was the Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, she will be able to take her pick of the plum consulting and advisory roles, and she will likely be able to work the hours that suit her. If she doesn’t choose this route, she could have the occasional speaking engagement (the offers will be flooding in), which would command a high fee, without the hours required to be a MP. And of course, like many politicians, there is also the fail-safe of writing a book about her experience within the corridors of power.
However, for the rest of us regular mums, the decision to leave the safety, security and familiarity of a career isn’t easy. And unlike a high profile politician, most of us women don’t have lucrative back-up plans.
I’m the first to admit I’m quite lucky. I set up my own PR consultancy in 2015, on the basis that I could work on my own terms. And this worked brilliantly for the first two years.
In my naivety, before I had my daughter, I assumed that I could continue my career in this vein, albeit on a scaled down basis, working around the baby sleeping (I know, I know) and getting some childcare. I figure that being my own boss would mean that I could maintain a career around my daughter and not have to put her in nursery.
I also have this blog, which is widely read, grows each day and makes a small contribution to my bottom line. So I also assumed that this area would grow too, and I would indeed juggle it all, and successfully.
Scaling back – a tough feat for most mums
And then of course I had my daughter, realised that sleep isn’t her forte, and that my hopes of managing it all in a business-as-usual kind of way was futile.
In truth, building and maintaining any sort of business takes a huge amount of effort and time. Which is sadly, what most mums lack. While many may be quick to sell a side-hustle dream that works around the family, the reality is, if you want to work and be a mum, something’s got to give. And whether that something is reducing your workload dramatically, or increasing your childcare, there is always an opportunity cost.
And the cost isn’t always as straightforward as financials, or the emotional pull of being away from children.
Real talk – prolonged breaks from work to look after children affect the grey matter. Not being in an office with colleagues to bounce ideas from can affect growth and learning. As someone who thrives in a bustling office environment, I found the contrast of being at home writing press releases jarring.
I could have stopped working. And I am truly grateful that I don’t need to work right now to make ends meet.
Work keeps you sane
However, I do need to work for my sanity. So for a regular working mum like me, I have to put the hours in, network, build and invest time, even if it’s to work just a little. Unlike a well-known politician, I won’t have lucrative options at my disposal.
And this isn’t a slight on Ruth Davidson’s resignation at all. She’s worked incredibly hard during her time in office, and of course, she’d be leaving a high salary role. But she will have more options post-resignation than the rest of us could dream of.
And that’s my cobbled point, for most of us, it’s kind of all or nothing. We either remain in a job, or we don’t. We work or we stay at home. There’s no backup. No six-figure book deal, and no calls for speaking engagements.
For most of us mere mortals, a resignation means just that, closing a door, and not knowing whether another one will open.
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About the Author
I’m not a makeup artist, chef, lifestyle guru or stylist. I’m just me. And like you, I’m trying to make the best of most things, only I’m sharing my warts-and-all thoughts along the way.