5 Mar 2011

Getting Back to Work

After eleven years as a stay-at-home mum to two sons, I never thought I would be able to get back into work. My old glamorous career as a television producer and newsreader seemed far behind me.
I’d stopped work aged thirty, after I had two babies in quick succession. My younger son had health problems; he was diagnosed at 13 months with Reflex Anoxic Seizures – a heart rhythm problem that results in severe fainting. There was just no way I could leave him with anyone else as he could have up to three seizures a day.
I joined a patient support group – STARS (www.stars.org.uk) and began to help them out with their publicity and newsletters on a voluntary basis. This led to me learning new skills in web design as I assisted with their website as well. In 2004, I worked with the charity as a volunteer on a campaign to change a key health policy about heart rhythm disorders and felt like I was getting back into my stride.
Then disaster struck. Within the space of a year, both my sons, who had always been difficult to handle, were diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. I focused my attention on finding the right educational solution for them and getting them statemented. I wrote long documents for the Education Authority in support of my application and I was successful both times. We even moved house to be closer to their new special school.
I was exhausted, but I still need an outlet for my creativity and to stimulate my brain. I completed a novel, now released in print and as an ebook, This Last Summer, and started doing some low-level freelancing using the skills I had learned volunteering.
Then one day, I was walking down the street in town when I passed a recruitment agency board looking for a one day a week PR. I passed it by and went into a shop. But as I rifled though the racks, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I could do that, I thought. But, another voice said, who would hire you after all these years?
I ignored the second voice, marched out of the store and into the recruitment agency. I signed up and applied, listing my voluntary work, my work experience before I had children, my post-graduate journalism qualification and my undergraduate business and publicity qualification. As I wrote them down, it dawned on me that I was more than just a mother, I was an experienced professional as well who just happened to have been doing something else important for the past decade.
Reader, I got the job! And to cap it off, when I asked the charity I volunteered for, for a reference, they offered me another one day a week paid job as their Public Relations Officer as well. The other days, when my boys are at school, I spend writing and have now published a new romance ebook, Sweet Seduction.
The truth is, when you’ve been out of work for a while, your confidence is knocked. You spend so much time in jeans that wearing smart clothes seems like it’s not really you. But my experience shows that if you make the effort while at home to keep up your skills and even learn new ones, there is hope that you can back into the workforce doing something that you have a talent for. Volunteering is a great way to do this as well and looks good on your CV.