International Women’s Day: Returning to work as a mum

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’ve asked two team members at different stages of their careers to share something connected to their identity as women that has impacted on their working lives.

Louise Fisher, Baxendale’s Legal Manager, shows that it is possible to be both Legal Manager and mum to four young children, especially if you choose the right employer.

Louise Fisher

Last year I was grappling with whether to return to my profession after a career break during which I had my family. I was a corporate lawyer and family business consultant for five years and loved it. I’d been a full-time mum for eight years and I loved that too. My family was complete, I was almost 40 and I figured that it was now or never.

But I had doubts. Would it be possible to juggle four children and their array of after school activities, while stepping back to the workplace and making a meaningful contribution? I wondered whether I was in the middle of a midlife crisis.

I used Daniel Levinson’s model of adult development to consciously assess where I was in my life. He believed that the “midlife crisis” was a natural and common part of adult development. He also believed that it need not be a crisis.

In Levinson’s model every adult’s life journey follows a pattern of stable periods followed by times of transition. During a transition phase, an individual is moving from one developmental stage to another and uses the transition to reflect on the choices he or she made in the previous phase to make changes to those life structures for the next stage. For me personally, the traditional Settling Down stage was predominantly about marriage and family. I built my personal goals and life structures around this. Being a full-time mum has been extremely rewarding (the sleepless nights perhaps not so much) but the Mid-Life Transition, as Levinson said it would, gave me an opportunity to reflect on the enjoyment and fulfilment that this life structure has provided me with over almost a decade.

That period of reflection and assessment showed me that it was time to update and to some extent change my personal goals and ambitions for the next stage of my life. Could I have it all?

Levinson also talks of an individual’s focus on “the dream”: a person’s vision for his or her ideal life and aspirational goals and ambitions for themselves. For many women there’s a conflict between the a dream of profession and occupation and that of bringing up a family.

I felt that conflict in my decision to give up work to bring up my family: have I made the right decision to give up work completely? Will my world become too small? Will I have an opportunity to go back to work? Will I forget everything I learned? But at the Mid-Life transition, my dream no longer felt like one of conflict between work and family but one brimming with opportunity for work and family to co-exist.

Fast forward 9 months and I have just completed my 3 month probation period as Baxendale Advisory’s Legal Manager. This career path felt like a great fit for me. I found that the approach Baxendale takes to work life fits with my expectations as a more mature new starter. I want to make a difference. Over the last 15 years Baxendale has helped more than 100 businesses become employee owned, and it’s mainly around this market – though we work in other areas too – that I personally focus my work.

Flexible working

Baxendale is employee owned which meant from the moment I joined I became a co-owner in the business (we call ourselves Partners). The EO ethos allows us to take ownership and control of the work we do and the impact we have. As co-owners we are encouraged to be innovative and bring new ideas to our team meetings. Financial and strategic discussions don’t just happen at board level – employee owners are encouraged to get involved here too.

I’ve come to realise it’s really important that the company you work for is flexible if you’re to be a mother of four as well as a legal manager. There are a lot of new parents in the team (who are mainly male colleagues, actually!) and different personal circumstances are accommodated – for example having the option to work flexible hours or from non-office-based locations. I know that more businesses are thinking about what people want and need from their working lives, but it’s still not certain employers will be tolerant of child sick days and other unseen demands.

We are a certified B Corp, demonstrating our commitment to use business as a force for good. Our focus on how we treat our people has resulted in us being named in the top 10% of B Corps for workers worldwide for the last two years. Baxendale’s commitment to its employees has been evident to me over the last few months. I have felt supported and encouraged by my line manager and welcomed into and made feel part of the team even though I spend the majority of my week working remotely in Glasgow, 400 miles away from the office at London Bridge.

Baxendale’s inclusive and supportive culture combined with a flexible approach to working hours and location has allowed me to step back into the workplace and begin to make a meaningful contribution.

Reflecting on what I wanted before coming back to work helped me slot back into exactly the right place for me, now. Being able to be both mother and career woman, I’m living the dream with Baxendale and am ready for the next stage of life.

If your place of work is leading the way in being inclusive for all, whatever the dreams and aspirations of individuals, we would love to hear more. You can tell us your stories by emailing hello@baxendale.co.uk.

Want to work for us? Visit our careers page.

Louise Fisher

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