When I was 29 I decided to escape London briefly and go off on my travels. It was then that I met a man who seemed to have all the answers… After a year we decided to get married and have a baby. I still worked full time, heading up campaigns for [fashion designer] Katharine Hamnett and had a tremendous amount of responsibility, but I was turning 30 the following year and felt a slight panic that life might just slip by… In June 2009, my son, Ilias, was born. It was a fairly horrific experience, and took several months to recover from. During that time my partner had a “change of heart” and I found myself alone: a single, working mother.

When Ilias was a few weeks old I returned to work. I didn’t really know what else to do. In hindsight, I wonder if the rejection from his father led me to feel that I must control my other relationships and make sure I still at least had my job. Also I had friends there and it made me feel secure. I was lucky enough to have a boss [Hamnett] who accepted my son in the workplace. He sat in meetings, took his first steps in our office in Highbury, North London.

I went through a lot of feelings of guilt and upset. What had I done? I should be at home watching my son grow, spending hours supporting his development, instead of breastfeeding in an office. But actually in lots of ways it was brilliant – I got to be a working mum and see my son walk for the first time because he was always with me. I have friends who have had to send their babies to childminders from nine months and have had a much harder time.

I was lucky enough to have a boss who accepted my son in the workplace. He sat in meetings and took his first steps in the office

When Ilias was younger my routine consisted of walking to work every day with a pram, battling the rush hour, working a full day and getting home in time to put baby to bed. All to do it again the next day. This was my life, I knew that friends were in relationships that meant they had dads around to support them and could stay at home and go to mums groups and take part in sessions in the park to keep fit, and introduce their children to friends… But I’m one of five children and have always had a lot of support from my family.

When Ilias turned three I decided to put him into full-time nursery. I had managed to look after him in this eccentric way until now and managed to retain some professional credibility, but he needed more mental stimulation. I had to take a week off work to settle him into nursery. It was an emotional time. I was paying a large portion of my salary for other people to look after my child. I felt paranoid that he wouldn’t eat and drink but I saw how much he loved playing there and felt reassured on the odd occasion when he hugged me a little tighter as he went into nursery.

Having my son inspired me, a couple of years later, to think about starting my own company. I felt I’d experienced so many aspects of my industry – I had learnt to negotiate deals, manage design, product management, production, launched clothing lines, managed major partnerships and collaborations… all while raising my son on my own. Surely I could run my own business?

In meetings I feel like I have a sign on my head that says “I’m a Mum and don’t have time to apply my make-up correctly and apologies for the petit filous in my hair”

Since launching The Right Project my routine has changed a lot. Lots of late nights and sleepless nights wondering what am I doing this for? Can I give my son the support he needs as well as supporting my clients and their needs? Is it tracksuit-pants day at school? What time am I supposed to be in Central London for that meeting? Did I give him money for book day? Do I look smart enough? Will I get through my final meeting and back home earlier enough to pick Ilias up from school?

For a long time men looked at me in horror when I mentioned I had a baby. I thought I would never have another relationship again – some people said because I had a son men would find it a challenge and even see him as competition for my affection. But somehow with everything that was going on, I met Will, a superhero of a man who I started dating when Ilias turned three – and this year we got married.

Today we went to a friend’s birthday party. The majority of the mums are stay-at–home and I still feel a sense of envy pass over me as they all chat together, knowing about each other’s lives intimately. They see me as the “cool one” who is doing her own thing but I feel very much not that when I’m at meetings. I feel like I have a sign on my head that says “I am a Mum and don’t have time to apply my make-up correctly and apologies for the petit filous in my hair”.

For a long time men looked at me in horror when I mentioned I had a baby – I thought I would never have another relationship

Now my son is in school and whenever the letter comes home about volunteers for a school trip, I sign up. Apart from my fear that my son will be left on bus or a coach will crash, I want to override his memories of ‘mummy always working’ so that he will remember these experiences and me being with him. I’d figured that having my own business would mean I could take holidays when I pleased. In fact now I feel more guilty when not responding to clients’ needs, or tweeting, instagram-ing and using every other form of social media to look busy and successful.

Facebook makes me feel under this pressure to look like a woman who can do it all. You can’t help but look at images of others lives, comparing how happy and blissful other peoples lives look. Beautiful homes, (tidy) happy children, make-up applied correctly…

Every day, to balance out those feelings I try to do little things to make me feel connected… massaging my sons feet and hands at night. I have even started to teach him to meditate. He thinks I am bonkers, I think he’s the best. I’ve also found over the past five years that when I know I desperately must finish an email I pass some kind of tense energy onto my son and that it will take me twice as long to get him to sleep. I then snap and make matters all the worse. I have learnt to breathe and accept that I can’t do it all at once.

therightproject.org

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