OK I am beginning to see it now. I am NOT the only first time Mum to go back to work earlier than she would have liked and NOT the first woman to attempt to continue breastfeeding whilst working full time. And I am NOT the only barrister who has got on with life at the bar and managed to be a Mum as well. He’s almost 7 months now and I think I am coming out of the other side of that overwhelming sense that I am the only one in this boat – the feeling (overwhelming if not objectively justifiable) that no-one has ever done this before.
I don’t suppose the number of women barristers who return to work whilst still breastfeeding is very high but I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to have learnt over the past few months that there are others in this job with the determination to juggle this along with all the other demands of parenthood – fitting in the impossible in not enough time is kind of what we do best (I met one female colleague today who reminisced with me about having her baby brought into the court building for feeding – thank god for the invention of the electric pump!). Not just because it’s the kind of vocation that attracts determined people but also because my female predecessors at the bar had to be double determined to forge a career at the stuffy old bar even without having to worry about baby.
Well, what seemed like a huge big deal a few months ago is just part of the routine now. But what does still remain utterly remarkable my wonderful and ever-changing son. Because of him I rush to get home at the end of the day and find out what new thing he has done. Because of him there is a completely new dimension to my working life: a better understanding of my parent-clients, of the needs of the children at the centre of the court cases and an ever-deepening commitment to this job I do. I hope he will be proud of me when he is old enough to understand why Mummy is always home late.
PS For anyone out there who is about to embark on the journey of motherhood whilst practising at the bar – don’t let the midwife tell you that baby will have to go on the bottle as soon as you go back to work just because you can’t promise to express every three hours – it’s not for everyone (as they say of prospective barristers: ‘don’t do it unless you are really sure it’s what you want’), but if you have the gumption to have qualified and built a practise at the bar then you have the gumption to manage this…And a squirt in the eye to anyone who says otherwise.