I have a beautiful boy, and gratitude for the things I have – but I am so very tired and angry

In 2019 I had finished my degree and was feeling healthy, happy and hopeful.

Despite few jobs in my chosen field, and despite having to job search whilst staying on my friend’s 3 year old’s bunk bed. I felt like the world was my oyster.

I started office temping and eventually found a job I really enjoyed at a hedge fund. It was a small team, hectic and required flexibility across all roles. I often worked late, but I enjoyed it because I got on well with the team, the pay was good and I felt valued.

I found out I was pregnant with my first child just before lockdown hit. On paper the company did everything to support me. Wfh was actually a blessing. I didn’t have to run around, or dress up for the office. I was focused and enjoyed my work. I started maternity leave one week before I gave birth. Whilst my pregnancy was without complications, it was made more difficult by the fact that my partner works abroad.

After the birth I contracted sepsis from mastitis. Things were touch and go but I eventually made it out the other side with a huge scar on my breast from where surgeons had to cut away necrotic flesh. In the following weeks of recovery I found out my mother had terminal cancer. I was overwhelmed, isolated, had a less than present and supportive partner and my mental health suffered severely.

Through it all I was determined to go back to work. Months prior to me getting pregnant I’d overheard a conversation between two male colleagues about a lady in another team who was going on maternity leave. When one told the other her expected return date the other male said, “yeah, they all say they’re going to return, then they don’t.” I felt I had something to prove. More than that I WANTED to go back to work and regain a little of the identity I felt I’d lost.

My partner and I split up and without any other option I moved back in with my parents. He pays for nursery and contributes a fair amount. However, I live a 1.5 hour commute away from work. It costs half my salary just to get to work. As a temporary measure, they let me shave 1hr off my work day, on the understanding I return to 9hrs in the new year. I leave at the crack of dawn without seeing my 15MO. I often return when he’s gone to bed. My father (in his 70’s) is managing the mornings and night feeds with baby, whilst caring for my sick mother. I’m exhausted. My hours in the office have decreased. My work load has increased. I’ve been encouraged by work to ‘readdress my work/life balance’ and think about whether returning in the new year is something I really want to do. If I can’t fulfil the hours, I don’t have the luxury of making that choice. And I’m someone that has a supportive family network!!

I’m trying to make the best of things with my child’s dad. We’re trying to be kind to one another. However, it galls me to think that his living situation hasn’t changed. His career trajectory and wage haven’t changed. I will have to leave my job, live on less and pick up the pieces when my son is at school age, as well as being the primary caregiver.

I was aware of the gender pay gap, but never had I experienced it’s debilitating affects. I always thought I had choices and could do what I wanted in life. This is the reality. The choices and freedoms are taken away. Usually by men who can’t or don’t want to understand the mechanics behind the inequities women face. The happy go lucky person I was just after graduating is gone. I have a beautiful boy, and gratitude for the things I have. But I am so very tired and angry.


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