This month, DNA have interviewed our very own Natasha Stark, DNA Associate Director, who works remotely from Amsterdam. She has recently returned from maternity leave having had her first child; Leo. In short, Natasha is the embodiment of modern, flexible working. We’ve picked her brain in the hope that some of what she says might be relevant to our readers!
How has becoming a mum changed your views on how you balance work and kids?
I have always been very aware of mothers in advertising - being a recruiter not only do we work with mums coming back to work but also maternity covers and how companies deal with mums on maternity leave.
I think it’s changed my views on a personal level and how much I am actually capable of - there’s always a billion things to get done and you do end up becoming very focused and able to prioritise at lightning speed!
One of my clients said they love hiring mums as they will always get things done - they also become less easily fazed, calmer and have a greater ability to deal with 'drama'!
What do you think are the most important things to have in place for employer and employee?
A positive company ethos is essential; it’s so important to feel that being seen as a mother is a positive thing. With high-achieving younger women coming up through the ranks, it’s vital that companies see that you can balance a career and children, without having to choose between the two.
Flexibility in a company allows for a new normal to happen, whether that’s for mums or dads, as they now share the load for work and family far more equally than before.
Trust allows an employer to realise that the work is in safe hands. Whether that work is done at 9am or 9pm when the kids are in bed, as long as the deadline is reached on time there is no issue. Loyalty makes sure the employee will hit the deadline no matter what.
There also needs to be support in place for when either a mother or father needs time off for unexpected moments.
Lastly, understanding that at some point most people will have to go through this at least once in their careers and it should be seen as a period of great growth. After all, there is no greater motivator to being successful in life than having a child!
What are the key differences between raising a child in Amsterdam and UK?
I think the pace of life is different, the busy atmosphere of London is all consuming and I believe people have a much more balanced viewpoint here. They take time for holidays and it's common for a father to take 'Papa Dag' which is one day a week off to look after and bond with his child. The children here seem very happy and well adjusted. I'm extremely fortunate to be here at this point in my life.
Child care is also heavily subsidised here and you get a lot of it back in tax breaks, which is great. Having said that it is common for a mother to return to work 3 months after the baby is born, which is quite shocking to some people who take 8-12 months off in the UK.
How does having a child and living in Holland affect your work / life balance - is is better than London?
I think it's made coping a lot easier living here, you have something called a 'gastouder' which translates to 'guest parent'. They have up to 5 children in their house and it's a lovely way to bring up a baby, as they really get one on one care. This runs as well as daycare, so there are a lot of options available.
The UK really needs to look at making childcare more affordable as I have spoken to many mothers that feel it's not even worth going back to work.
Also commuting on a bicycle along the canals is a privilege!
Do mums make better employees?
I think that being a mum means that you are just more focussed on your life goals, your health and what you need to do to create the life you want. It's a cliche but it puts everything into perspective. Not to mention you have a small person to keep alive - responsibility is the world's great motivator!
I also seem to have developed a real drive. I now have something to work for and support not just myself but my child too. I definitely attribute that to wanting to achieve things for Leo.
I wake up and even if I'm tired I do a run back from Leo's daycare and grab a coffee. I feel that this sets me up for the day, I also feel like the Duracell bunny when doing this! Building in self-care to your routine is essential as children will definitely sap your energy if you don't put things in place to keep it up! I try to include time with friends into my regime and the odd night out dancing too!
If you want to get in touch with Tash, please feel free to email her on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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