I Knew In That Moment I Had Made The Right Decision – Becoming A Digital Mum
Let me just start by saying that I wasn’t a particularly high-flying career girl back in the day. I had worked at the BBC in Scotland for almost 12 years, I started as a temp on the switchboard (y’know, while I decided what I was going to do for a ‘real’ job!) and ending up as a Facilities Manager, coordinating service lines and internal comms for major events at BBC HQ in Glasgow. I loved my job, it was busy, the hours were anti-social, but every other week I saw live bands and met excited studio audiences, it was a blast.
Along the way, my partner moved to London for a job, insisting he would return to Glasgow as soon as the job market in Scotland picked up…three years and many Easyjet flights later I realised he wasn’t coming back(!) and made the decision to move down to be with him. I successfully applied for an internal role on a new web project based at White City and two months later I was riding the Tube to work and embracing London life. So far, so good. Aaaaand then I fell pregnant. Turns out telling your new boss that you are expecting a baby, only four months into a new job, really IS incredibly uncomfortable, who knew?! But they were fantastically supportive and a few months on, I set my ‘Out of Office’ email message to read “I am now out of the office for 12 months!” It felt wonderful; I shared my glee on Facebook and said cheerio to my colleagues, vowing to bring the baby into the office and keep in touch with everyone during my maternity year.
Nine months later, I was made redundant.
In actual fact, I was kind of relieved at the time. I’ll admit that I struggled with new motherhood way more than I thought I would. Added to this was the fact that I had only just moved to London when I fell pregnant, I didn’t know anyone, had no support network there and my family and friends were hundreds of miles away in Scotland, so with no childcare help and a long and costly commute I wouldn’t have broken even on my salary. Only years later, free from new mum anxiety, did I start to wonder if I had said goodbye to my career too easily, but ultimately, back then, I had no choice.
I had my second child almost two years later and we found ourselves stuck in a situation where we couldn’t afford for me not to work, but with childcare and London commuting costs at my salary level, we also couldn’t afford for me to go back to work. Local part-time jobs were uninspiring, menial and low-paid. I couldn’t imagine leaving my baby to take an unfulfilling job for no tangible benefit to our income. It was then that I read about Digital Mums. Like many new mums, far away from family and friends, I relied quite heavily on social media to keep me connected to the real world; to the news; to my favourite authors and brands; to my friends. Social media can humanise brands. As a consumer you can hear real voices; you can connect in real time with myriad organisations and people to whom you would otherwise have no access. That can be incredibly powerful and, in my low new-mum moments, I found it wonderfully inclusive. I devoured every blog and snippet of information on the Digital Mums course until finally, three years and a move to Yorkshire later, it was the right time for our family and I signed up.
The course is designed for mums with marketing, PR and communications backgrounds and although I had worked in internal comms previously, I had been out of the workplace for six years and admit to feeling terrified that everyone would be SO much better and know SO much more than I did. Confidence in myself and my professional abilities had all but dried up. But Digital Mums, as well as being a kick-ass strategic social media training company, is all about the community and you immediately feel part of a pretty special group of supportive women. The course is structured to take you through every part of designing a real social media campaign, you create, curate, analyse and refine with tutorial videos, written lessons and assignments along the way to keep you on track.
The live learning aspect was the deal clincher for me in applying for this course. From the start you are paired with a real small business or charity and over the six months of the course you take over their channels and learn by doing, which we all know is THE best and easiest way to learn. I ran a brand awareness campaign for my programme partner, a small, niche recruitment agency struggling to attract candidates. Throwing myself into an industry I knew nothing about was a challenge and the workload felt, at times, overwhelming but remember I mentioned that community of supportive women? Another unique aspect of the Digital Mums experience is that you are put into a peer group of four or five amazing superwomen who go on the journey with you; you have weekly hangouts and daily (okay, almost minute-by-minute!) whatsapp chats; these women become your squad and you’ll wonder if you will ever make it through a day of work in the real world without messaging them!
There were definite highs and lows; tears and virtual high-fives from each one of us in my group along the way. At times the coursework: creating and curating content, assignments, client management, influencer engagement, scheduling, was all-consuming and there were moments I felt that I was drifting very far from the work-life balance I had hoped to achieve. But, in learning, as in life, you get out what you put in and I’m proud now that I pushed myself and achieved huge leaps in reach and engagement on my programme partner’s channels, so much so that I am now in discussions with them about continuing with their social media in the coming months.
So here we are, six months later, and I have finally graduated – hurrah! I now know my Hootsuite from my Buffer, my created ads from my boosted posts. I know what happens IFThisThenThat and how to survive a frenetic Tweetchat Hour and I actually do now know what looks *good* on social for small businesses. I can’t believe how far I have come in the last six months after being ‘just a mum’ for the last six years.
So, with some trepidation, but thankfully with a lot of confidence and excitement, I go from Digital Mums’ student to Freelance Social Media Manager and enter the #DMCollective, an online forum for all Digital Mums graduates that means a business who takes on a trained Digital Mum as their Social Media Manager also gets the support and knowledge of every Digital Mum that passes the course – that’s got to be the ‘bang for your buck’ that most SME’s are looking for, right?
So the flexible #workthatworks dream is now a reality. All the study hours have been worth it. I already have my first two paying clients and am in the process of setting up my own project in Leeds which I’m pretty excited about. I work my own hours, at home, I can walk my kids to school and nursery every morning and collect them every afternoon. Just last week, my son got to look up and see me cheering him on at his very first school sports day and I knew in that moment that choosing to become a Digital Mum had been the absolute right decision.