Monday, 15 May 2017
In a survey completed by the MS Society in 2015 it was reported that as many as 80% of people with MS are forced to give up work within 15 years of diagnosis. That's a shocking statistic and if it runs true for me then I won't be working by 2024, just seven years away.
My daughters will be just 13 and 10.
I have tried so hard not to let MS impact on my life too much but there's no denying that my work is probably the one thing I have felt the pressure under.
Within a year of diagnosis I was working part-time and once my children came along I reduced those hours further. Within six years of diagnosis I had gone from working 37.5 hours a week to just 18.
I've talked openly about how I felt MS robbed me of the journalism career I had worked so hard for - the long nights studying, the law degree, the late nights putting papers to bed, proving my worth, going the extra mile - and how a career ladder I once envisioned myself climbing was cut short.
I could no longer manage to find the energy to climb that next step - which nearly always required a full-time person. Truthfully, I was just about managing to cling onto the one I was standing on.
I also wanted to appreciate my girls more as I am always acutely aware that MS may strike at any time and every day is precious, especially as I was determined that my illness wouldn't impact on their childhood. I figured that finding a flexible way to work would allow some movement in the working week so that I could accommodate them as well as any trouble MS sent my way.
So I decided to look for alternatives. A way which would future proof my career in some way and maybe, if at all possible, allow me to work from home.
The light-bulb moment came when I read about Digital Mums - a fantastic online learning course designed to up-skill mothers so they could become strategic social media managers. Which is essentially looking after social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, for brands/businesses/charities.
Sound easy? It is and it isn't!
With my journalism background I know how to write, find content and talk a good talk. But I started the course last October and I cannot stress how much I've added to my CV in that short space of time.
It has been a frenetic, fast seven months but also fun.
Digital Mums are all about finding #workthatworks and flexible working is how they envisage that happening. They firmly believe that bums on seats in dull, grey offices up and down the country does not always mean effective working.
Instead, they're training an army of mums to work from home and provide a very real solution for the business community. I am now part of that solution and I genuinely feel that there are so many people I can work for and make a difference to.
There are terms and acronyms I now use in my everyday language that I had never heard of last summer - this summer I am putting myself out there for work with a myriad of skills to match the talk.
There's everything from user personas, campaign development and analytics to advertising and curated and created content - if you want an inside track on how to improve your social media presence then I'm your woman!
It's been so very liberating going back to coursework and lessons. I've felt empowered to be taking my career into my own hands again and feeling super-confident about the work I can do in the environment I'm pitching into.
I now work from my own home, sometimes in my pjs, unless I'm leaving my girls to and from school every day, and I can essentially use my phone as my work office. Basically I can work anywhere with decent wi-fi or 4G coverage.
Yes, there have been moments over the last 28 weeks when I've wondered if I was crazy to have left a relatively well-paid job with a regular pay packet and half the week at home with my girls, for the world of self-employment ... but the upside is that I've looked down the barrel of the MS gun and decided that when it fires, I'm ready.
So let's be having you MS. I will not be that statistic. Come 2024 I will still be here, typing away, making a difference in my own career.