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My experience as a Returner

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Siobhán Anderson

18 / 04 / 19

Katy, intern alum

I am not your typical ‘intern’ as I applied for the F&BF internship programme as a ‘returner’, after a long period out of the workplace bringing up my 2 children. Before I had children, I had a successful career as a ‘digital producer’, creating online games and resources for BBC education.  After I had my first baby, it was ‘expected’ that I would return to work, and my baby would be cared for by someone else.  I tried this, but it felt ‘wrong’, apart from jumping between two identities, producer and mother, I felt an overwhelming instinct to bring up my child myself.  So I took redundancy and embraced motherhood! The relief was immense, and worth the huge sacrifice to our finances.  My partner and I budgeted every penny and we embraced camping as a holiday choice!  However, motherhood has a habit of taking over, unlike a job, where you can ‘leave’ your office and responsibilities at the end of the day, a mother’s job is 24/7.  My identity became, I can’t think how to put this; ‘fused’ or ‘consumed’ with being a mother. This is all very well, but, my children got older and started to need me less. It’s hard realise at the time, as frankly you are too busy, but motherhood is temporary; they grow up and they go.   

It was time to find a path back to developing a working identity, and the luxury of taking a break meant I could assess what this path would be. As a mother pushing my buggy around the streets of Kentish Town, I fully embraced my community, meeting up with other mothers from many cultures and faiths.  This experience was eye opening, exciting and changed my life for the better. So many perceptions are based on assumptions, without direct contact with people of different cultures and faiths, no-one can realise the similarities and embrace the differences.  I also knew the important role of the primary school as the ‘centre’ and ‘catalyst’ for these interactions.  I therefore wanted to work in an area that supported and developed interfaith work, in schools as well as other institutions. I already knew about the work of the F&BF and walked past their offices at least 8 times a day with my kids in tow.  

So when my identity crises happened (when baby 1 turned into a teenager and told me he prefers being with his friends than with me) I knew then that the only place I wanted to work would be the F&BF! But, I felt completely lost and out of touch, as, apart from working schools as an assistant, I had not worked in an office for 10 years. “Wouldn’t it be great if F&BF had an internship programme, and if they did, they would accept older ‘returner’s” I thought.  It felt like a  divine intervention when I went onto their website and discovered they did indeed run an internship programme, for all ages, and the deadline for applications was the next day.   

Starting the placement sent me into a spin of overexcitement.  Being in an office full of amazing and interesting adults was thrilling, and I think only a mother can understand why. Motherhood is hard work, immense love but oh the chores!  I must have driven F&BF staff a bit crazy with my delirious joy and endless ‘chat’.  Apart from learning to calm down and ‘re-learn’ appropriate office etiquette, what was so special about the internship was the training, which helped ‘re-form’ my brain into professional mode.  But this is not an internship where you make cups of tea, no way, we were given tasks.  This combination is so good for a returner, it was ‘half in – half out’, a way to re-engage with skills somewhat buried, whilst taking stock and working out what is relevant or not.  There is much talk in the press of when women return to work they feel an ‘imposter’.  I now have a managerial job in a top university and because of this internship I have not once felt an imposter!  I feel fully up to speed, confident and at the same level as my colleagues.   

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