You’ve doubtless heard of Joeli Brearley and the wonderful work she does over at Pregnant Then Screwed, fighting maternity discrimination and generally making the working world a most hospitable place for parents. And if you follow any mum bloggers or ‘Insta-mums’ whatsoever, you’ll also likely have heard of Pregnant Then Screwed Live, ‘the UK festival of motherhood and work’ that took place here in Manchester a couple of weeks ago.
Tickets for the festival-come-conference sold out in a matter of hours – which just shows how desperate us mums were for an event like this… I was honoured to be asked to host one of the panels, and, being super-excited for the whole thing, I went along for the entire day (and parked myself right on the front row of the main stage – NERD ALERT).
Despite the fact that a couple of cows humping on the railway line from London (!) threw the schedule into disarray, it was a fortifying, sobering and inspiring day, offering a line-up of amazing panel discussions featuring extraordinary women determined to use their voices to speak up for themselves, and for all mothers.
From chat about flexible working with Anna Whitehouse (aka Mother Pukka) to tips on negotiating a pay rise and promotion from The Step Up Club, a wealth of topics were covered over on the main stage – but it was the ‘Looking After Your Mental Health’ panel that attracted the biggest audience and felt the most relatable of all. Plus it introduced me to my newest heroine Candice Braithwaite, who talked eloquently about wellbeing and the importance of authenticity whilst expertly bouncing her eight-week-old on her knee – queen.
As well as the main stage action, there were various breakout sessions offering coaching and support, a pop-up shop from the ever-fab Our Kid, and even a room where you could chill out with your baby.
The main thing I took away from the day was the fact that honesty really does have the power to unite. In society at large and in our workplaces in particular, we mothers often feel compelled to push aside our feelings and keep quiet about our struggles. But there was a sense that PTS Live was a totally safe space where we could all speak freely – from the panellists themselves (like Clemmie Telford, who candidly spoke about how anxious she felt about bringing her new baby all the way from London and the logistics of getting home again) to the women in the audience brave enough to pipe up with difficult questions to get essential answers.
Social media is brilliant in helping you feel connected to a wider network of mums who ‘get it’, but a chance to spend the day in a room filled with dozens of women just like me, laughing, crying, and, most importantly, talking – well, that was something else.
Thank you Joeli, and see you next year.
Featured photo by the fabulously talented Claire Brookes Photography.