When my son was nine months old, I lost my mother. Being bereaved in this way, with a young baby to care for, was immensely challenging. But it also made me reassess my life and priorities.
Perhaps that’s why after returning to my old job as a concert programmer for a university after maternity leave, I quickly came to the decision that although it was in the right field, it wasn’t fulfilling enough to warrant the time away from my baby (or the childcare costs).
It’s not easy making the decision to quit your job; particularly not with the added financial pressure of supporting a child, but I could no longer prioritise job security over everything else. I needed to be around for my son’s early years.
Also, I wasn’t making the most of my potential. I’d trained in music and worked in classical music management throughout my career, and this was what I felt most passionate about. So, in a fog of grief, sleep-deprivation and trepidation, I handed in my notice and entered the world of freelancing, feeling insecure and as though I’d taken a step backwards.
However, I had the promise of very part-time freelance work from my first client so I at least had some direction. And it turned out that I was pretty good at arts management in a freelance capacity, as that one client turned into two and then five.
I now faced a new challenge: I was at capacity in terms of what I could manage in the hours I wanted to work, but I’d been approached by one more client who I was keen to work for. I was trying to decide between turning down the client or increasing my son’s childcare hours.
And then I reconnected with a friend who’d launched a business. He’d just had his third child and understood my dilemma. He told me not to turn down the work, but to take someone on and grow the business. This was such good advice.
So I turned my one-woman freelance work into a business – Polyphony Arts – in January 2019. We offer classical music artist management and creative project production. Before COVID-19 hit it allowed me to work out the perfect balance between working and being with my son. Now, things are trickier, as my husband and I have to balance two jobs and childcare, but the flexibility and autonomy it provides are even more valuable at this time.
I have a wide range of exciting clients and I’m working on projects that really interest me – with more in the pipeline. I also have a freelance, flexible team of amazing women, which is something I am particularly proud of.
If someone had told me a year ago that I would be able to describe my working life in this way, I would not have believed it. To have been able to make these things happen for myself, and to be able to offer good work in a good environment to other people, feels a million miles away from where I was shortly after my mum’s death. It took huge willpower and self-belief to get here – and I still worry about the stresses of work and parenthood – but I’m proud of what I’ve achieved.