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Life is a journey filled with lessons

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Alison Knox

At the start of April, I enjoyed a whirlwind five days in Paris, the first time I had been to the city in 18 years. That first trip is one I look back on fondly, a simpler time when it was just my then boyfriend (now husband) and me. That trip was spent wandering the cobbled streets, sipping wine and watching the world go by. Late nights followed leisurely day time strolls, everything you’d expect of the tourist experience.

But this time my holiday was very different. This time I had three little people (aged 11, 9 and 6) in tow.

This was our first family city break and I didn’t know how the little ones would cope with the long days and all the walking. Put it this way – there were plenty of snack breaks built in and our nearest McDonald’s was identified before we’d even left Belfast!

We had two days sightseeing, taking in the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe and a river cruise on the Seine before making the short trip to Disneyland Paris.

I was pleasantly surprised at how easily each of the three children adapted to our city break. Indeed, we walked over 80km in 4 days and they didn’t complain once…well…maybe once!

Despite booking tickets for many of Paris’s main attractions in advance, queuing became a daily activity, one which we all grew to accept – some quicker than others. A packet of top trumps a prized possession to put in the time.

By pleasant comparison the queues at Disneyland were manageable, allowing for multiple turns on our favourite rollercoasters, much to the delight of the kids, less so us adults!!! We even lasted to the fireworks on our final night, finishing off a very memorable trip with a bang.

The trip had been booked as a treat for our eldest who had completed his AQE / GL exams last November but he, along with his younger siblings gained so much more from the short break than we could have hoped for.

Their confidence grew daily, happily stepping out of their comfort zone; trying to speak French, tasting new foods and asking questions; they were eager to soak it all in. The children were comfortable leaving behind the familiar to embrace this new adventure and in doing so gained important life skills including patience, self–confidence, resilience and problem solving (they navigated the metro like pro’s teaching their parents a thing or two!).  These skills will be vital to them as they grow and strike out into the world as individuals…. life skills that I recently put into action myself when I made the decision to return to full time work after a 10 year career break.

The decision to take a career break came about due to circumstances, but one I have never regretted. I feel so lucky to have had those special years with them but that doesn’t mean there weren’t times I missed working, being a stay–at–home mum is rewarding but can be lonely and hard work!

The opportunity to return to work came along at the right time. My children were all in full–time education – my youngest had just started P1. We had just moved into our forever home and honestly, I was ready. In the end it was a simple text from a friend with a link to a maternity cover and a note – “saw this and thought of you…” that prompted my application.

The fear was real, I was worried my CV wasn’t strong enough, I had been freelancing over the years but nothing permanent, I hadn’t had an interview since 2007 and there was niggling self–doubt. I was comfortable raising my kids, I knew what I was doing, I had a routine and I honestly didn’t know how work would fit into an already hectic schedule and a husband who worked away a couple of nights a week, most weeks. But I followed my gut, stepped out of my comfort zone and applied for the job. It’s a decision I am so glad I made.

Maternity cover turned into a permanent post and in the past year I have been fortunate enough to work with a diverse range of clients, on a number of exciting campaigns and events and all with a brilliant team of like–minded people, who have been incredibly supportive. 

There is no doubt that certain elements of the job have changed in the past 10years– most notably the explosion of social media and the rise of the influencer but all in all, I am pleased to say the people have stayed the same and the purpose – to tell a story – hasn’t changed even if the means have.

It just goes to show, life skills are just that, you are never too young to start learning them or too old to put them into practice!! If you are in a similar position and unsure if you should return to work after a career break, I have one piece of advice for you, DO IT! I guarantee you have the skills you need, now you just have to have faith in yourself.

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