Cigdem's Story

Cigdem (or 'C' as i call her) is one of the most gorgeous Dutch women I have had the pleasure to meet, she is stylish, gentle and yet a secret powerhouse, currently working as the Head of Institutional Relations for Europe and the Middle East, she is also mother to her nearly 2 year old son, Mason.  I always see photos of her on Facebook in exotic countries and wonder how she does it, so I thought I would ask her... 

do you feel differently about your work now you are a mum or are you still as driven?  I would say I’ve become more ambitious and am hungrier for success and professional achievements. Becoming a mother has definitely changed me in the sense that I now have a clear view on what I want. And I’m sure other moms will recognize this: I have become much more efficient in how I work. 

do you feel guilty going to work?  No, while I definitely feel guilty about many things being a mom, I don’t actually feel guilty about going to work, I see it as something you just do. Just like my husband goes to work. In my family there’s always been this extra pressure on us girls to study hard, work on your career and ultimately be able to provide for yourself and not be dependent on anyone else. My mother especially has been my greatest example; she’s always worked and I think growing up with that dynamic, I have found that very normal and not something to question. I’ve always envisioned myself combining motherhood and a job.  Also, I think it’s so important you feel good about where you leave your child. Mason absolutely loves his nursery and key workers. We’ve never had any problems with him having to adjust or having separation anxiety. I think that is key for peace of mind.

have you always worked?  Yes, I’ve always worked. I used to work part time during university to gain work experience. Currently I’m the Head of Institutional Relations for Europe and the Middle East. I manage a team of 8 and we’re responsible for building and maintaining relationships with investment decision makers at pension funds, insurance companies and family offices.

3 words to describe how you feel about your job  Committed, driven, energizing

how do you typically split your time? I really really like routine! I remember when I found out I was pregnant, I went to the bookstore and asked the sales person there for a baby manual. He said he did not have one but he did have something that came close: enter Gina Ford. During the week I have an early start at work, while my husband does the morning shift and gets M ready for nursery. At the end of the afternoon, I’ll pick M up, make his dinner and get him ready for bed. I then have the rest of the evening to do some  work, maybe get a little workout in and relax.

how did your maternity leave work where you are?  I had 8 months of maternity leave (in the UK your role stays reserved for you for one year) which I am forever grateful for. I enjoyed and needed that time with my newborn and for myself to get back to me. I decided to come back just before the summer period, which was a conscious decision. September is when it becomes very hectic and this way I gave myself some time to ease back into it and prepare myself over the summer period.   Upon my return, I was offered a new role where I head up the team I used to be part of and take on a new region (Middle East) as well. This was great motivation for me however it did mean I would be coming back full time and there is a lot more travel involved in my new role.

 I take it that you wouldn't be a stay at home mother? I don’t think being a stay at home mum is the best option for me, personally. I like the routine of getting up, getting ready and heading to the office. After having enjoyed being at home with my baby for 8 months and practically living in my pj’s, it felt good to wake up and have somewhere I needed to be, people to meet, things to do. Also, living in central London, it’s not even a realistic option. This city is so expensive. I guess I like and need the balance. As long as I can have and do both, I’m happy.

3 words to describe being a mother  Fun, challenging, rewarding

how do you feel about messages that are out there to mothers, juggling everything and trying to look good too?  I think there is increased pressure on women in general, I mean just take a look at (social) media. Everyone seems to be living perfect lives. But at the same time I do feel inspired by women who are successful in multiple aspects of their lives. And of course everyone has good and bad days. I think you can only control how you choose to react or how much you let things affect you personally. I used to be a lot more concerned about what other people thought of me or if they liked me. These days I simply do not have the time (or the energy) to even think about things like that.  To me, it’s a lot more important to be able to do all the different things I do, if that makes sense. I love spending time with M, I love going to work and challenging myself that way, I love dedicating some time to work out. It’s what makes me happy as a person and I try not to think about guilt or perfection.  

whats the hardest thing about being a working mum?  In my case, I travel quite a lot for work and that requires a lot of planning. I’m extremely lucky that my husband steps in when I’m away and supports me in that way. It’s not excessive and only for a couple of days at a time, so doable. But it can definitely be challenging at times. It’s usually challenging when Mason is not feeling well and my amazing schedule goes out the window.

whats the most rewarding?  Just being able to combine work and home life is rewarding for me. And I just really love my job because I work with an amazing group of people I know really well.

how do you maintain a sense of wellbeing?  For me, what works is to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle. And of course I will go all in for a few weeks and then undo all the good with a week living off of stress, sugar and caffeine. But overall when I’m able to work out and take some time here and there for myself, I feel energized and ready to handle everything better.

how do you manage your stress? I absolutely need to get my workouts in! I try and do 20-30 min of high intensity training wherever and whenever I can. If I don’t have that much time, I’ll grab my skipping rope and skip for 10 min, anything to break a sweat and clear my mind. It’s also a great way to fight jet lag or keep up the energy levels when working abroad. And sometimes I love being lazy! Just not having to do anything, baby asleep, watching a movie or a tv show.

how do you manage on the days when you are just so tired you can’t even think about getting out of bed?  To be honest, I hear Mason’s voice and that gets me out of bed – always, even when I’m not feeling well. And if I’m really struggling I have my husband to fall back on. A while back the three of us got a massive flu and we kept taking turns. That was a pretty intense week actually!

has becoming a mother changed you?  Yes it has, one thing I’ve noticed after becoming a mother is that I’ve become less judgemental of other people and choices they’ve made. I now understand that every parent wants the best for their children, has the same love and the same worries I have. And no parent is perfect. Also, I have so much respect for single parents and I can get very upset when I hear or read about children suffering.

any pearls of wisdom for other new mums or working mums out there?  My advice would be to (and I know it’s hard!) let go and trust everything will fall into place for you.  I remember the first few weeks I used to wake up to M crying and my first thought would be: ‘Oh, he’s still here.’ It was the strangest feeling. Of course I knew he was here to stay but it just took me a while for that to click and become normal to me.  You feel overwhelmed, you think, my life has changed forever, you have a million extra worries and anxieties added to your stress levels but really, with time you realize that not a whole lot has actually changed. You’ve just added to the love and adjusted your normal routine a little bit.  Also, you will probably realize that pre-baby you actually spent a lot of time doing not that very much (how I miss those days sometimes!).