maternity

Lizzie Hicks | Achieve Alumni in Lockdown

Lizzie Hicks | Achieve Alumni in Lockdown

Lizzie Hicks is a Creative Producer at Blue-Zoo and attended the Helen North Achieve Programme in 2018.  Continuing our series of blogs on different experiences of lockdown, we asked Lizzie to share her’s. 2020 has definitely been eventful for her as, on top of everything else, she became a mother for the first time just before lockdown.

Over to Lizzie…

I always thought I’d be a teacher. A lot of the women in my family are teachers, so I just kind of assumed that’s what I’d do. I figured I’d be ok at it and it seemed to be a good job if you wanted to have a family. Then when I was 15 I went to a careers fair, learned about the course at Bournemouth and everything changed. I switched my A-level choices so I could study a subject that I had always loved –  animation!

Skip forward 10 years and I have now been working at Blue-Zoo since I graduated.  It all started with a 4-week placement as a generalist which I got through a family friend… cue several years of imposter syndrome. I bounced between the short-form services department and series animation as an animator, generalist and animation director. Then, after a few years, I was offered a brand new role to the company as a Creative Producer in our commercial department where I was now a senior member of staff.

Alongside this lovely career path I had also met someone (at work which is pretty common I think in this industry) who I dated, wedded and began thinking about the next stage of our life with. This was when I enrolled in the Helen North Achieve Programme. I had a new role to figure out. How could I maintain a career I loved, and start a family?

It was brilliant meeting other women from the industry, but I was particularly interested in those who had kids. I picked their brains; what they did right, what they wished they knew. Ultimately I realised you just have to work out how to manage it in a way you feel comfortable, and for me, that meant anticipating my worries and insecurities and having open conversations about them. Luckily Blue-Zoo, and especially my line managers, had always been incredibly supportive with work-life balance as well as appreciating my candour.

I discussed my insecurities with them of leaving the company for 6 months to a year; the idea that things could change while I was gone and that I wouldn’t know about it, having someone come in and cover me, worrying that the team would suffer without me, or worse, they wouldn’t miss me at all. All I had known for 10+ years was this. I had no idea how I would feel leaving or coming back. I also picked the brains of the women in the company who had returned to work after having children, as well as hitting up a long term client of ours who is pretty senior at one of the worlds biggest broadcasters and content creators. I know she has a fantastic work ethic as well as a family, so I tentatively sent her an email asking if perhaps I could ask her about it all.  She was more than happy to talk, which was amazing. All of this was before I was even pregnant haha.

It was then the summer of 2019, I had somehow wangled it so I was going to Annecy with work and then a week later to New York to meet potential new clients (as well as tagging on a little holiday with the husband at the end). Both trips were great, working hard in the day and having a lovely ol’ time in the evenings socialising and sightseeing. I came home and I was shattered. And also (it turned out) 8 weeks pregnant.

Keeping it schtum from work was very tricky as over the years both of us have made some very good friends there, but felt great when we finally decided to tell people. I knew they had recently improved the maternity policy at Blue-Zoo for anyone who had been there for longer than a year.  However, as a long term member of staff, I really wanted to talk to the directors about a possible extension of both maternity and paternity leave based on how long you’d been employed. I decided the best course of action was to mention it in person to my line manager and the company director I am closest to before formally emailing all the company directors with HR. It was fantastic. They were open to it and added some weeks if you had been at the company for more than 5 years, so both I and Dane benefited, which was great.

I also had a part to play in hiring my cover, which I really enjoyed and appreciated. I looked through the applicants as well as doing the 1st round of interviews with my line manager. Then subsequent interviews were done with people my cover would have to work with.

Cover hired and there was a 3-week handover. On the 3rd week, I felt confident enough to say ‘this week I will just watch you do my job?’ She was up for it and it was brill. There were a few moments of biting my tongue. Wanting to say ‘that’s not exactly how I would do it’. I had to let go of control and I knew I was leaving my role in good hands. My worries were calmed, I left work a week before my due date feeling super prepared and ready for my next adventure.

I was super lucky with my pregnancy and birth and 3 days after the due date, Riley was here! Yes…it wasn’t enough to marry someone in the industry, her name was taken from a Pixar film! I have to say it was quite a whirlwind, but again something that I learnt from the course is that there is a lot to be said for women supporting women… and also that there are women out there like me! Being naturally a woman who has often been friends with men more, I always felt I wasn’t a “girl’s girl”. The idea of ‘mummy friends’ made me want to curl up a little.

However, I have to say for the 1st few weeks, my antenatal WhatsApp group of mums was a godsend. Knowing you can send a message at 3 am asking advice and often you will get a reply was amazing – even if it was just the comfort of knowing someone else was awake as well. I loved how many of them spoke about how important their work was to them and how some were keen to go back to work. It was really refreshing when I had always felt there was generally a choice and separation between motherhood and work. Also, although we are all a little different in our approaches, amazingly the general consensus of the group was ‘happy mum, happy baby’* which is definitely a good mantra to go by. Love or hate breastfeeding? Your baby will be happy either way, don’t beat yourself up. *Though this doesn’t mean if your baby is being a little oike it’s your fault… babies are weird little roller coasters, developing and growing all over the place they can literally change every day.

All in all, I was loving leave and looking forward to hanging out with my new friends, pissing people off in coffee shops with my buggy, but Dane had only gone back to work for a week when everything started to shut down in the first wave of lockdown. This damn pandemic… it’s certainly had its positives, Dane is around a lot and I obviously don’t feel like I am missing out on the Friday night pubs as no one is going. Also as Dane is a director for the comms team, I’m basically in their catch ups every morning, so I still feel incredibly connected and in many ways feel very confident about going back to work. Each week I do have various wobbles, but also have the most amazing ups as well. Feels very strange that this might not be over by the time I am due to go back to work, so I may have the pandemic still to navigate as well as the usual balance of how many days a week to go back and how to feel like I’m a good parent and good at my job. The world is a different place, but I am really looking forward to the challenges ahead, both with my lovely daughter and in my career.

And because I haven’t been able to go out and show her off to the world, I’ve included some pics of the bundle of fun. Lizzie x

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Achieve Programme, Lockdown, 0 comments