Frau Wick, Frau Zürcher, is it possible to combine advertising with raising young children?
Diana: You see, people are still of the firm opinion that good advertising only comes about when you brood over an idea until (at least!) midnight, then lay it out until two o’clock in the morning, incorporate it into a presentation until four o’clock in the morning, all in order to present it to the customer at nine o’clock in the morning. That’s nonsense! With Martin Spillmann, later with Peter Brönnimann and even later (so, I guess, now) with Pam Hügli and Christian Baertschi, I have learned that this doesn’t have to be the case at all. When someone is there who can make the right decisions, or who can even make decisions in the first place, then you can concentrate on the good ideas completely and fully. And with time, you also think and write a little bit faster than you do at the beginning of your advertising career. What I want to say with all this is that it’s completely possible to go home at a reasonable hour, to see your children, and to put them to bed. This ritual is sacred to me, and only a few exceptions are capable of interrupting it. So my conclusion is select your employer, i.e. your working partner, wisely! This is extremely important, especially as a mother, and thus as a part-time employee, you can’t constantly keep having to excuse yourself, because you can’t keep staying late on weekdays and holding up your- childcare.
But the question is justified: where are all the talented women in advertising, who at some point became mothers? Do they all suddenly just find advertising stupid? Or did they just not have the luck that I did?
Klara: I also believe that it can work. However, the fact is that some employers shy away from looking for solutions and exploring new directions. In this scenario, it tends to be (above all for fathers): 100% or nothing. Luckily, Christian Baertschi was open to the idea of part-time working in the form I had requested. In addition, as Manager of the advisory group, I also had the good fortune of having a strong team behind me, ahead of me, and alongside me – as well as trusting customer relationships. The fact that I was already carrying out this role before my part-time work surely also helped. Ultimately, the customers and the team already knew me, and knew how I work.
To what extent has this negatively impacted your work?
Klara: Whoever has already tried to ‘manage’ young children knows that one will be able to cope with any stressful situation afterwards. So becoming a mother has impacted my work, but not at all in a negative way. I always found people with hobbies, that is to say, a life outside of work, to be more interesting and inspiring. This is also how I view motherhood.
Diana: Children open up a whole new dimension of emotions. And emotions aren’t such a terribly bad thing when it comes to creative work. And secondly, men don’t exactly become less creative when they become fathers, do they?
Does your employer accommodate your daily plans?
Klara: The management of the agency proved themselves to be very accommodating and open, and always put their complete trust in me from the very beginning. Exceptional circumstances are rare, because our childcare is well organised. Just as it is with the work in the agency. Nevertheless, it is nice to know that you can stay at home in certain circumstances – for example, when a child is ill – without having a guilty conscience. This means that you’re even more focussed at work.
Diana: I have the good fortune of this being largely the case. It’s not that I’m a burden to the agency for being a mother - I give my all when I am at work, and then I go home and give my all once more. This can be pretty exhausting at times. But some people do exercise after work – I’d find that just as exhausting. So I guess everyone has their load to bear...
Are there career opportunities at all for employed mothers in advertising?
Diana: Yes. Without a doubt. Unless your employer defines ‘career’ as ‘sitting in a chair all day’, which mine doesn’t, thank goodness! But that’s just one side of the coin. If you don’t want to have to leave your child with childcare for three or more days at a time, then you have to find a suitable solution with your partner (and they with their employer). So I wasn’t just lucky with my employer, but also with my partner: we share childcare between us. We both have equal working hours – at home and at work. This doesn’t make everything easier, but it helps a lot.
Klara: Yes, there are. However, these exist only on a part-time contract when your employer is open for new and diverse solutions which satisfy the employee, the team, and the customers. It’s merely a question of organisation, willpower, and the readiness to promote employees with reduced working hours. And it’s not the case that mothers or fathers who work part-time have less ambition. That’s an old wives’ tale. And made-up stories belong at home with the children.
Do you sense understanding for your situation, or have there also been some critical remarks?
Klara: It says something about the workplace culture in our agency that I was able to transfer to a part-time position without any problems. I always felt supported from all sides. This, in turn, motivated me to be flexible and, when necessary, to also work on my free days.
Diana: No critical remarks, as far as I can remember (you know: ‘baby brain’). But the younger women in the agency often ask how I manage to handle small children and my workload. And it’s cool to prove that it is completely possible. And this, without being completely burned out the whole time – after all, that wouldn’t be any fun for anyone involved.
What projects are you supervising at the moment?
Diana: My two little girls – I’m still on maternity leave until the end of March. But I’m already looking forward to being able to quickly run down to the train station and not have to stop to let my kids inspect every little thing that’s on the ground.
Klara: I’m currently learning all about excavators and lorries. My two boys are making sure that I don’t get lazy and that I can get back into the world of work after my maternity leave without any problems. At this point I would be the perfect consultant for a customer from the construction industry. I am currently accepting relevant offers.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed because of your current situation?
Diana: Of course. And, if we’re being honest: who hasn’t? Who is perfect, never freaks out, takes everything in their stride, is inner-peace personified and manages two small children (the sweets section at the supermarket checkout!) and the demands of their customer and their team? Certainly not me. But I also don’t expect that from myself. In addition, some great work can also often be produced as a result of feeling overwhelmed. And afterwards, the feeling that maybe you do have it all under control shouldn’t be underestimated.
Klara: Yes. If I haven’t gotten enough sleep for a long period of time, for example. Or when childcare doesn’t work out on short notice (our childcare programme includes crèche as well as grandparents). But honestly: I was well-acquainted with overwhelming situations even before the balancing act between job and family came about – after all, that’s part and parcel of a challenging job. And, as Diana already said: unexpected creative solutions can often arise from these situations in particular. Even when you’re exhausted.